Blade runner 2049
To Live And Die In LA
We subject the sequel to the baseline test. Cells. Cells. Cells interlinked within cells.
released OUT NOW! 15 | 163 minutes Director denis Villeneuve Cast ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, ana de armas, Jared leto, robin Wright, sylvia Hoeks, lennie James
Of all the bona fide sci-fi classics, few are less in need of a sequel than Blade Runner. For all the much-discussed ambiguity of the Director’s Cut, Ridley Scott’s dystopian vision was never one to leave you on tenterhooks. An origami unicorn and a door slamming shut is hardly “I am your father,” is it?
So the fact that this follow-up – which landed in cinemas some 35 years after the original – is not only far from redundant, but actually an essential extension to the world Scott built on Philip K Dick’s foundations, is a remarkable feat. As well as being a logical and satisfying continuation of the story, it’s also a sequel of mood, tone and aesthetic – a follow-up built of the same components, albeit with some extra 21st century visual polish.
The hook that drives Blade Runner 2049 – the revelation that Rick Deckard and his Replicant girlfriend Rachael had a child, and the subsequent mystery of what happened to it – isn’t necessarily the most obvious way to follow the original, yet crucially it proves to be a plotline worth pursuing. It sends Ryan Gosling’s professional Replicant hunter K (instantly outed as a Replicant himself, in a neat twist on the ongoing is he/ isn’t he Deckard debate) on a labyrinthine investigation that involves significantly more detecting than Harrison Ford had to do first time out – in that regard, 2049 is significantly closer to the Raymond Chandler stories that inspired the first movie. In fact, the movie’s rather cleverer than it initially appears, as the overly cute idea that K might be Deckard’s son turns out to be an elaborate red herring – it’s a big relief when it turns out that the truth is darker and much more satisfying.
Despite what the promotional material would have had you believe, Ford’s Deckard is merely a supporting player – part McGuffin, part plot device, part (intentionally) absent father – but that’s entirely the right choice for the film. As The Force Awakens showed, Ford returning to an iconic role works best when he’s not carrying the movie, but instead handing the torch to the next generation. This is undeniably Gosling’s film: K is its driving force and, despite his lack of the usual human emotions, its moral centre.
As with the original Blade Runner, the story is considerably less important than the way it’s told. It’s never less than jawdroppingly beautiful, upping the scale on Ridley Scott’s genredefining dystopian vision to create an even more vividly realised world. Throwing in giant holographic figures and a spectacular Los Angeles sea wall, while taking us to new locations like San Diego and Las Vegas (this world has evolved significantly, yet organically, in the three
A logical continuation, and a sequel of mood and aesthetic
intervening decades), director Denis Villeneuve is happy to linger on Roger Deakins’s spectacular cinematography. The addition of Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s adventurous score – which sounds like a combination of Inception, Vangelis and something entirely different – adds to the assault on the senses.
If awards were handed out for ambition, Blade Runner 2049 would sweep the board. It’s not quite, however, the game-changing classic that some of the slightly hyperbolic early reviews would have had you believe. It has the same leisurely approach to storytelling as its predecessor, to the point where you could lose 10-15 minutes from the lengthy running time without any detriment to the plot, while Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace, heir to the Tyrell Corporation’s Replicant empire, is more a performance than a character. But the biggest misstep is that none of the female characters are significantly developed – they’re all effectively just foils for the men, whether it’s Wallace’s henchwoman Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), Robin Wright’s sympathetic police chief Joshi, or Joi, the over-the-counter AI K falls in love with (Ana de Armas).
Still, Blade Runner 2049 is as good as we could possibly have hoped, a worthy follow-up to a film that has been much imitated but never bettered. It’s a rare example of a mega-budget blockbuster that refuses to patronise or give easy answers, and as such its ambiguity will be debated for years to come. Blade Runner fans wouldn’t have it any other way.
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