Blade Runner 2049
As you might have guessed from the title the year is 2049 and there’s still a bit of a problem with replicants, the bio-engineered servants that have helped mankind colonise the stars. Thankfully, there are some replicants that can be relied upon like KD6-3.7 (Ryan Gosling), blade runner (and a replicant) who’s purpose is to hunt down his own kind and ‘retire’ them. On a seemingly routine visit to retire a Nexus 8, Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) the discovery of a box of bones sets larger events in motion.
I have a strange relationship with the original Blade Runner movie, it’s a film that I admire and I can see it has had a huge influence on most of modern sci-fi. It creates a believable and immersive world that offers a dizzying array of possibilities and it is a genuinely thought provoking central premise. Blade Runner is also a film that is visually stunning, and having rewatched it recently I think it still looks every bit as impressive and inspiring today. However, despite all of that every time I sit down to watch the original film I am always left a little cold by the time final credits roll. It’s a fascinating world and the questions the film poses are interesting but the central story always feels a bit under baked. That said, I went into Blade Runner 2049 with high hopes. I’m a big fan of director Denis Villeneuve, with last year’s Arrival being my favourite film of 2016, and a real demonstration of how intelligent sci-fi can be accessible and engaging. Secondly, Ridley Scott’s meddling seems to have been kept to a minimum, which is only a good thing after the revisionist borefest of Alien: Covenant.
One of the things that I have always loved about the original movie is the world that it constructed. Blade Runner 2049 manages to build on this and deliver another really immersive and engaging universe. Set 30 years after the original it feels like a believable continuation of the world we have seen previously. The Earth’s climate has seemingly caused catastrophic events around the world forcing the great and the good to escape to off world colonies. The Tyrell corporation are long gone, and have been replaced by the Wallace company, headed up by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) who’s successes have helped the human race expand out into the stars. All that’s left off an a grimy, decaying Earth are seemingly the leftovers who couldn’t quite afford the trip so we end up with a very different atmosphere to the previous film.
Something that Denis Villeneuve has done so well in his previous films, and that the previous Blade Runner did superbly was to create staggering visuals. Again, Blade Runner 2049 continues this trend with some of the most stunning sequences I have seen this year. That’s not to say it’s packed to the brim with explosions and breathtaking action set pieces, but more that pretty much every single frame is beautiful. There are some shots that are genuinely stunning and that have stuck with me now, two weeks after I first saw the film.
Where the previous Blade Runner had left me quite cold I was completely drawn in by Blade Runner 2049. Ryan Gosling does a solid job as K (who is most definitely a replicant, no 30 year ambiguity here) as a detective trying to crack the big case. It’s a very modern take on film noir and it worked really well for me. There are enough familiar tropes to be recognisable but they’re carried off in such a way that it feels fresh. In reality the story probably isn’t that much deeper or developed than the original, it’s not incredibly complicated but something about it feels more engaging. I think perhaps it is just a more accessible story that still is able to ask some of the bigger questions.
I’m trying very carefully to steer clear of discussing the plot in too much detail because I really don’t want to spoil anything. The marketing for the film has been a bit strange in that respect, with some of the trailers giving away most of the reveals. Quite a few of the trailers and promos would have you believe that it’s going to be an all action film with explosions and gunfights, but while there are some moments of action they are only their to serve a narrative purpose. This is not a summer blockbuster, but at the same time it doesn’t feel as cold and impenetrable as the original movie. I absolutely loved Blade Runner 2049, I’ve seen it twice now and could happily sit through it again. I first saw it two weeks ago now but it’s only now that I feel I can sit down and throw some of my thoughts down. Even now I’m not sure I have everything square in my head.
It’s not a perfect film, there are some strands of the plot that feel a little bit confusing and the ending does feel like an ellipsis rather than a full stop. I think ambiguity is built into anything relating to Blade Runner but I think this is a good place to leave things. It’s one of those rare sequels that has made me re-evaluate the original movie and actually appreciate it even more. I think Blade Runner 2049 is a phenomenal achievement, usually a long awaited sequel like this will only lead to disappointment but I really think Villeneuve has pulled it off. Pretty much everything worked for me (even the Hans Zimmer soundtrack) and I can’t recommend it enough.