“Blade Runner 2049”: A Millennial’s Movie Review
The Replicant Strikes Back
Blade Runner 2049 is a science-fiction drama, and the sequel to Ridley Scott’s influential, 1982 cyberpunk noir, Blade Runner. The film is directed by Denis Villeneuve and stars Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto, and Harrison Ford. Gosling plays Officer K, a member of the Los Angeles Police Department in a dystopian future of our world. K is a Blade Runner, a special agent tasked with hunting down and killing old replicants, bioengineered humans with enhanced abilities. While on a mission, K uncovers a secret that could potentially change the world and its perception on replicants. While he attempts to unravel the mystery behind this secret, he attracts the attention of tech giant and mastermind Niander Wallace (Leto), who also becomes interested in pursuing the secret, in order to fuel his own ulterior motives.
Though being commercially unsuccessful at the time of its release, Blade Runner became a cult classic for the question it posed on our humanity, as well as its influence on many science fiction dystopias created in the past few decades. The multiple cuts of the film involving different endings offered many interpretations as to the identity of its protagonist, and the film is beloved for the debates it has sparked between critics and fans alike. As with many beloved properties, there was scepticism when a Blade Runner sequel was announced. But with director Denis Villeneuve’s current hot streak, veteran Roger Deakins’ involvement as Director of Photography and a star-studded cast on board, will the memory of Blade Runner 2049 be forever embedded in time?
Denis Villeneuve and co. have done it yet again, this time by making a sequel that actually adds to the lore of the original, while crafting out a good story with characters we care about. Roger Deakins shows us once again why he deserves that elusive Oscar for cinematography, while production designer Dennis Gassner has done a marvellous job creating a world that seems at first glance to be bursting with life, yet somehow infected with a melancholic emptiness. The film’s pacing is very slow, but somehow my eyes were glued to the screen throughout. This will, however, be a major issue for some viewers. Even if you haven’t seen the original Blade Runner, the film can still be enjoyed. But the best possible viewing experience can only come after seeing the original. For the sci-fi fans and fans of the original Blade Runner, this one is not to be missed.
Bend the Knee to Denis
After directing Arrival, Sicario and Prisoners, it seems that Denis Villeneuve is hell-bent on continuing his winning streak. With the weight of an entire fandom on his shoulders, the composure and care Villeneuve exerts in his directorial duties is noticeably immense in Blade Runner 2049. Taking his time to squeeze every ounce of wonder and emotion from each scene, his consistent direction is pretty clear from the first scene of the film to the last. Roger Deakins’ camera work is nothing short of masterful, carving out incredible looking frames, with beautiful imagery that by itself is already worth the price of admission. The choice of the team to shoot scenes in the daytime as well as at night adds so much more to the majesty of the film’s look, though the dark, gritty streets of 2049 L.A. still maintains the impact the original’s setting had. Also worthy of high praise is the world these characters live in. The innovative world building in this film is simply creative genius, as the film benefits from modern-day CGI to introduce technologies and intricacies that expand upon the original Blade Runner world in the best of ways.
While the first Blade Runner film asked: ‘What does it mean to be human?’, Blade Runner 2049 asks it again, putting its own unique spin on the topic. It takes the theme and explores it in greater depth, pushing philosophical boundaries, blurring the lines between identities, and leaving the viewer with questions throughout the film. It hits several other themes relevant to its predecessor as well as our own world today (in 2017), including societal hierarchy, racism, consumerism, and our growing reliance on technology. Officer K’s own story is one of belonging, as he struggles to find his place in a world on the brink of a giant revelation. Combine all this substance with fantastic visuals, and you’ve got a hard-hitting winner.
Moments, Lost in Time
The issues with Blade Runner 2049 may well vary from viewer to viewer. The film’s slow pace inevitable made the film very long, a 163-minute show that may quickly become boring or suffocating for certain viewers who value plot progression and quick pacing far more than cinematography. Sometimes, the CGI does get utilised so much in certain scenes to a point of being showy, not having a particularly big impact on the overall narrative, but rather as a call to the audience to say: ‘look how good our visual effects are!’. Granted, the visual effects are indeed mesmerising, so this is only a slight nitpick for me. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s score adds the same atmospheric tone as Vangelis’ famous Blade Runner one, but ultimately has only one memorable track, and will probably not be as iconic as Vangelis’. Finally, the ending does have shades of the anti-climax, not being a very satisfying or cathartic experience despite being quite a visceral one.
Blade Runner 2049 is quite a remarkable sequel, and while the original Blade Runner will always be better known for its delayed fame, it will not be surprising to learn that in 20 years, Blade Runner 2049 will join its predecessor as being a sci-fi classic. The film is not perfect, and certainly isn’t for everyone. But its use of the camera, lighting and effects is, dare I say it….Oscar-worthy. At the end of the day, Denis Villeneuve and the production team can rest easy knowing they’ve achieved something brilliant. A work of art that can suck the viewer into another world. Another life. After all, isn’t that one of the many beautiful characteristics of film and cinema?
Overall Score: 8.3/10