Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.
The wait is finally over and the sequel to my favourite Sci-Fi film and my most anticipated film of the year is here. Denis Villennue is hot off his streak with last years oscar nomination for his innovate Science fiction film Arrival. In ways this film feels less innovative because of its relation and inevitable comparison to the original. The story follows Ryan Gosling playing K a Blade runner 30 years after the events of the original film. Los Angeles has changed a lot since the original, we are given less grittier and a more futuristic depiction of the world which drew me away from the originals grittier dystopia. There was also less orientalism within the worlds architecture which was the first thing that kept bringing me out the film. In the original Blade Runner the city itself is a character that plays an important factor in the film. With 2049 the city takes a back seat as a visual backdrop without any further substance. The script follows the characters through great locations but it rarely settles the camera in middle of the bustling city we came to love with the original. However, it is still a beautiful film and Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakin’s still created a beautiful image for the screen. My only flaws in its visual comes from the atmosphere the original film created and my comparison in contrast to that. Deakin’s is at the top of his game and I think this may be the film that gets him his long overdue Cinematography Academy Award. However, the image felt too clean for my liking mainly because of its digital filming. For such a visually aethestic film that relies on SFX digital works wonder but I would have loved for this to be filmed on 35mm to bring out the grain and grittiness of the world Ridley Scott created with the original. Another important factor with the film was its score and Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch had the impossible task of trying to live up to Vangelis’ iconic Blade Runner score. This was a nice homage with some of Zimmer’s own trademarks coming out to play but it simply didn’t live up to what Vangelis had created. This was a beautiful score and one of the years best but in the film it wasn’t utilised enough. Listening back to the score separately you see how beautiful and contemporary it has become with the use of its industrial sounds which became quite reminiscent of Johan Johannson’s work on Arrival. He was also the original person working behind the score of this film and I wonder how the score would have sounded if he remained on the project.
At times the plot plays it too close to the original and many fans wondered if 2049 would answer the questions left by the original film. The answer is, yes and no, some questions are answered by the storyline still manages to retain its mystery by not revealing the whole ideology of the world. As an audience we crave to learn more about this futuristic dystopia but we look through a keyhole and don’t see its expansive universe. This mystery is what keeps us captivated and Villeneuve and screenwriter Hampton Fancher handle the story with respect to the original, which was also adapted by Fancher. This is a bigger story than the original, it didn’t answer many questions we had but it expanded on the universe Scott created. The original film had a much more contained story and 2049 tries to touch on a lot of themes for one singular film and this is why the focus moves away from the city as a character. It also shifts us away from the films character development and you aren’t really given a deeper insight into their lives. Jared Leto as Wallace was the most under-utilised character in the whole film, his performance was outstanding but he only appeared in two scenes. He didn’t seem menacing enough to play a villain and Sylvia Hoeks as Luv never becomes a villain to live up to Rutger Haeur’s performance in the original. The whole cast gave impressive performances from Ryan Gosling to Harrison Ford but no performance stood out as career defining from any of the cast.
The films weakest point becomes its pacing which felt like it was induced by Villeneuve self indulgent shots that lingered on longer than they should have. For a film reaching nearly three hours it could have been a cleaner cut if it was closer to the two hour mark. The original film had many different cuts including the two hour long final cut and I hope 2049 has a tighter cut ready for a Blu-Ray release. Personally, I had a lot of criticism for Blade Runner because a film touching on so many themes would have a lot of weaker plot points. A film trying to live up to the reputation of such a classic in cinema would also bring up further criticism but Denis Villeneuve achieved the impossible task. The film could have gone in many different directions but he still made an outstanding piece of cinema worthy as a companion to the original. All the themes of race and social class are still prominent in the film and it becomes as relevant in 2017 as much as it was in 1982 when the original was released. It makes you wonder how social views haven’t changed much in the past 35 years. Blade Runner 2049 has an amazing score and Roger Deakin’s best visual work this will definitely be remembered as an iconic film and one of the years best. The team behind it has immersive world which will please fans of the original and introduce more people to the Blade Runner universe.
Final Verdict – 8.5