The highly anticipated sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic is finally upon us, and thankfully, there’s finally a sequel to a beloved classic from the 20th century that isn’t a clone, remake, rehash, repeat, adaptation and copy of the original.
In fact, Blade Runner 2049 is so much like its predecessor that it is likely that you will walk out of the cinema with burning questions after watching this 154-minute epic.
Luckily for us, there is the Internet.
With the web, you can search for answers and fan theories to the seminal 1982 movie that fizzled at the box office, but earned its cult status soon after. For those who have not watched 1992’s Blade Runner, or the 5 other versions out there, we strongly urge you to, simply because it is cult film that is regarded by many critics as one of the best science fiction films ever made.
There are so many unanswered questions about the originalt that the Internet bridges the gaps on some of the ideas generated then, and now.
The year is 2049, and bioengineered androids called replicants are part of the world we live in. Our protagonist K (Ryan Gosling, who does a wonderful job keeping an emotionless straight face throughout the film) is investigating a case that treads the fine line of humanity of humans and autonomy of humanoid robots. You see, K is a Blade Runner replicant who hunts down older model replicants, and gets rid of, or retires, them.
Such a tale might seem well threaded in 2017, but Blade Runner’s neo-noirish take on the premise, and its vision of a dark future set the standard of storytelling and filmmaking. Some might point to the short story that inspired it, Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, as being the trendsetter, but Scott’s take broke new ground in developing the world from the story.
In 2049, K’s investigation leads him to the discovery of a replicant freedom movement, a shady replicant manufacturer, a wooden toy horse with mysterious numbers carved on it, a doctor who designs memories, and surprise – Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former Blade Runner!
The first thing that strikes you is the visual spectacle created by French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve. Rain, snow, fog, neon lights and water reflections turn majestic landscapes into an eerie and claustrophobic world. Everything is simplistically cold and sterile, devoid of any sense of feeling, but yet full of life and belonging in this take. There are the occasional vehicle chases and explosions, but surprisingly, those sequences feel oddly out of place in the ultra futuristic setting.
Kudos goes to cinematographer Roger Deakins (True Grit, Skyfall), who has effectively created an astoundingly bold futuristic world that reminds us of the original film, but also breathes more life into that world. After Prisoners (2013) and Sicaro (2015), this is Deakins’ third collaboration with Villeneuve and one of the most epic. Though it is set in the future, there are no full-on digital effects clouding the screen, of skyscrapers, majestic cities screaming for attention. The effects are subtle yet powerful and realistic, and if he receives another Oscar nomination for this film, it will be his 14th – will it be the legendary director of photography’s turn to finally bring home an Academy Award? We sure hope so.
Those who have seen Villeneuve’s previous works (2013’s Enemy and 2016’s Arrival) wouldn’t be surprised that the critically acclaimed filmmaker managed to ace this ambitious project. Known for tackling complex storylines and complicated character developments, the 50-year-old can expect quite a lot of attention come awards season.
We’ll leave the comments to Gosling’s performance to his die-hard fans (the only observation is that K’s character is a lot like the nameless dude he played in 2011’s Drive), and concentrate on the other actors. The female cast is well represented internationally: Cuban actress Ana de Armas is adorable as K’s holographic companion, while Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks is menacing as a replicant enforcer, Canadian actress Mackenzie Davis is alluring as a replicant prostitute, and Swiss actress Carla Juri is aptly cast as the memory designer.
Familiar faces come in the form of Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto and of course, Harrison Ford. The veteran actor is a joy to watch on screen and while some might say that he’s bent on revisiting every cinematic icon he helped create in the from the late 1970’s, this is Ford like you’ve never seen. Intense, old, focused. Not once will you think that Ford phoned it in, and the major complaint is that you only get to see him grump his way through the last third of the movie.
A note of warning though – viewers with less patience may find it challenging to sit through the film. Running at more than two and a half hours, you will need stay focused to absorb everything that is going on in the story. Besides scouring the Internet for answers to things you may have missed, why not watch it a second time?
And thanks to the Internet, do yourself a favour and watch these three short films. The prequels, which take place in 2022, 2036 and 2048 may answer some of your questions. Either that, or you may notice details that raise more questions.