My history with the original Blade Runner is not as long as I want it to be. I’ve only seen the film twice, one of those times being the day before I saw this film, and I remember thinking it was a great film with amazing production design, but not quite the masterpiece that other people thought it was, as such I was originally non-plussed about the idea of there being a sequel. Then it was announced that Denis Villeneuve would direct the film. Now Denis Villeneuve is one of my favourite directors working today, Prisoners and Sicario are excellent films and I could talk for days about how much of a masterpiece Arrival was, plus with Roger Deakins as the DP, it was guaranteed that Blade Runner 2049 would at least look incredible. After seeing the film, I have to say that I feel Blade Runner 2049 is comparable in quality to the first Blade Runner. Now as much as I’ll try to avoid them, there may be spoilers in this review so consider this your spoiler warning.The film takes place in 2049, 30 years after the events of the original Blade Runner with replicants once again being used for labour, with blade runners again being needed to hunt down rogue replicants, with the film following K, one of these new blade runners. Following one of his missions, K discovers something that leads him to conflict with the Wallace corporation, the company responsible for the new series of replicants following the downfall of the Tyrell corporation, along with bringing K to Deckard, who has gone into hiding following the events of the first film. Now that’s as much as I can say about the plot without going into spoilers in terms of a general description. What I will say is that this film does a good job of carrying on the legacy of the original Blade Runner, keeping the same tone and spirit. Elements around the extent to which replicants are people and how they should be treated are brought up again here, and I think are handled better in this film than in the first film. There are also new elements around the nature between human and non-human through a hologram that K is in a relationship with, elements of this kind of reminding me of Her, adding a new dimension to the film. On a narrative level, the film does a great job at expanding the world from the first Blade Runner, showing how the world has evolved in the 30 years since the first film, with references of events such as a blackout hinting at a history for the world that we don’t need to see in the film (although there are prologues online that go into more detail of these events), all of these elements feeling natural, along with creating a solid mystery throughout the film. This mystery, along with the thematic weight of the film, is what kept me engaged in the film, the way Hampton Fancher and Michael Green allow the mystery to unfold, with the way all the information is paced out, along with the use of red herrings, making it so the 3 hour length flies by.
The performances meanwhile add to the world of the film. Ryan Gosling as K has the right amount of emotion needed for the character, in that there isn’t much at the start but grows as the film goes on, along with a sense of guilt over what he’s doing, with his reactions to the mystery feeling natural. Harrison Ford as Deckard meanwhile is used effectively, only coming into the film late on, with the way the character behaves fitting the 30 year history we find out about Deckard. Ana de Armas as Joi, K’s girlfriend, is excellent, acting as the heart of the film, with the way she behaves working with the way the character is designed, along with there being strong chemistry between her and Gosling. Another standout is Sylvia Hoeks as Luv, the main enforcer for Wallace, with Hoeks giving the character a strong, intimidating air along with some more depth to the character through the little expressions she gives. Jared Leto as Wallace meanwhile is incredibly pretentious, as is befitting Jared Leto, allowing this to be a recent performance where I didn’t find Jared Leto insufferable. Robin Wright as Joshi, K’s boss, isn’t a well written character, but Wright gives the character depth and history that the script doesn’t, helping make her scenes more enjoyable. There are also great performances in smaller roles for Dave Bautista and Mackenzie Davis, although to explain why would spoil the film, whilst it’s always great to see Wood Harris, Lennie James and Barkhad Abdi, even if their roles are limited (I’m guessing there were more scenes with them in the original cut that had to be removed for pacing). The only real issue with the new character is that, outside of K and Joi, none of them are as strong as characters like Roy Batty, Pris, Rachel and J.F Sebastian from the original film, with the film needing more characters like these.
On a technical film, the film is as impressive as is expected from a collaboration between Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins. This is a gorgeous film to look at, the production design doing a great job at replicating the groundbreaking design of the original film whilst using CG to add elements that couldn’t be done in the original film, particularly in relation to Joi and the way the holographic nature of the character interacts with the other actors in the film. The cinematography meanwhile is just gorgeous, again showing why Deakins is probably the best DP in the industry today, with the scenes in Las Vegas being the highlight. The music meanwhile does a great job at replicating the Vangelis score of the original, adding to the tone of the film, whilst also making great use of silence, along with previously recorded music, in particular Peter and the Wolf.
Overall, as of right now I’d probably say that Blade Runner 2049 is on par with the original Blade Runner but the more I think about it, the more easily I can see it surpassing the original. Whilst I do think the original has the better characters, the plot and mystery of this film is incredibly compelling whilst the incredible technical values of the film make this a feast for the eyes. If you are a fan of Blade Runner you need to see this film.
My Rating: 5/5