Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a new blade runner for the Los Angeles Police Department, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. His discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who’s been missing for 30 years.
A staple in the cinema history books, 1982’s Blade Runner has served as one of the most influential films as its dense neo-noir sci-fi story took viewers to a place they’d never been before, 2019 Los Angeles. Starring superstar Harrison Ford and directed by an up and coming visionary Ridley Scott, the film had all the makings of a successful film, but why wasn’t it? Upon its release the movie didn’t gain any traction with moviegoers or critics due to other now classics such as The Thing and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan being released around the same timeframe.
As years passed the film started to earn a following as multiple cuts of the film made it to the public. Years later the film is applauded for its VFX, the futuristic world building, and the slow burn story that is full of symbolism and heavy topics worth discussing. Blade Runner also left viewers with the famous “human or replicant” debate about Rick Deckard, the ambiguous ending still leaves viewers questioning whether or not he’s a replicant.
After much speculation, a sequel to the cult classic was announced with Ridley Scott serving as executive producer instead of directing the film. This resulted in fans of the film fearing for the integrity of the original. A new take on the 1982 picture could actually hurt the image of the first if they took the title and turned it into a cash grab studio film. That all changed when the pieces started to fall in place, starting with acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve coming on board to direct Blade Runner 2049. Since making the transition from French to English speaking films, Villeneuve has had an almost flawless track record with hits such as Prisoners, Sicario, and Arrival. His artistic flavour made him the only suitable choice to direct the long awaited sequel. Soon Harrison Ford signed onto reprise his role while Ryan Gosling attached himself to the lead role.
With the film finally being released this weekend it’s time to answer the big question, is the film on the same level as the original? Much of the marketing kept the core story under wraps so viewers were going into this movie almost completely blind which is uncommon nowadays with the spoon-fed marketing for most studio films. Thanks to Denis Villeneuve, Roger Deakins, and the rest of the cast and crew, Blade Runner 2049 is able to stand on the pedestal with the original as it’s able to recapture the same style and substance as the first. 2049 shows a Los Angeles we’ve never seen before, featuring an overpopulated smog infused bleak landscape.
Villeneuve and Deakins have worked on two films prior to this but here they explode with mind-numbing visuals that are to be remembered for years to come. Nominated for 13 Oscars in the Cinematography category, award pundits are already giving Deakins the edge over the rest of the field with his latest work. Combining the precise shots of Deakins with the bombast score from Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, you get the feeling that we’re watching a new story told in the same world as the original and that’s more refreshing than a complete rehash of its predecessor.
There isn’t one flaw in the cast performances, whether it’s a lead role or a five minute scene, every actor is at their best as they help to legitimize the story. Besides Gosling and Ford you have other quality performers such as Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Sylvia Hoeks, Dave Bautista, and Jared Leto. Gosling plays Agent K, a blade runner who works for the LAPD, hunting down and “retiring” older replicant models. Much of the 163 minute runtime is focused on him and throughout we’re able to see a diverse range of emotions as new revelations result in him being conflicted with himself and his job. Much like his miraculous return in The Force Awakens, Harrison Ford reprises his role of Rick Deckard and is able to further the legacy of the character thanks to his heartbreaking performance that we don’t see enough from Ford these days.
Casual moviegoers may struggle sitting through the extensive runtime while long time fans soak up the visual candy that is appearing in front of our eyes. 2049 is structured much differently than the original but that is subject of the times. The new age of cinema sees viewers with shorter attention spans which results in more events taking place throughout films. Even though 2049 might cater to audiences more than Blade Runner, this is still very much a dense art film with profound ideas behind it. This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but for film lovers they’ll be sure to embrace the bold filmmaking from Villeneuve and co.