Blade Runner 2049 Review: A Rare Sequel that Actually Improves on the Original.
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is widely regarded as one of the best science fiction films of all time. The film asked big questions and has been widely considered a visual masterpiece. At the time of its initial release back in 1982, Blade Runner was met with mixed reviews and wasn’t a big hit at the box office. However, over the past 34 years, the film has become a classic and one that has served as a major blueprint for the sci-fi film genre.
There have been seven different versions of Blade Runner released over the past 35 years. Blade Runner: The Final Cut is the only version of the film that Ridley Scott had complete creative control over. It is often considered the best cut of the film according to most critics as well as Harrison Ford himself. I revisited the Final Cut just a few hours prior to seeing Blade Runner 2049 and I am incredibly glad that I did. I can safely say that in order to fully appreciate Blade Runner 2049, you should watch the Final cut of the original film. It isn’t required but I think it will definitely help improve a viewer’s understanding of this future that Ridley Scott has created.
Blade Runner 2049 takes place 30 years after the original Blade Runner. LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling) has been hired as a blade runner to investigate the Tyrell Corporation, currently being run by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto). During K’s investigation, he discovers secrets about the evolution of the replicants including a dark secret that has the potential to change the world. Determined to uncover the truth, K sets out to find former blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) who he believes will provide him with the answers to what very well could be life-changing questions.
This is a non-spoiler review per the request of the studio and the producers of the film. I would like to point out, however, that unlike most movie trailers, the trailers for Blade Runner 2049 don’t give away the story or the plot. I applaud the film’s marketing team because they chose to focus on how the sequel captures the tone, look, and atmosphere of the original without giving away where the story is going to go.
Blade Runner 2049 begins with a pretty badass fight scene between Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) and K. This scene is very important to the story so be sure to pay close attention to it. Don’t just assume it is a cool fight scene. Filmgoers should also be aware that just because Blade Runner 2049 opens on a fight scene doesn’t mean that the rest of the film is going to contain non-stop action. The action scenes are few and far between. For the most part, the film’s story is all about developing the new characters while digging deeper into the dystopian California landscape that was only touched upon in the original.
Denis Villeneuve has managed to create a sequel that continues to advance the concepts that Ridley Scott created. The film focuses on the evolution of the replicants as well as the changes that have occurred in this world. Blade Runner 2049 is an extension of Blade Runner as it digs deeper and asks more questions and arguably bigger questions. This rare sequel that actually improves on the original because it spends most of the runtime developing certain plot points and answering the questions that audiences have been debating for the past 35 years. The film also provides additional backstory on Rick Deckard while also shining a light on his whereabouts for the past 30 years.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins and Denis Villeneuve have recreated Scott’s remarkable world. They have created a world that is filled with incredible sets and beautiful imagery. To say that the film is breathtaking to look at is an understatement. Everything from the use of colors to the elaborate set design is perfection. Deakins, who has somehow never won an Academy Award, will definitely be taking one home this year for his incredible work on this film. I truly believe that Blade Runner 2049 will be the film that will break Deakins losing streak. Blade Runner 2049 is stunning to look at and is a must-see on the big screen. I would definitely seek out the biggest screen you can find with the best sound system. It will only add to the experience.
As someone who has always struggled with the slow pacing of the original Blade Runner, I expected that Blade Runner 2049’s runtime of 2 hours and 43 minutes would make the film incredibly hard to sit through. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was never bored when watching this film. While I think there could be a few trims here and there, I was shocked by how engaged I was in the story and these characters. The film does take its time to build the plot but the story, characters, and visuals sucked me in and kept me engaged from start to finish.
Ryan Goslin lights up the screen as K. Gosling fits perfectly into this world and delivers one of his finest performances to date. Gosling’s K is very reminiscent of Deckard from the original. As the story progresses, we learn more about K and his past. He is an interesting character because there is more to K than what meets the eye. There is a lot of mystery to his character and because of this, you can’t help but be invested in his journey to uncover the truth.
While the film’s trailer makes it seem that Rick Deckard is a big part of the film, in reality, he is probably only in about half of the film. While Ford’s Deckard doesn’t show up until about 90 minutes or so, his time on-screen is used wisely and helps to push the story forward. Anyone who has watched the original film knows that Ford is great at playing Rick Deckard and despite having aged 35 years since 1982, Ford still nails it. The scenes between him and Gosling are great, to say the least.
Joi (Ana de Armas), Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), Mariette (Mackenzie Davis), and Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) make up the supporting cast. While there isn’t much to say about Mackenzie Davis as Mariette given her limited screentime, I need to make mention of the “cybersex” scene between her, Joi, and K. This moment was full of emotion and incredibly heartfelt. I was blown away by the performances in this scene as well as how perfectly Villeneuve captured this beautifully intimate moment on camera. This scene is easily one of the best scenes in the entire film.
Ana de Armas truly surprised me as Joi. I always viewed de Armas as just another pretty face but she did such a great job acting alongside Gosling and Davis. I loved the relationship between Joi and K and how she always wanted more from it. Sylvia Hoeks played a multi-layered villain and her performance was very memorable. The character Luv kicks a lot of ass. Robin Wright as Lt. Joshi was the perfect casting decision. Wright knows as no problem playing a tough as nails female role and this one was no exception.
My only real issue with the casting was Jared Leto as Wallace. I felt like the character was a bit out there and didn’t fully fit the tone of the film. I don’t think that Leto was bad per say but honestly served more as a distraction than anything else. I didn’t find his character to be very intimidating or menacing. I honestly didn’t even fully get why he was in the film in the first place. His character just seems to pop up randomly at times and felt like the writers could have left the character of Wallace a mystery and the end result would have been pretty much the same, if not a bit better.
While this might be a bold statement to make, I do believe that Blade Runner 2049 is better than the original. Villeneuve takes the world in which Ridley Scott has created and makes it his own. Blade Runner 2049 answers several questions from the original while continuing to explore the advancements of the replicants. Blade Runner 2049 is a remarkable visual achievement and one that is sure to be watched over and over again. If you love Science Fiction, Blade Runner 2049 is a must-see.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Blade Runner 2049 is an 8 out of 10.