Blade Runner 2049 proves to be the perfect sequel to Blade Runner, managing to be both a fantastic follow-up and an incredible movie on its own.
Thirty years after the events of Blade Runner, a new blade runner (Ryan Gosling) hunts the remaining replicants (androids) from a previous generation. His journey leads him to enlist the help of Deckard (Harrison Ford).
The most promising element behind Blade Runner 2049, more so than even the original movie or Philip K. Dick novel, is the director, Denis Villeneuve. Blade Runner 2049 marks Villeneuve’s fifth English-language film (the first being 2013’s Prisoners), and all have been incredible. Each of the movies has stunning and unique visuals, and is really able to challenge the audience to think. The trend wonderfully continues with Blade Runner 2049.
Blade Runner 2049 is incredibly remarkable because of its interesting relationship with Blade Runner. On the one hand, while the story does heavily relate to the events of Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049 could exist on its own. On the other hand, it is the perfect follow-up, by expanding the world yet not closing any doors to change perceptions of the original.
One way the film achieves this is that it visually looks exactly like the world created in the original, but has a completely different feeling. Los Angeles in 2049 looks generally the same as Los Angeles in 2019, besides natural progressions in society and technology over the thirty-year gap. For example, the pervasive video projections on buildings are replaced by giant holograms. Despite these changes, it still looks like the same city.
However, the visuals induce a different feeling than those in the original. Blade Runner is notable for combining the genres of Science Fiction and Film Noir, to create a unique style. This is effective because Ford’s blade runner seems more like a noir-like detective. Because Blade Runner 2049 uses fewer Film Noir tropes, Gosling’s blade runner is more like a bounty hunter.
This is an effective change, making Gosling’s character stand out distinctly from Deckard. In addition, Blade Runner 2049 literally expands the world, by bringing parts of the story outside of Los Angeles. Los Angeles is the most common setting for Noirs, so that was likely the reasoning to confine Blade Runner to the city. That elicits a claustrophobic quality which helps to drive the tension.
By allowing Blade Runner 2049 to explore other cities, the movie has a much more open feeling. However, these open landscapes are often beautifully obscured by mist or dust. This allows the tension to come from a fear of the unknown or beyond, rather than a fear of the confined.
Blade Runner 2049 would not be anywhere near as effective as it is, without the brilliant cinematography by Roger Deakins. Deakins previously worked with Villeneuve on Sicario and Prisoners, and their team work has paid off in this visual masterpiece. Literally, every single frame in this movie would be a beautiful photograph on its own.
Another way that Blade Runner 2049 stands out from its predecessor, is that it is able to go deeper into the world of the Replicants. It successfully shows the political and social effects of Replicants interacting with human society, and leaves the door open to explore the relationship in the future.
It goes without saying that Gosling and Ford have excellent performances. Gosling further hones his almost-signature brooding character, further developing it with raw vulnerability and a touch of humor. Ford is not too present in the film, but over basically the past ten years, has gotten used to returning to characters he brilliantly originated years before.
Ana de Armas, previously notable for War Dogs, has a standout performance. It is hard to go into details without spoilers, but her expressiveness works incredibly well with Gosling’s stoicism.
The film is about two hours and forty-five minutes. Generally, a run-time of this length is a bit alarming, but Blade Runner 2049 is well-deserving of it. The movie is definitely not fast-paced, and the movie really does feel like it takes up the run-time, but it is warranted. The slow unveiling of information is rewarding by the end.
Blade Runner 2049 is the rare example of the perfect sequel and proof that the trend of nostalgia movies might not be so bad. It kicks off the start of awards season with a bang, and maybe might be able to sway the Academy to consider Science Fiction.