‘Blade Runner 2049’ is a Perfect Counterpart to its Cult Classic Predecessor. Spoiler-Free Review.
So if I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure where to begin with this review nor am I sure how to heap all this praise I’m deeply internalizing without flooding this piece with spoilers, but I will try my best regardless. If I were to even give details on the premise of the film, that would be a spoiler in ways, especially to deep fans of the original 1982 cult classic, such as myself. Here goes:
The idea of a sequel to Blade Runner sounds ridiculous and unattainable in itself, and many questioned how the story loans itself to a sequel. Questions brought up in the original were explored rather deeply, and only to the extent they needed to be in order to remain a discussed icon in cinematic history. Yet, Denis Villenueve does the impossible and creates something that only complements the original in great ways, even in direct connections to the first film. I wanted to go into this film knowing as little as possible, and my early notions were that this film would not be a direct sequel to the original and instead use the world built in the first film to explore new opportunities. To put it simply, I thought this film would be more like an anthology sequel than a direct one, but instead it kind of fits in between both categories. I would have been perfectly fine with Denis deciding to merely use the world as his canvas for a standalone story, but he challenges himself in making sure to add to the legacy of Harrison Ford’s iconic Blade Runner, Rick Deckard. This is how you build mythos.
The true shining star of this story is Ryan Gosling in one of his many subtle yet endearing, performances. Blade Runner 2049 follows his character K on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. I will not give details on the questions he is seeking to be answered, but I will say it’s not a simple mirror image of Deckard’s journey in the original, but rather a reconstruction in K’s own personal experience; ideas from the original are shifted and turned into new hunger for reality and truth. One thinks, what else can we discuss in the world of replicants? What other questions may be asked other than what makes a robot, human? Well, Denis Villeneuve has the answers on how to make more questions (sorry).
The man has a great sense of direction, and was able to manipulate the slow-burn pacing of Blade Runner‘s soothing theatrics. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the original film, it is not always the most liveliest of films. Both in 2049 and in the original, scenes roll out delicately and with careful attention to detail. This mixes into a slow and odd pacing. I can see this as a major drawback for many viewers; someone unfamiliar with Ridley Scott’s 2019+ Los Angeles might anticipate more action than given. It would be a lie to say that this movie didn’t feel extremely long and I’m not sure that will sit well with general audience viewers. These films are about suspense built in the mind, driven by existential pondering on who we are, or why we are. Villeneuve has a strong sense of visual language that is carried off sheer emotion from his ensemble of great actors. There’s plenty of scenes that are given resonance through images and the action of the characters, instead of dialogue and exposition. My favorite scene of the film is a romantic one, and the way it reels made me feel a sense of being pulled at two sides, but with an odd sense of fusion and acceptance in between. It defines juxtaposition and visual poetry. Credit has to be given to Roger Deakins, a legend in cinematography. His eye truly brings realism to this fictional world, and makes it so it doesn’t feel too apart from reality.
As I mentioned earlier, the performances really uphold this film, we consistently follow Ryan Gosling’s K but we definitely run into many others in smaller yet notable roles. My favorite is Sylvia Hoeks’s Luv, a replicant dealing with her own complexities. She works for Jared Leto’s Wallace, but I don’t believe this to be her true motivation for her mission. Luv is a very strong and fierce performance, and I think most will come out of the film praising Sylvia’s turn as the best one of the film. I had no idea who Sylvia was prior to this film, but I wish the best for her career. Can I take a minute to praise what a character actor Dave Bautista has become? This guy is truly taking his craft seriously and I wish his role was longer in this movie, but he did get a prequel short film for his character that demonstrates the range he holds. Bautista’s Sapper Morton is a tough yet brooding character, and he upholds the great replicant struggle rather easily. The third of my favorites of these smaller roles is Carla Juri’s Dr. Ana Stelline. She holds very little screentime, but in those few minutes we see a well-developed character and by the end of the film, one that will most definitely be remembered by fans. A woman born to a secluded life, boxed in from the outside world, which inadvertently sprouted a mountain of imagination and humanity within her. This was created in only one scene. I think the performances from the cast overall demonstrate how loved Blade Runner has become and these actors want to give their all in order to add onto the history of it.
Harrison Ford being who he is leaves me no choice but to talk about him. I was worried about his screen time and the extent of his role. Trailers and such led me to believe he’s not in the film for really any screen time at all, but he actually holds a fair enough sized role, and an important one too. The character could easily have come off as bleak or non-sympathetic due to screen time, but Deckard is one of Ford’s most dedicated roles. He went toe to toe with Ridley Scott on the meaning of this character during the production of the 1982 film and he still has his realization of the former Blade Runner ingrained within him, yet aged with maturity. It’s odd how us fans have glorified what is in essence a bounty hunter and turned him into something mythic from years of discussion, and Blade Runner 2049 plays on that rather well.
The fact that this film even exists is pretty fascinating. Not many blockbusters are given this range of creative freedom and the fact that it reaches levels of greatness brings even more satisfaction to the table. Add on to the fact that this film is a sequel that (as many love to say) NO ONE asked for, and to an extremely dedicated cult classic, how could it possibly come out this great? Yet, here it is. Much thanks to Denis Villeneuve, Hampton Fancher, and Michael Green for giving us a true blockbuster epic that just flows with ideas and plays on themes endlessly. As I sat there watching this movie I felt that I was watching something that would join the ranks of eternal cinema. So please, check out this rare kind of a movie and just keep in mind it can definitely be oddly paced, but that’s part its beauty. Maybe with that in mind you may enjoy it to the full extent you can, we don’t get sequels like this very often.
Blade Runner 2049 is playing nationwide in theaters now.