Blade Runner 2049 FILM REVIEW
BLADE RUNNER 2049
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Screenplay by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green. Story by Hampton Fancher. Based on characters from the novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K. Dick
Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Ana de Armas
Rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language
Running Time: 2 hours 43 minutes
****1/2 out of *****
Photo: Warner Bros.
Acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve brings us BLADE RUNNER 2049 the long anticipated follow up to the 1982 science fiction masterpiece.
1982. 35 years ago. Nearly two generations removed. For many film fans and critics 1982 was the finest year for genre films. This is certainly open for debate but that year offered so many influential and iconic genre films which are still highly regarded to this day. THE ROAD WARRIOR, STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, THE THING, TRON, THE BEASTMASTER, THE DARK CRYSTAL, CREEPSHOW, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, E.T. and BLADE RUNNER were all released that year. These are some pretty significant films and the two things they all have in common are longevity and franchise potential. Of these films only two have not been sequelized, prequelized or remade. Now, 35 years later, one of the most eagerly anticipated sequels finally arrives in Denis Villeneuve's continuation of the story Sir Ridley Scott started. At long last, BLADE RUNNER 2049 has arrived and it does not disappoint.
In the first film, L.A. cop Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, is tasked with hunting down and "retiring" a group of replicants who have arrived in the city. As depicted in the film, Los Angeles of 2019 is a bleak dystopia where society, commerce and technology often clash in broad and brash strokes. In the new film, it's 2049 and LA cop Officer K, played by Ryan Gosling, is tasked with the job of hunting down and "retiring" certain replicant models that have been deemed aberrations. The city is even more crowded, just as bleak and despite notable advancements there is still a clash between society, commerce and technology. Sure they sound similar but the two films are distinctly different. And don't let this over-simplification of the plot of the two films dissuade you as there is so much detail, depth and pathos to this expanding epic science fiction tale based upon Philip K. Dick's novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"
"More human than human" is the motto of the Tyrell corporation, the entity behind the creation of replicants. That motto is at the very heart of both films. The films examine some of the most basic of human conditions, such as life and death, as seen through the eyes of replicants. In particular, do these machines have a genuine soul, genuine feelings, genuine memories or is it just merely programming. This line really begins to blur in Villeneuve's follow up as it seems the only way to easily distinguish a human from a replicant is the latter's physical strength. In 2049, during the course of Officer K's investigation he uncovers a mystery that could have lasting ramifications on the world as they know it. It's a mystery that further blurs the line between man and machine and raises even more thought provoking questions such as do machines have a soul.
There were a number of questions left unanswered at the end of BLADE RUNNER and screenwriter Hampton Fancher, who co-wrote the original with David Peoples, provides the answers to those questions while raising many intriguing new ones. Fancher and co-writer Michael Green really open up and expand the world of the BLADE RUNNER universe. While thirty years have passed in the film the technological advances are not in the leaps and bounds one would expect from a futuristic science fiction film. Things are very grounded and feel as though they are only several decades removed from the first film. Much like reality, technology seems to advance yet society itself tends to remain the same. The story itself goes beyond the city limits and we finally get a taste of just what this futuristic dystopian world looks like. As expected it's not pleasant. Beyond appearances, Fancher and Green really advance the themes of the original and steer them into new unexpected directions that create an engrossing film that keeps you engaged throughout its near three hour length.
Ryan Gosling delivers a fantastic and layered performance as K. As he gets deeper and deeper into this investigation you can see and feel just how much it is affecting him. He spends much of his time on screen alone and he manages to propel the story with merely a glance or gesture. Whether he's deep in thought or in a state of despair Gosling breathes life into his character and makes him distinct and memorable much like Rutger Hauer did with Roy Batty in the original film. Harrison Ford returns as Rick Deckard and is certainly a changed man since we last saw him. He is quite good in his return to the role he made famous. Ana de Armas is particularly memorable as the woman in K's life. Very charming, very sweet and dare I say cool. The film also stars Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks and Jared Leto. You may have likely seen or read about who they play but it's best to discover who they are as the film unfolds.
Roger Deakins. Well, it goes without saying that Deakins work is once again Academy Award worthy and it is even more stellar when seen in IMAX, which is how I first viewed the film. The score by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer really provides the film with a heartbeat and while not as iconic as the score Vangelis composed for the original it fits this new period quite appropriately and again when seen in IMAX you can expect to feel every note. Editor Joe Walker reteams with Villeneuve and as previously mentioned you are held rapt for nearly three hours and it never feels like it. Finally, there's Villeneuve himself. Having proven himself as one of cinema's finest storytellers he strikes gold by bravely taking on and continuing one of science fiction's most iconic and influential films.
For many fans of the original film, especially those who first watched it in 1982, a sequel was long overdue and thankfully the resulting film did not disappoint or taint the original film. BLADE RUNNER 2049 is a logical continuation of the original film and opens it up to endless possibilities. Like the original it presents intriguing and thought-provoking ideas that forces one to truly contemplate artificial intelligence and who and what determines where the machine ends and the "soul" begins. Villeneuve's film is easily one of the most satisfying follow ups when compared to other sequels to seemingly long dormant franchises. Not only is it a great science fiction film, it's also a fine detective story, an engrossing mystery, an existential drama and is without question one of the best films of the year.
***** = Outstanding ****1/2 = Excellent **** = Very Good ***1/2 = Above Average
*** = Good **1/2 = Mediocre ** = Fair *1/2 = Poor * = Bad 1/2* = Abysmal