It’s very rare lately that I find it worthwhile to watch sequels, as they tend to recycle everything these days, from shots, to characters, to plot points. I’ve been bored by the last two Star Wars films, the most recent additions to the Aliens franchise, and I’ve completely given up on watching Marvel films within two years of release (although I may have to make an exception for Thor: Ragnarok.) That being said, I walked into Blade Runner: 2049, expecting both to hate the film and wish that no sequel was ever made in Ridley Scott’s original universe. Instead, not only was I enthralled with the film from beginning to end, but the film is now one of my favorite shot and edited films of the year.
What’s Old is New Again
With a rather masterful screenplay, the new Blade Runner film places us decades after the original, giving viewers an opening title card and scattered lines of exposition to catch us up from the last film. We follow the story through Ryan Gosling’s character, K, a replicant (synthetic humans who act as slave labor) who serves the LAPD as a Blade Runner, that is, somebody who kills replicants who have gone rogue. Just like the original film, this interesting concept isn’t the story itself, but rather sets up the moral dilemma and world in which we spend the duration of film. I have to say, this sequel extends the original in scope, location, effects, and thematic meaning. There are moments where future technology is so brilliantly executed that I was left in awe at how the director Villeneuve managed to pull it off. As a big fan of the original (well at least of 2 of the cuts,) I can say that I enjoyed and accepted everything that they added to this awesome sci-fi world, and I was genuinely giddy every time a reference, nod, or just genuine callback from the original was peppered in.
Visuals to Die For
Not to parrot every other film critic out there right now, but if Roger Deakins doesn’t win the Oscar for best cinematography for his work in this film, then we should end the whole award-giving institution. Every single frame of this film could be printed out and sold as an art print, as the masterful production design, visual effects, lighting, and cinematography all work in harmony to create a beautiful visual symphony. It was a real treat to be back in cyber-punk Los Angeles, and the large array of locations that K goes through are not only varied and unique, but all carry their own color palette and unique lighting scheme that allows the viewer to not only garner vast amounts of emotional context from the scene, but also lets the audience recognize when we’ve returned to a location as it’s immediately distinct. A scene I implore viewers to absorb is in Jared Leto’s character’s lair, where the ever-changing lighting beautifully shifts to create a dynamic atmosphere in an already visual effects heavy scene.
While the crew definitely made this film, every single actor here pulls their own weight, and brings something great to the table. I feel a major detriment in the first Blade Runner was that a lot of the supporting cast were directed so stiff and inflection was so strange, leaving audiences feeling uncomfortable. Blade Runner 2049 does not suffer from this at all, and instead every single performance leaves viewers in awe of a scene. Even Harrison Ford who reprises his role as Deckard delivers one of his best performances in perhaps a decade, putting in a lot of effort and pulling off some wild stunts for such an old fella. This film had the perfect level of diversity for me, putting females like Robin Wright in positions of power and scattering all sorts of folk throughout the streets of LA, yet the film never turns into a political statement on that matter. Instead, the movie tackles way higher concepts that lead to a bold ending that immediately made me want to buy another ticket and watch this film another time.
Recommend: Of course!
Theater or Digital: Theater on the biggest screen you can find
While not perfect, this sequel is pretty dang close. For a high budget sequel coming out decades after the cult classic original, this is as good of a film as you can hope for. With a near perfect soundtrack, paired with genuinely perfect visuals, Blade Runner 2049 is yet another homerun for director Denis Villeneuve, who knocked it out of the park with Arrival, Sicario, and Prisoners in years past. For casual movie fans the sci-fi and reliance on source material may make the film a little dense, but for sci-fi fans and film addicts, this new release is the perfect Fall blockbuster to obsess over.