Cult classic Blade Runner gets a makeover in the latest instalment from Warner Bros. Thought the original was impressive? Read this, see the film, and think again.
Blade Runner 2049 has landed. Yes, this is the long-awaited sequel to that 1982 sci-fi cult behemoth, and Harrison Ford reprises his role as Decard. But, with contemporary revivals of classic cinematic worlds being the flavour of the decade, there was apprehension upon the announcement of this 35 year-late sequel; even the prospect of a Blade Runner successor suffering the same quasi-reboot pitfalls of franchise revitalisers The Force Awakens and Jurassic World felt sacrilegious. Right off the bat, however, it’s clear that this film was in the right hands, with the right ethos behind its creation. As all great sequels do, Denis Villeneuve’s film understands and retroactively deepens its predecessor, blending the wondrous familiar with the ambitious unfamiliar. In this expansion, Blade Runner 2049 in many ways surpasses its predecessor.
Thirty years on from the neo-noir detective tale of Ridley Scott’s original, we’re introduced to a new Blade Runner; Officer K. He inhabits a world now brimming with bio-engineered humanoids known as ‘replicants’. Once banned, they’ve since been societally integrated but K’s titular job requires him to find and put down the remaining older models. This may seem like a vague set-up, but I make no exaggeration when stating that this entire film is a spoiler. Within the first minutes it’s clear why Blade Runner 2049’s marketing has been almost exclusively devoid of plot details; go into the theatre knowing nothing but the original and you’re in for a ride.
Without corrupting that secrecy which appears almost sacred in the internet age, I can say that this sequel’s story is satisfyingly far from a re-tread. Familiar philosophical questions are asked; the concept of ‘humanity’ remains on a crumbling pedestal of exclusivity to humans themselves. Yet, Blade Runner 2049 channels each thematic echo with a more visceral charge. What’s here is something infinitely more personal to its titular Blade Runner (played equal parts stoic and vulnerable by Ryan Gosling), an emotionally charged mystery which unfolds on a wider geographical and emotional scale than the original. Director Denis Villeneuve invites us to experience a world that never began and ended with Los Angeles, and most certainly had more stories to tell than that which centred on Harrison Ford’s Decard.
And how beautifully that world is rendered. Veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins, Oscar nominated 13 times but never successful, has hopefully secured his long-deserved golden statue with what is one of the most visually arresting films of the modern era. Both a stunning recreation of Ridley Scott’s neon-soaked dystopia and a bold expansion of the world, Blade Runner 2049 leaps from the murky LA streets of the original to the toxic-orange dust plains of a Las Vegas long-deserted. It’s a succulent visual buffet, courtesy of an industry heavyweight still at the top of his game.
Deakins’ wide-arching visuals amplifies how, at its essence, Blade Runner 2049 is a cinematic colossus, its each step reverberating like thunder. It sometimes feels beyond belief that a Hollywood blockbuster of this scale is built so reliantly on the art of the slow-burn; Villeneuve never compromises in marinating every scene in the pure atmosphere, emotion and magnitude of the moment. Despite coming in at the cusp of three hours, I never wanted the film to end. My recommendation? See Blade Runner 2049 in the biggest and loudest cinema you possibly can, marvel at the work of a filmmaker in searing command of his craft, and question whether we even deserve movies this good.
(Image courtesy of Warner Bros)