Review: Blade Runner 2049 (2017) (A Sequel Thirty-Odd Years Too Late?)


“I hope you don’t mind me taking the liberty”

When we were told that we were getting a belated sequel to Blade Runner, one of the most influential sequels of all time, I reacted with apathy. Why do we need a sequel thirty years after the original was released? Blade Runner might be very well respected as a film, but I couldn’t imagine many people buying tickets to see a sequel to it. And, of course, not many people have bought tickets to see a sequel to Blade Runner. It only making $30 million in its first weekend, compared to its budget of around $150 million. But I’d advise, nay implore, people who love cinema to watch Blade Runner 2049. What could have been worthless cash-in turned out to be one of the films of the year…

I’ll refrain from talking too much about the plot here; the trailers have revealed little. Here are the bare bones: Replicant Blade Runner K (yes, getting an android to kill androids…genius!) discovers something on a case that create doubts and questions not just for him, but the entire world. Along with his hologram/lover (yes, you read that right) Joi, K investigates and falls deeper down the rabbit hole.

“Now who keeps a dead tree?”

Apparently, this isn’t CGI, which makes it all the more awe-inspiring

For some people, the plot may be secondary to the visuals. Blade Runner inspired a generation of science fiction films with its visual brilliance. Blade Runner 2049 continues the visual brilliance of its predecessor, using modern techniques not only to expand the horizons (literally and figuratively) of the original, but to melt your eyeballs with sheer beauty. Every scene shimmers with atmosphere and mood. Sometimes, you simply lose yourself in the wonder of a shot or a scene. Over-sized adverts tower over the city like Godzilla. Atari and Pan-Am are still glorious big brands. K’s holograph fades into another women, her façade covering the real body like a ghost. K walks among a devastated city, sand-swept and full of massive female statues.

From dusky deserts, to the metropolis of Blade Runner we are familiar with (but expanded oh so much), to rubbish dumps to the insides of the Wallace Corporation HQ, there’s so much more to the film visually than Blade Runner. Of course, thirty years on, that’s par for the course. But it’s not a mere visual update, but a Roger Deakins evolution of the Blade Runner aesthetic. His cinematography surely deserves an Oscar. Stunned awe is something I experienced a hell of a lot during Blade Runner 2049.

Of course, visuals aren’t enough for a film that lasts nearly three hours. Similar to the approach to the visuals, Blade Runner 2049 evolves and interprets the themes and story of the original in its own way. It’s not simply a retread, but successfully attempts to progress Blade Runner in a logical fashion. The visuals go hand in hand with the themes on show. K doubts his purpose, both in life and in his job. Ryan Gosling plays silent, brooding K to perfection (as is his speciality. Although any time I saw him near a piano I expected him to play ‘City of Stars). Blade Runner had the concept of ‘more human than human’ in relation to the replicants, but having a replicant as the main character changes the face of this question. Is K simply programmed to obey his superior’s orders, to submit to a horrific baseline test that detects any emotion? Or he is something more than that?

“I always told you…you’re special”

Was it just me, or did these two have more chemistry together than Gosling and Emma Stone?!?!?

Some technology in the Blade Runner universe had been updated to reflect more modern issues, such as K’s holograph companion. Joi is the perfect partner, and seems to be K’s only emotional connection in the world. It’s the most real (even the only) relationship shown in the film. If you think that’s absurd, check out how your friend stares into his/her mobile phone when the conversation stops. There’s more fascination in those eyes than is ever directed towards you (or am I just boring?). Mobile phones aren’t present in the Blade Runner universe, but that’s not the point. In a universe where everything is synthetic, even connections, Blade Runner 2049 engages us emotionally. The world it presents is cold and hard, but it’s hard not to engage with the film emotionally when the only relationship on show is between an android and a holograph.

Blade Runner 2049 is slow and deliberate, taking time to introduce you to the world, the characters and the themes/stories within. If you’ve seen any of Denis Villenueve’s films before, you’ll be aware of his approach to film. The action scenes, few and far between, and brutal, bloody and quick. For those fans of the original, it’s a film in the same vein. For those wanting an action-packed science fiction film, it will probably bore them. It’s not a film for everyone. My fiancée recently watched Blade Runner for the first time and enjoyed it. Blader Runner 2049, however, was a bore for her. She appreciated the visuals, but found the pace too slow. But that pace is meant for reflection of the themes and admiration of the visuals. There were a few scenes that struck me as out of place (such as one later on in the film, hinting at a more typical science fiction trope). Their necessity befuddled me.

“Is it real?”

However, to me it didn’t feel like a near-three hour film at all. I was taken for a ride through a landscape at once familiar and different. Blade Runner 2049 joins the few sequels that do justice to the original. I won’t say it’s better than Blade Runner, but it’s a love letter to the original that finds a life and rhythm of its own (thanks to Han Zimmer’s evocation and evolution of Vangelis’ tunes). It’s profound, beautiful and mesmerising. It’s a film for the lover of cinema and the lover of Blade Runner. T2: Trainspotting surprised me earlier this year as a belated sequel that justified its existence. Blade Runner 2049 justifies its existence with an exclamation point.

 VERDICT: 9/10. Blade Runner 2049 is the rare sequel that justifies its existence, complementing and expanding on the original in innovative ways. It’s beautiful, spectacular and heart-rending. Everyone should see it on the biggest screen possible.

What did you think of Blade Runner 2049 (2017)? Leave your thoughts/comments below!

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