Blade Runner 2049: A Mesmerizing Work of Allegorical Sci-Fi Art
Regardless of your opinion on Ridley Scott’s initially misunderstood cyberpunk original. which hit silver screens 35 years ago, the monumental legacy it carries, and will continue to carry for generations to come as a game-changer for the modern sci-fi movie, is a reality-grounded fact that is not up for debate. The mere thought of a sequel to a film of such towering standing, especially in the present time of incessant reboots and sequels, would be slammed as nothing more than scurrilous, money-grubbing cinematic heresy. But fret not my dearies, for a divine miracle, by the grace of God, in the manifestation of a French-Canadian man, has taken the reins on the riskiest and most treacherous ride of a director’s career. Against all insurmountable odds and the crushing global skepticism of Blade Runner fanatics, our directorial guru Denis Villeneuve has crafted a consummate dystopian magnum opus that will go down as one of the greatest sequels in history.
Replicants are humanoid androids with enhanced strength, a short lifespan and implanted memories. They were spawned by the Tyrell Corporation to be used as slave labor on off-earth colonies. As the replicants eventually revolted hard, they became outlawed on Earth and would be dispatched at the hands of replicant-hunting policemen known as blade runners. Three decades following the events of the original, remaining rogue replicants continue to be hunted down. Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) saves the Tyrell corporation from bankruptcy by introducing a new breed of replicants that are designed to obey. Agent K (Ryan Gosling), an LAPD blade runner and subservient model replicant, discovers a well-kept secret while retiring a rogue replicant named Sapper (Dave Bautista). Without spoiling anything, Agent K’s uncovering leads him on a journey to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who’s been off the grid for 30 years.
The legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins had better snag his well-deserved Academy Award after being snubbed 13 times, because Blade Runner 2049 is a stunningly beautiful iconographic masterwork capturing the dreary dystopian quintessence of the original but on a more extravagant scale. It’s simultaneously frightening and magnificent, finding beauty in desolation. Consumerism is the government’s way of distracting the masses from the ugly reality, and this is embodied through colossal, vibrantly-colored 3D holographic advertisements adorning the futuristic Los Angeles skyline. Contrasting the strange grandeur of spellbinding neon ads and monolithic corporate structures inaccessible to the public is pretty much everything else. A good deal of 2049 Los Angeles is a jumble of graffiti-draped back-alleys and cramped apartment buildings, signifying the wide discrepancy between the privileged few and the poor who do all they can to survive in a world that’s undeniably falling apart. No dialogue is necessary for the establishment of subtext as impeccable camera shots and haunting visuals array the acrid yellow-orange air outside L.A, the poisonous dump stretching to San Diego, and the massive sea wall shielding L.A from the raging wrath of the Pacific Ocean. The pouring rain over L.A is sheer poetry; in my humble opinion symbolizing cries from mother earth. The rain is one of the final remnants of nature on a planet standing on its last legs as the negative repercussions of technological abuse take their final toll.
Blade Runner 2049 is such a thematically diverse and esoteric work of art that analyzing its multitude of themes will probably keep us up till next week. Going in depth will require diving into spoiler territory, an urge that is laborious to resist as I write this review, so I guess a condensed rundown will suffice. As the blurry line between man and machine narrows ever so razor-thin, what exactly does it mean to be human? When beings with binary code as their building blocks behave and feel in a nearly congruent manner to those comprised entirely of DNA, what becomes real? This film takes on the original’s existential themes and builds on them to new highs. Akin to the original, its themes are subtle and nuanced; embedded in visual art, camera shots, plot points, and actions undertaken by well-rounded characters. Blade Runner 2049 is about the search for an identity and belonging. It’s about morality, the human condition, free will, and humanity’s double-edged relationship with technology. A dominating theme in this film is the concept of love, most notable in K’s relationship with a holographic woman named Joi (Ana De Armas). This aspect is reminiscent of Spike Jonze’s ideas on loneliness and individuality which were tackled in his brilliant film “Her”. The concept of love is not restricted to K and Joi. If you observe the characters and their actions closely, you will see that they’re representative of their assorted convictions on what love means.
The cast is phenomenal across the board and really bring it home. Ryan Gosling as Agent K delivers one of the most nuanced performances of his career. Gosling is an expert at minimalist acting. He proficiently conveys the maelstrom of contemplations regarding his identity, his place in this oppressive anti-replicant world, and the profession of killing his own kind, using subtle facial expressions rather than words. Harrison Ford does a brilliant job with his returning role as Rick Deckard. As a soul exiled for three decades, Ford brings energy and emotion to the table; with his character’s vulnerability making him quite the affable kind. As for Jared Leto playing the villain Niander Wallace, I disagree with those criticizing his performance as hammy; he actually did great with his limited screentime. Wallace’s interesting philosophical monologues are complemented by his soft-spoken demeanor which partially envelops his callous aspirations. Even with only approximately 10 minutes of screentime, Wallace still manages to be a complex character; a fascinating amalgam of genius and insanity brought to life on the majestic silver screen by Jared Leto’s bona fide talent.
Quality cinema like Blade Runner 2049 is the reason I go to the movies. I watch to be transfixed, to be moved, and to ruminate on the finer intricacies that my ocular nerve registered to my gray matter for ages on end after the ending credits commence. Blade Runner 2049 is a meticulously cohesive, multifaceted, nuanced, powerful, and all-around mesmerizing work of allegorical sci-fi artistry that will go down as one of the greatest sequels in cinematic history. It is the kind of film that gets better the more you reflect on it. One week following this exceptional moviegoing experience at my local cinema in Tempe, Arizona, I believe Blade Runner 2049 has already clawed its way into my prestigious list of top 10 favorite films of all time. And you know what rating that entails, my dearies. Thank you Denis Villeneuve, from the bottom of my heart, for this utterly exceptional film.
My score: 10/10
© 2017 Rami Nawfal