The original Blade Runner, released in 1982, and based loosely on the science fiction book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick, was set in a dystopian future Los Angeles in the year 2019. Directed by Ridley Scott, the film which starred Harrison Ford as burnt-out cop, Rick Deckard, assigned to hunt a fugitive group of synthetic humans (replicants,) underperformed at the box office upon release, but left quite an impression that has been near impossible to erase.
Hailed as a modern classic of neo-noir cinema, Blade Runner has influenced countless films. In today’s Hollywood, the highest form of flattery isn’t imitation, but a conscription into the mad worlds of reboots and cinematic universes.
Blade Runner 2049, arrives thirty five years after the original, and is set in the title year, thirty years after the events of the original. In the lead role this time, is dreamboat, Ryan Gosling, who plays K/Joe, a replicant cop, from an advanced line that has successfully been integrated with human beings and can coexist side by side.
Trained to obey instructions, K, is under orders by his superior, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) to find and retire a child that appears to be proof that replicants can procreate. This is after Joshi had uncovered a box containing the remains of a pregnant replicant. This dead body is identified as Rachel, who played a major role in the original film as the love interest to Ford’s Deckard.
Beginning to question his memories, and humanity, K goes rogue and is hunted by Luv, a trained-to-kill machine operating on the orders of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto). Wallace considers the idea of reproducing replicants profitable for his expansive corporation. K’s search for answers takes him to Las Vegas where he unearths Deckard, now living in relative obscurity.
Directed by Dennis Villeneuve, (Arrival, Prisoners) Blade Runner 2049, is a worthy successor as it continues on the original’s classic themes but also expands on them, posing some interesting questions at the end. What does it mean to be human? To have free will and how far should science go in its quest to discover new life forms?
The plot is easy enough to follow but the real triumph of Blade Runner 2049 is visual. The work of veteran cinematographer, Roger Deakins here is nothing short of classic as he unspools his director’s vision of the wasted future in splendid, terrifying images. There are blizzards all the time, the water is contaminated and giant sea walls protect the inhabitants from the water coming in. There are also massive garbage dumps and the wasted ruins of a dusty Las Vegas city to gaze wondrously at.
Blade Runner 2049’s pacing is slow and measured, allowing for a running time that is almost three hours long. But what the film lacks in noisy action scenes, clanging in every twenty minutes, it makes up for in meticulousness and a knowing sense of direction.
Villeneuve proves himself the man for the job as he succeeds in making a film not directed at teenage fan boys eager to start up a new franchise, but melded to the adult tastes of fans of the original. And anyone, anywhere who likes their cinema smart, immersive, sexy yet full of heart.
The original took its time to achieve classic status. This one is an instant stunner.
Look and learn.