Undertaking what few would dare to attempt, Denis Villeneuve has crafted a more than worthy sequel to Ridley Scott’s genre-defining sci-fi film Blade Runner. Blade Runner 2049 is a enthralling blockbuster that will captivate your mind. Villeneuve is the perfect fit to develop this sequel because of his introspective approach to developing characters, which is attuned to the reflective themes of the original film. Like the original film, Blade Runner 2049 explores what it means to be human in a world where intelligent androids (called replicants) are ubiquitous. It is a peak into a future that shares both some of our dreams and some of our nightmares.
Blade Runner 2049 takes place in Los Angeles in 2049 – 30 years after of the original film. Many things have changed, but blade runners are still around to keep the replicant population under control after they have gone past their replicant expiration date and are in risk developing empathic abilities. The Tyrell Corporation has been replaced by the Wallace corporation, led by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), whose main objective is to fabricate replicants for the government to use as a workforce. Wallace’s intentions are practical but ethically misguided since replicants have become self-aware. The film focuses on the story of K (Ryan Gosling), a blade runner LAPD officer whose duty is to track and destroy old replicants. K is investigating a case of a replicant who died under mysterious conditions.
In terms of direction, Villeneuve does something impressive with the characters by bringing out the best in an outstanding cast. Ryan Gosling gives one of the best performances of his career as LAPD office K. The internal conflicts that Gosling wrestles with make for an introspective performance with a great level of emotional depth. Harrison Ford makes a come back as Rick Deckard in a supporting role. Robin Wright gives a great, frivolous performance as K’s commanding officer that is similar to her performance in House of Cards. Ana de Armas is the main force of charisma in the film as the holographic Joi. On the villainous side, we have Jared Leto plays Niander Wallace, who wants to advance replicant development at any cost. And, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), as Wallace’s loyal (and persistent) assistant who is a delight to watch on screen as she fires up the story-line.
The world of Blade Runner 2049 feels bigger and louder than the muted, rainy noir world of its predecessor. The cinematography is one of the film’s strong suits thanks to the veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins. Deakins masterfully captures both the introspective with intimate shots of the characters, and the expansive with aerial depictions of the Blade Runner world. The film features a sometimes rainy and sometimes snowy Los Angeles and even a radioactive deserted Las Vegas. Flying vehicles are used as the main way of transportation, buildings are taller and their exterior walls are used to advertise products, and holograms are everywhere. Villeneuve continues Blade Runner’s visual language by impressively advancing the technology present in the original film without departing from its original concepts. But, it certainly wouldn’t be a Blade Runner sequel without a soundtrack that complements the iconic original Vangelis soundtrack, and this is exactly what Hans Zimmer accomplishes here.
However, the film is not without flaws. Some of the writing and the plot devices are the main culprits. The film relies heavily on the mysteries of the plot to add conventional entertainment value, which makes it too spoil-able. The film wastes time to set up subplots that aren’t quite ever resolved since some scenes prove unnecessary and even feel out of place. These scenes seem part of studio-guided influence aimed to plant possible sequel ideas. And, this is precarious to a film that is almost three hours long.
Blade Runner 2049 explores existential themes just as the original Ridley Scott film did. It is a film that leaves us with more questions than with answers as it presents what our world could be and how society would react to imminent ethical challenges. In a year of big movies, Blade Runner 2049 is an intelligent blockbuster spectacle with gorgeously hypnotic visuals that will remain ingrained in our minds for a long, long time. Sequels tend to be tricky, but Villeneuve is able to accomplish something rare nowadays – crafting a sequel worthy of the original film.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
Cinematographer: Roger Deakins
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Dave Bautista, Mackenzie Davis, Barkhad Abdi