Blade Runner is the latest film to get a belated sequel 35 years after the original was released. A new director, a new story, a new cast-ish. Can the sequel live up to the cult phenomenon that is Blade Runner?
Set thirty years after the original, Blade Runner 2049 depicts a Blade Runner called K who is a replicant that hunts older models of replicants. After a standard mission K comes across a female body that has died of childbirth but turns out that the body was a replicant. The film focuses on K, played by Ryan Gosling, to try and find this kid that was born from a replicant.
I must confess that I wasn’t a massive fan of the first film. It was visually extraordinary but it was slow and I fell asleep in my first viewing of the film. I have always liked the aesthetic of the film but its actual content was convoluted and to say bluntly a bit dull. However I heard a massive buzz from the sequel and I was very excited to go and watch it.
The one thing this sequel has taken from the first film was the glorious aesthetic. I regret not watching this in IMAX, this has to be one of the most beautiful and visually stunning films my eyes have every laid upon. It was so astounding that at times I completely forgot about the plot, I was just amazed by the cinematography, the design and the direction. I was pushed into a world of a euphoric dystopia. A dystopia is a world that shouldn’t be desired but the beauty of the terror is a conflict that I find very appealing especially within Sci-fi. This is one of those films that everything works. The score, which I didn’t realise it was Hans Zimmer was the icing of the cake. It was a majestic aurual experience that was perfectly matched with the visuals. Zimmer is one of those composers that can mix the strong boding weight of a score with the gentle story of a single note. This has to be one of my favourite Zimmer scores, it may not be as good without the visuals but I don’t think the visuals would been as good without the score. It is a match made in heaven.
At 2 and half hours long it was about 30 minutes too long. The first act of the film was quite slow and yes I was amazed by the spectacle of it, but it did lack some substance. The film could of been shortened for the story it told. The pacing, especially for the first hour was a bit of a struggle. This does pick up in the final third as their is some action but it must be reminded that Blade Runner was never an action film. It is more of a science fiction drama that has a deep layer of critique on a consumerist society and existentialism. You can see why this ‘franchise’ was never a mainstream hit. This is not Guardians of The Galaxy or Star Wars. This is a film that suppose to make you think, I just wish it would of made me think in a shorter time.
The pacing of the film is really the only issue I had with it. Ryan Gosling’s performance as a replicant agent is fantastic, Gosling does the impossible and plays a robot but a robot that has hints of subtle emotion. His journey into finding his own self worth is one that keeps the film alive. Gosling is the center of this film and if it were any other actor I don’t think it would of worked as well. Other performances that was brilliant include Harrison Ford, who doesn’t ‘hone’ it in but really shows why he is considered one of Hollywood’s greats. His part wasn’t just a nostalgic fan service, his involvement was important. This has to be Ford’s greatest performance for over a decade. Also Ana De Armas who plays K’s holographic girlfriend was amazing, she also mirror’s Gosling’s talent of being emotionless but at the same time has hints and subtleties of emotion.
Denis Villeneuve has become a force to be reckoned with. With this film, Arrival, Sicario and Prisoners, I can’t wait what he is doing next. This film is a rarity, it is a 150 million dollar film that has the plot and context of an independent film. This was a risk that at the moment seems not to really pay off in terms of money. However, step back and forget about money because this film is a perfect example of art. I couldn’t tell what was practical or digital effects. In a world full of numb blockbusters, it is so refreshing to finally see a film that is more then just spectacle. It is one of the most beautiful films I have come across and yes it is a sequel but at the end of the film it made you think.
I enjoy films that are interactive in that way. You walk out of a cinema and enjoy the film but also ponder the questions and answers the film has given you or your interpretation of it. Blade Runner 2049 is a wonderfully scored and visual masterpiece that is only dogged by pacing in the first act. This is another example of why I love film, the visual medium can be so seductive and astounding and Blade Runner 2049 is a fantastic example of this.