I rewatched the 1982 Ridley Scott film “Blade Runner” shortly before I went to see “Blade Runner 2049” and it turned out to be a wise decision. You can still watch the new film directed by Denis Villeneuve (The Arrival, Sicario) without any knowledge of the classic sci-fi story, but I think you would get more enjoyment out of “2049” with the history of the characters and world in mind.
It’s been 30 years since Rick Deckard (Ford) was helping the Tyrell Corporation“retire” androids known as Replicants who have gone beyond their programing of what is essentially slave labor. Now a new company called Wallace Corporation run by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) is making new modern Replicants with all the advantages and less desire to be more than their programing. Or more human than human. K (Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner for the LAPD and is still tracking down older Nexus models of Replicants. On a job he uncovers a secret that may shake the foundation of what has been built by society as well as the Wallace Corporation. As he seeks the truth he is watched closely by his superior Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) as well as Wallace’s ruthless problem solver Luv (Sylvia Hoeks).
I always automatically groan when I hear a classic film is getting a reboot/remake/sequel/prequel. But since it is not going away as long as studios have beloved to as least well known properties to play with, I’ve leaned to reserve judgement until I see who is both in front and behind the camera. When I saw Ryan Gosling and returning as Deckard, Harrison Ford, I was interested, then I saw that it would be directed by Denis Villeneuve, and I was completely on board. After seeing last year’s “The Arrival” I knew I would see any film this man decided to make, particularly if it was a sci-fi film. And he does not disappoint with “Blade Runner 2049”. Along with the genius of cinematographer Roger Deakins who has shot classics like “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Fargo” in the 90’s to “Skyfall” and “Sicario” in the past few years. The man is a true legend. What is great about his kind of sequel is Villeneuve and the original “Blade Runner” writer Hampton Fancher and co-writer Michael Green is they focus so much on the expanding of the world. Even though it is intended to be 30 years later and in reality the films are 35 years apart you still get the same vibe in every shot.
Like the original film this story is relatively simple where as the first was a neo-noir detective story, “2049” is virtually the same. You get the Blade Runner who is hopelessly alone, the evil corporation pulling the strings, the cops who could care less as long as the status quo remains the same, and the dirty, grimy world that is so reliant on technology that the people forget to be human. The running time for this film is just under 2 hours and 45 minutes, but I would have gladly sat through another hour in this world. I mean it is horrible and run down, and I would not want to live there, but it remains fascinating to see a possible future when you know what we are capable of and what we have and most likely will do in regard to our planet and with our technology. Villeneuve nails the tone and atmosphere of Scott’s original vision, while keeping some of the elements of the original story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” by Philip K. Dick.
There is truth in this art, as scary as how true it might ring. But there is beauty in it as well. Like Rutger Hauer’s character from the first film Roy Batty says “I have seen things you people wouldn’t believe.” That is what we are given with “Blade Runner 2049”, from the score, the incredible special effects, the brilliant shots, and the surprisingly inspiring story. You simply won’t believe that all of this in one film and that it’s a sequel that accomplishes the nearly impossible task of giving us what we had before and still managing to astonish with something new.