It’s certainly a Blade Runner film. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say it’s even better than the first. May the internet mob spare my life. Directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, Blade Runner 2049 picks up thirty years after the first film. In those thirty years, the original Nexus brand of Replicants rebelled and a caused a massive blackout that led to the prohibition of al Replicants and the bankruptcy of the Tyrell Corporation. In swept Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), purchasing the remains of the Tyrell Corporation. Wallace invented a new line of Replicants, ensuring they would always obey their masters. Eventually, he got the prohibition lifted and things returned to the way they were. As Blade Runner: 2049 opens, Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a Blade Runner (who is also a Replicant) is on a mission to retire a rogue Replicant, Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), and uncovers evidence of a conspiracy that stretches all the way back to the events of the first film and its titular Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). (Very mild spoilers may follow)
So, I know my statement that I think Blade Runner 2049 might actually be better than the original Blade Runner may be rather… inflammatory. But, I have one strong reason for suggesting that: the plot. The original Blade Runner (directed by Ridley Scott, a producer on Blade Runner 2049) was a cinematic masterpiece. It was beautifully constructed, the sound design was superb, the production design was outstanding, and it ended up being one of the most influential films of its time. But its plot was trash. For all that Blade Runner got right, it had a plot that was too simple to justify its two-hour runtime and pacing that bordered on painfully slow. I’m all for a good slow burning mystery, but much of Blade Runner is soooooooo slow and tedious. The film really meandered its way through its plot and the characters weren’t developed well enough to be interesting enough to make up for the plot’s lack of excitement. I love the questions that were posed by the first Blade Runner film. I love the film in general, but it’s hard to argue that it really had a good plot (or good acting).
Blade Runner 2049, on the other hand, has a good, interesting, and engaging plot. The film is a whole forty minutes longer than the first Blade Runner movie, but Blade Runner 2049‘s plot actually justifies its runtime. There’s simply a lot going on in the film, and I don’t really wanna talk about any of it. Not because it wasn’t good – it was really, really good. But because I don’t want to spoil the surprises for you. And there are a lot of them. It’s a movie you wanna go into knowing as little as possible.
So, what am I willing to say about the film? Well, don’t be fooled by the advertising. Blade Runner 2049 is most definitely NOT an action film. It is a neo-noir detective story, just like the original Blade Runner. There are some action sequences, sure, but the movie is probably 10% action sequences and 90% other stuff. So don’t go see this movie if you’re wanting to see a bunch of action sequences. The action that’s there serves the plot brilliantly and is choreographed, filmed, and edited masterfully. It’s brutal and you feel every punch and gunshot. But this isn’t a movie about violence. It’s a film about humanity, much like the first Blade Runner was. Many of the questions asked in the first Blade Runner are still being asked in this one, and many of those questions have answers that are purposefully left up to the audience’s interpretations. This isn’t a film that spoon feeds you anything. It’s designed to make you think.
So, I’ve talked a lot about what this film isn’t, so what exactly is this film? Well, it’s an expertly directed, written, acted, and edited masterpiece of science fiction storytelling. It’s a worthy successor to a cinematic classic that takes what the original did and truly builds on it in a respectful and realistic way. Especially with the visual design. What’s really interesting is that it takes the technology introduced in the first film and advances it thirty years into the future (as opposed to taking today’s technology and advancing it). So while the technology in the film is definitely futuristic, it still has bits of the analog tech that the original film had. Add to that the cinematography by Roger Deakins and the production design by Dennis Gassner and you’ve got a film that looks just as beautiful as the original one and honors what that first one did while also doing its own thing.
Blade Runner 2049 isn’t a cash grab, it’s a story that truly feels like it deserved to be told. It enriches the plot of the original film, it deepens the characters introduced in that film as well as richly develops the characters introduced in this one, and it further explores and elaborates on the themes introduced in the first film. It’s not a perfect film, however. It is just a bit too long. There’s one scene in particular that I think could’ve gone. It has a purpose in the vast scheme of things, but it went on for far too long. I’d imagine you’ll know the scene when you see it (it involves Ryan Gosling’s K, Ana de Armas’ Joi, and Mackenzie Davis’ Mariette. But, even with those problems, it’s still an amazing film and I’d recommend it to all fans of science fiction, film noir, Ryan Gosling, and good films in general. It’s a dark movie, but it’s a damn good one.
(4.5 out of 5 wands)