Blade Runner 2049 Review: The Return of the Honest Sequel
Blade Runner 2049 review: In something of a rarity these days, director Denis Villenueve offers a true sequel steeped in equal parts science and fiction.
I’m just gonna go ahead and say that we all owe director Denis Villenueve a round of applause. Well, if you’re one who appreciates good, genuine scifi gracing the screen of your local multiplex, you do.
Too often it feels like most movies sold as “Science Fiction” in today’s market are really just action or horror movies set in either space, the future, or both. Throw in some giant battling robots and you’re set. But if it’s going to be real scifi, the movie actually needs an element of thought and imagination to it that goes beyond just blasting away hostile aliens or toying around with cool gadgets.
One of the better recent examples of this was Villenueve’s Arrival, an impressive science fiction movie that put the emphasis on science as much as fiction. So logically, it makes total sense that Villenueve would be tapped to helm Blade Runner 2049 – but when has Hollywood ever been accused of being logical?
So, if you’re the type who wants some brains tossed in with your scifi, Villeneuve would appear to be your man. And with Blade Runner 2049, he’s created a smart and sumptuous dreamscape of a film that you’re not going to want to miss.
Set roughly 30 years after the events of Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner, this sequel does the audience a big favor in how it positions itself compared to the original. It’s a genuine, old-fashioned SEQUEL! It’s not a remake, it’s not a reboot, it’s not a re-imagining. Blade Runner 2049 is a film of its own with a new story that is both respectful and complimentary to its predecessor while expanding with skill and elegance on the work that inspired it.
Hollywood golden boy Ryan Gosling stars as Officer K, a Blade Runner working for the LAPD. If you need a refresher, Blade Runners are cops specifically charged with hunting down Replicants; androids that can physically pass for humans. The Replicants were created by humans and built for slave labor on off-world colonies, but like so many other beings with that special spark of sentience, the Replicants got tired of the poor treatment by their arrogant masters and they rebelled. Those that did were hunted down and “retired.” Thirty years later the hunt continues.
When we meet up with Officer K, he is hard at work in this ongoing and morally questionable assignment. But when his most recent man/bot-hunt begins to expand, he soon finds answers that shed light on his own origins. That also leads him to the original film’s protagonist, Deckard (Harrison Ford). Which you probably already know that if you own any device capable of transmitting or displaying ads.
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner really is a work of genius and genuine artistry in terms of its visual design, and it still garners praise for its special effects to this day. It’s a truly immersive film in its sound, music, and visuals and it’s powerfully atmospheric. Here again, Villenueve clearly knows and respects his source material. Like the original, Blade Runner 2049 is simply gorgeous. It beautifully creates an environment that slowly and steadily envelops the viewer in a way that both respects and enhances what’s become an iconic cinematic vision of our future world.
And while the original Blade Runner is sometimes criticized for its slow pacing and somewhat confusing narrative, Villenueve’s sequel successfully weaves its lush visuals through a story that is arguably clearer and better told than the original (all five versions of it). The concepts explored in the first film are expanded on and the script is sharp, imaginative, and manages to keep the audience both invested and guessing until the end.
While having seen the original Blade Runner is enormously beneficial, I wouldn’t say it’s completely necessary. Considering that Blade Runner 2049 is a genuine sequel, a great deal of the story is motivated by events and characters in the first film, but there are still plenty of juicy concepts and reflective allegories for the newcomer to chew on and be entertained. Indeed, I can only imagine a viewing of this film would inspire a newcomer to want to see the original and come back to this one for a rewatch.
The cast’s performances are all on point as well. Gosling once again proves his leading man chops, and Robin Wright delivers another strong and understated performance as Officer K’s boss, Lieutenant Joshi. Mackenzie Davis is perfectly cast, and eerily channels the spirit of a young Daryl Hannah in a role clearly meant to evoke memories of the Replicant character Pris in the original film. Heck, even Leto manages not to overact his part as Niander Wallace, the creator of Earth’s latest and greatest batch of Replicants. So cheers there too!
Blade Runner 2049 Review Conclusion
With the 1-2 punch of Arrival and now Blade Runner 2049, Villenueve has made a name for himself as a science fiction filmmaker worth watching. Combining rich and intricate visuals with a compelling story, Blade Runner 2049 is a welcome presence at a box office too often crowded with sloppy sequels and lazy reboots. It’s also a film made to be experienced on the big screen — your laptop or iPhone ain’t gonna cut it for this one. This is some big filmmaking at its finest.
Big films with both spectacle and brains are few and far between — far too few. But with blockbuster films like this and George Miller’s 2015 creative smash Mad Max: Fury Road (which went on to receive several Oscars in the process), I do hope Hollywood is paying attention and taking notes. More of this, please.
Blade Runner 2049 is rated R with a running time of 163 minutes.