Film review: “Blade Runner 2049” (2017)

“Blade Runner 2049” (2017)



Running Time: 163 minutes

Written by: Hampton Fancher and Michael Green

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Featuring:  Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, and Jared Leto

Niander Wallace: “Humanity cannot survive. Replicants are the future of the species. But I can only make so many.”

Was anyone actually waiting for a sequel to “Blade Runner” (1982) the (now) seminal piece of Sci-Fi directed by Ridley Scott who at the time was coming off his masterpiece “Alien” (1979). At the time “Blade Runner” was considered a major disappointment, which was compounded by the disaster that was “Legend” (1985), Scott’s follow-up. It actually appeared at the time that “Alien” may have been a fluke, sure Scott was one the great stylists but could he tell a story? This is a pertinent question as this is something that probably has not been answered to anyone’s satisfaction. After his relative unsuccessful go at revisiting his ‘Alien’ origins I was not looking forward to a Scott directed “Blade Runner” sequel, but because of timing he is a producer here, the director is French Canadian auteur Denis Villeneuve.

The good news for people wanting a film that was able to capture the originals look and feel is that Villeneuve has the skills to make this happen. Whilst he is no slouch in the visual department it is his story telling ability as well his attention to detail that is needed to not make this a carbon copy (albeit a generation removed) of the original – a ‘replicant’ if you will. If you need a taster before you watch this new film, there are three prequel shorts that have been created; “Nexus Dawn”, “2048” and “Blade Runner: Black Out 2022”. These shorts will give a bit of background as well as little more understanding to this new movie, they act as a small bridge, each one progressively moving backwards to the end of the orginal “Blade Runner”.

This new film follows a newly appointed blade runner, Officer K (Ryan Gosling) of the LAPD, discovers a dark secret that could bring an end to humanity. The discovery leads him to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who had disappeared 30 years earlier.

This really is all you really need to know about the film itself, if you have seen the trailers then you will have a pretty good idea about the story, as well as the main players the pepper the narrative. So there is no need to go to deep with any revelations, but this is a movie that will be enjoyed by those who have a love for the original, but want to keep an eye on the future. This movie is all about the humanity repeating the mistakes of the past while trying to forge ahead on new worlds.

Villeneuve as a director really is an original, he has tackled high concept dramas as well as extremely high concept science fiction so for him to be involved in this film seems obvious. He places, like Christopher Nolan, a high importance of in camera special effects, trying not to rely on CGI as much as possible. Of course with the canvas he has to paint on here there is going to be a heavy dose of special effects. What he has done is to have master shots that have a depth of field not normally associated with this kind of movie, where you are able to see physical, practical props and facades. The production designers have their work cut out as well as I imagine a huge budget that pays off when viewed on a large screen.

To give the film a really decent chance of looking different as well as original, at the same time the original Villeneuve has recruited his usual cinematographer, the legendary Roger Deakins (who surely must finally win his Oscar for his work here). Deakins has not just replicated Jordan Cronenweth’s stellar work from the original, instead he has used that as a base and has created his own palate over several different locations so as to almost offer separate lighting and camera set ups depending on the mood and stage of the story – it looks amazing, if there is one thing Deakins was born to do and that is to make his director look very good, this he does like a pro.

What is surprising is that the story constructed by original writer Hampton Fancher and newcomer (to the franchise that is) Michael Green is like the first film, noir inspired, which of course helped to inspire an entire Sci-Fi noir sub genre that obviously is alive and well today. Now I wouldn’t say that this story is the most original, nor does it push any real boundaries within the genre, but it does serve a purpose, that is to frame the movie with something that is not only interesting but makes logical sense. The original themes of the first film are present here, what does it mean to be human? Who is humanity to judge life? What is the purpose of a soul? Is any kind of slavery just? What does it mean to create? Are corporations going to govern more than people? Will populations be told what and how to think? There is more but I think you get the general idea. Does the film answer any of those questions? Of course it doesn’t, it leaves conclusions up to the viewer, it is up to the filmmakers to ensure that points are made as well as remembered. The narrative is fairly straight forward, with Gosling as a detective hunting down clues to mysteries that he didn’t even know existed, with the film eschewing big action showdowns for a satisfying personal touch that is what the original was all about.

Like the first movie casting is of paramount importance, in saying that it is pretty great that Harrison Ford has returned to the role of Deckard, however it is also a treat to see Edward James Olmos return as Gaff, surely one of the more memorable characters from the original. Make no mistake the main character here is ‘K’ played with noirish ease by Ryan Gosling who slinks through the movie making a mark wherever he turns his gaze. The rest of the cast is led by Jared Leto, as Niander Wallace, who seems to be trying to get the “Suicide Squad” (2016) out of his mouth (and ours), playing a Tyrrell clone for want of a better description. There are appearances by character actors Lennie James, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Dave Bautista and many others. As per the marketing Harrison Ford is back as Deckard who looks great, here at ease not needing to play the lead just to show up and do what he does best.

The music by Hans Zimmer is well suited, here he echoes the “Blade Runner” score by Vangelis, but makes it his own. At times it was easy just to relax into the score, sometimes just forgetting about music. This would be a great watch sans dialogue with the music just playing to the action. This has to be one the best scores of the year, as well as one of Zimmers best, and thats saying something as he is one of the greatest composers working in film today.

There are no two ways about it this is a great movie, definitely one of the best of the year so far. In saying that it is not without its faults, it is too long at least by half an hour, it is also a little too in love with not only being a sequel to one of the best science fiction films, but it also wants you to know two things; one, this is an important film, and two, this is its own film, standing apart from the Scott masterpiece. One of the great moments of “Blade Runner” was the last fifteen minutes with the face off against Deckard (Harrison Ford) and Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), as well the incredible dialogue, “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die.” It is unfortunate then that this movie lacks anything that will be remembered like that or have at least two actors in their prime, both Ford and Hauer who could match anyone, anytime.

In saying all that this a movie that should be seen in cinemas, it could also be rewatched rather easily thanks to good actors, a decent script and one heck of a great director. Villeneuve is the MVP of this film, he had the audacious task to not only direct a sequel to one amaing movie, but had to marshal everyone to be on the same page at the same time. Just wonderful. I would recommend  this to anyone that loves mysteries, science fiction or both, you will not be disappointed!

“Blade Runner 2049” is out now only in cinemas.

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