After 30 years, we return to the world of Blade Runner. A lot has changed since Deckard (Harrison Ford) and Rachael (Sean Young) went on the run. Life on Earth has got a lot worse for those who can't afford to leave for the outer colonies. The new breed of Blade Runner - like Ryan Gosling's 'Officer K' - continue to hunt replicants, specifically the Nexus 8, a model with a longer lifespan and the last remnants of the now bankrupt Tyrell Corporation. On a routine assignment K uncovers a mystery that'll lead him to Deckard and draw the attention of Neander Wallace (Jared Leto). Wallace, the father of a new generation of replicants, wants something he believes Deckard has and will stop at nothing to get it.
Before watching Blade Runner 2049 it's worth watching the three prequel shorts. They provide some history of the period between 2019 and 2049. Click here to view them on YouTube.
Denis Villeneuve has done a magnificent job of recreating the world brought to life by Ridley Scott back in 1982. He has created the future of the future we saw in Blade Runner and in the process, expanded it. These stunning visuals and incredible sounds make for an incredibly beautiful vision of a dystopian future (of a dystopian future). From the overpopulated, neon Los Angeles to the junk yards of San Diego and the radioactive haze that is Las Vegas, we follow K as he explores them all in his search for answers. The way 2049 has been filmed, rather than simply seeing it, you are immersed in this brightly lit, industrialist, poverty stricken world. The scariest part of which is that Peugeot is still in business, and they're allowed to make flying cars!
And it isn't a case of all style and no substance. The story written by Hampton Fancher (Blade Runner) and Michael Green (Logan) delves deeper into this murky world. The plot harks back to the original and at the same time 2049 works as a stand alone movie. Where as the first movie circles around the question of "Is Deckard a replicant?" (a question that remains unanswered), this one goes deeper by asking "What is real?" and "Does it matter if you're a replicant or not?" Now some may feel that at 2 hours and 45 minutes, this movie is too long but I feel that it helps to make Blade Runner 2049 more of an immersive experience than just a movie. It does tick along quite slowly but never to the point of boredom, there is always something going on. You totally lose track of time because you are so invested in this mystery and K's investigation of it, drawn into the fascinating world in which these characters live.
As with all of his movies, Villeneuve has put together a great cast. It's easy to see why K was written with Ryan Gosling in mind, he's able to show a lot of emotion while saying very little. K is complicated, he's dealing with a lot and at the same time trying to find his place in this world. Neander Wallace on the other hand is totally driven by his work, a blind man with some sort of god complex, he wants to create as many replicants as he can so the human race can push further out into the cosmos. Leto brings a subtle creepyness to the role, Wallace is an intelligent man of privilege in a dystopian world. He's not scary because of what he can do, he's scary because he's in charge of the most powerful corporation known to man, he can get whatever he wants and no one can do anything to stop him. Dave Bautista shows great range as Sapper Morton, a Nexus 8 in hiding. Where we're used to seeing him as the very loud and outlandish Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy, here - despite his size and strength - he is quiet and reserved. Ford delivers one of his best performances in years as the older Deckard, grizzled and jaded after 30 years in hiding. It helps that despite being a key part of the story, he is not the focus, this is more K's story and Deckard is an important piece of the puzzle.
Despite some strong performances from the female cast, there has been some controversy surrounding the depiction of women in Blade Runner 2049. Several of the female characters are either depicted as sex workers or as subservient to men, but I like to think there's more to them than that. Sylvia Hoeks is brilliant as Luv, Wallace's right hand woman/assassin. Luv is fiercely loyal to Wallace. As a replicant with some serious rage issues, Hoeks brings a powerful intensity to the role. Mackenzie Davis plays Mariette, a replicant prostitute, although that's only part of who she is. As a member of the replicant underground/resistance she uses her position to gather information. The leader of the underground is Freysa (Hiam Abbass), a woman with incredible dedication to the cause. Robin Wright delivers yet another strong performance as K's boss, Lieutenant Joshi. Like her role in Wonder Woman however, she wasn't given enough to do. Gosling's love interest Joi (Ana De Armas) is a hologram, a product of the Wallace Corporation designed as a companion, serving as an advert for the product is a giant pink version that interacts with the public. K purchases a mobile emitter which enables Joi to develop and experience new things throughout the movie, as she does her connection with K deepens, which links to the central question of the plot, "When does artificial intelligence become life?" Is their connection an less real or important because she's not human?
We've been waiting 35 years for a sequel to one of the most definitive sci-fi classics in movie history. I think Denis Villeneuve was the perfect choice to direct. In fact, after seeing Alien: Covenant I'm glad Ridley Scott took a back seat, because I don't think he could have done as good a job. Blade Runner can be quite divisive, some people prefer the original cut whereas others prefer the Final Cut, and the debate over Deckard being human or replicant can be very heated. What's brilliant about 2049 is it connects with the first movie perfectly, regardless of which cut of Blade Runner you prefer or where you stand on the Replicant Debate. Blade Runner 2049 is a perfect sequel, true to the original and something completely different at the same time. And Villeneuve has left the story open, which means we could see even more or this dystopian future, lets hope we don't have to wait another 35 years!
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