Vast synthetic farmlands, derelict slums advertising indulgence at every street corner, a melodic and haunting score, the virtues of existence and the light of life found in strange and often uncomfortable places make up Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, which captures the feel of the original Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scott.
The film was not afraid to take steps in new directions and expand upon its abysmal and fascinating world.
Replicants are genetically engineered batches of humans, who are stronger and more durable than the average person and are designed to carry out the work anyone else would shy away from. The problem is, however, the replicants don’t exactly love their work either; they too are seemingly capable of harboring dreams of a better life and as a result, rebel.
To curb their revolution, special units of the police force known as blade runners, are assigned to track and kill them. In the sequel’s predecessor, this role is in the hands of Harrison Ford—who plays Rick Deckard—and in the sequel it lies with Ryan Gosling, Officer “Joe” K, who has a unique relationship with the near-human beings he is tasked with “retiring.”
Each figure within the dystopian society seems to have a distinct perception of their world. Desolate existences and the dirtied metropolises that hold them are captured by masterful cinematography and generally impressive performances.
Gosling does a stellar job at masking his character’s true intentions, making the viewer wonder, what thoughts run through his head throughout the course of the film? As well, Ford’s return is strong and his relationship with Gosling leads to some fantastic moments and revelations.
Jared Leto’s character, the new creator of artificial humanity, is over the top and some of his scenes felt a bit gratuitous, going overboard in the pursuit of capturing the depravity portrayed in the first film.
Compared to the first film, Blade Runner 2049 is more concerned with plot than action. There are still some pretty visceral fight scenes throughout the two hour and 32 minutes-long film, with an extra 11 minutes for credits, but one should expect more detective work and philosophical musings.
The willing audience members are plunged into a mind-bending thought piece that explores fake or handed-down memories and their validity as well as the increasingly thin line between the identity of a replicant and a human through the ability to love and the affections that grow out of the strange and seemingly infertile landscapes.
Often what is initially unappealing turns out to be oddly touching and what should be comforting ends up being cold and off-putting in the upside-down world of Blade Runner 2049. It’s hard to address these themes without spoiling any of the movies epiphanies, but they are all fleshed out well, while still leaving the audience full of questions long after the credits roll.
It may not top the original—anyone expecting a monologue to rival that of Roy Batty’s from 1982’s Blade Runner may be disappointed—but its arguable missteps lie more in breaking away from the first film than from clinging too close to it. Blade Runner 2049 certainly plays on the nostalgia of its predecessor, but doesn’t ruthlessly replicate it. Villeneuve’s new addition to the science-fiction genre straddles uncharted territory and age-old questions alike.