35 years later and Blade Runner finally has a sequel in the form of Blade Runner 2049, and if you consider the original to be a sci-fi masterpiece, you’ll be pleased to know that Denis Villeneuve’s take is just as good if not better. It’s rare that a sequel can trump its predecessor, but like The Empire Strikes Back, Blade Runner 2049 has achieved this feat in filmmaking thanks in part to advances in technology, but also for its intriguing narrative, characters, cinematography, and score.
The film picks up 30 years after the events of the original and follows Officer K from the LAPD, who is played expertly by Ryan Gosling. An early mission of K’s reveals a buried secret, which in turn sends him down a rabbit hole that ultimately leads him to tracking down the protagonist of the first film, Rick Deckard, who is played by Han Solo (his scheduled has cleared up since dying in The Force Awakens).
Along the way K learns much about himself and the replicants he hunts, so as a viewer you are treated to many deep rooted social issues revolving around the concepts of slavery, life, and what can be considered real. Other philosophical discussions can be derived from the idea of man creating machines in their own image and the feelings these machines can develop. Are machines that have emotions humans? Do these machines deserve freedoms and free will? Many questions like this will circle around your brain as you watch this film, so while it is very intoxicating to look at, it also packs in plenty of thought provoking questions, which just reinforce the authenticity of the world Scott first created and the new layers of polish Villeneuve provided.
K is a very intriguing character, and one who experiences plenty of growth throughout the movie. Gosling’s performance is spot on, and you will feel his character change overtime as he learns more truths about the replicants from the past, while also interacting with the new generation of replicants from the future, who are much more docile and less emotional than their predecessors. He’s just a fascinating character and one you can sympathize with due to Gosling’s acting, so with every new scene another layer of him is exposed until finally by the end you get to see his true self emerge.
Besides the excellent thought provoking plot and engaging characters, Blade Runner 2049 also features some of the most dramatic cinematography I’ve seen in years. The imagery coupled with the synth-laden soundtrack makes it very easy to slip into the film’s world as if you were a part of it. The sprawling L.A. megalopolis pays homage to the visual tones of the original film, but also shows off more of the inner workings of the city. The city itself feels like a machine filled with neon imagery and an eclectic mix of individuals. You also get to see locations outside of the city, which help to paint a broader picture of the world that these characters live in. It’s a one that is full of death and destruction, so you get a bigger sense of the struggles that everyone in this world are facing, and why there’s debate on using replicant’s as slaves to progress the human race forward and beyond our own planet.
There’s so much more I’d love to discuss about Blade Runner 2049, but I fear that if I do I could possibly reveal even the tiniest of spoiler. I went in with a blank slate and it paid off in spades, because within the first 10-minutes you’re treated to a whammy of a reveal that really sets the tone of the narrative. The surprises kept coming after that, so even when I thought I had a handle on the various twists thrown at you, I was usually wrong and reminded that I was watching a masterpiece that isn’t willing to divulge its secrets until all of the key pieces were in place. It’s like watching art in motion, so do yourself a favor and check out this movie before it leaves theaters. You can go with zero backstory on the original, so don’t use that as an excuse to miss out on this more-than-likely Oscar contender.
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