There’s a new Blade Runner out, and I got to see it last week. Question is, can this sequel hold up critically to the original, which is considered one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time? You see, like the original, Blade Runner 2049 isn’t doing terribly well in North America.
Blade Runner 2049 is set thirty years after the original Blade Runner, which was (not coincidentally) released thirty-five years ago.
K is a replicant investigator for the LAPD, hunting down other, rogue, replicants. A Blade Runner, in other words, like Harrison Ford played in the original movie. K is played by Ryan Gosling.
After the fall of the Tyrell corporation, the Wallace Corporation has acquired the plans for producing replicants. They’ve perfected the process by giving the replicants fake memories, making them more pliant, rekindling their appeal to the masses.
During an investigation, K stumbles onto the remains of a rogue replicant who vanished thirty years ago. This replicant apparently bore a child, which should be impossible. A race begins between K and the Wallace Corporation to find that child.
The protagonist, as I wrote earlier, is K, played by Ryan Gosling. He’s told himself that he doesn’t mind hunting down his own kind, and that he actually has a good life. The story thrusts him into an adventure that slowly shows him that his life is empty and he’s been deluding himself terribly.
K is ‘married’ to an artifical intelligence hologram, Joi, played by Ana de Armas. She both embodies K’s empty life and his drive to break away from that life. Without going into details, I found her character… haunting.
Then there’s the replicant working for Wallace Corporation, Luv. She’s played by Sylvia Hoeks. She’s Dutch, so that’s a plus, of course. She also portrays a very disturbing character. Luv is… Yeah, let me try not to spoil too much. In many ways she’s the opposite of K’s character. Her boss trusts her, and she’s accepted and considered important. Still, she does not appear to feel comfortable with that life. Where K steps out of his old life, she steps fully into it.
Of course, there are more characters. Agent Deckard from the original Blade Runner, Niander Wallace, and Lt. Joshi. All of them are interesting, and in some ways as disturbing as the main characters.
Visuals and Style
The movie offers a number of beautiful set pieces. Like the original, it paints a very haunting picture of a dystopian future. The visuals are supported by an equally powerful soundtrack by Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean and tons more) and Benjamin Wallfisch.
Ryan Gosling is very good at acting without seeming to emote very much, like he did in Drive, which is a very good fit for this movie. It melds with the dystopian atmosphere to create a very moody successor to the original Blade Runner.
The movie is long, but it did not bore at any time. I think this is the best movie I’ve seen since Mad Max: Fury Road. Like Mad Max, Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t compromise what it is to appease a wider audience. And Like Mad Max, it isn’t a rehashing of its original. It adds something new.
The one thing I have seen leveled against it, is that the movie is sexist and caters almost exclusively to white straight males. That’s a fair point.
I would say though, that the men in this movie are all caught in very personal tragedies, while the world-shattering events also hinted at, are all in the hands of women. That doesn’t change or excuse the problem, but it does shine a slightly different light on it I feel – whatever that’s worth, given I’m a white heterosexual man.
All in all, I can highly recommend the film, if you like dystopian science fiction. If you liked the original, definitely go see it. This movie can hold up critically to the original, and might even surpass it.
If you just want a feel-good scifi action movie, then you should wait for the new Star Wars.