Blade Runner 2049

Ryan wasn't sure about the drink he ordered.
Verdict: 
9/10 - Given the exalted status of the original, Blade Runner 2049 had huge expectations to live up to, but may have surpassed them.
Release Date: 
Thursday, October 5, 2017
Written by: 

Ryan Gosling stars in Denis Villeneuve's sequel to Ridley Scott's science-fiction classic.

9

When Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, a loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick's short story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was released in 1982, it only had modest success in cinemas.

However, in the years since, its reputation has grown, and the film is now thought of as one of the most influential science-fiction films of all time.

The movie's status as a classic of the genre and long-running questions over its finer plot points has left fans craving a follow-up - albeit with the same sense of trepidation all devotees have about sequels or remakes.

With Blade Runner 2049, director Denis Villeneuve has lived up to the highest of expectations.

Set 30 years after the original, the film transports us to Los Angeles in 2049 and a world where, just as in the first film, humans live alongside replicants - bioengineered beings who are virtually indistinguishable to the real thing.

The Tyrell corporation that once manufactured replicants has collapsed after their uprising in the original film but has been bought out by an agriculture mogul Niander Wallace (Jared Leto).

In addition to feeding the Los Angeles' downtrodden masses, Wallace's company has produced a new generation of replicants that are incapable of rebellion.

Some of these new and improved beings serve as Blade Runners - specialised Los Angeles Police Department officers tasked with hunting down the remaining rogue replicants, all of whom have now gone into hiding.

As a Blade Runner, this is K's (Ryan Gosling) purpose.

Cold, but not entirely unfeeling towards those he interacts with - human and non-human, he wrestles with similar dilemmas to the ones Deckard faced in the first film. What does it mean to be human - and how does that affect our moral and practical choice? Is he there to fulfil his assigned role in life, or risk his, and others' existence by searching for a greater truth?

Gosling's performance as K is a masterclass in suppressed emotion and calculation, but what is most striking about Villeneuve's film is how faithfully he has recreated the film noir look and feel of the original.

It would have been easy with the visual effects available to filmmakers in 2017 to have spruced up Blade Runner's Los Angeles with whizzy technical innovations and tricks. But the 2049 version of the city feels like it belongs in the same world. 

There are some innovations - drones that accompany officers' Peugeot issue cars on their missions and virtual holograms, but the grotty rain-filled cityscape remains largely the same.

There are even playful nods to how our own future has diverged from the one Scott imagined in 1982 - the logo of Pan Am, the airline which in real life went bust in 1991, still flashes above the city.

Blade Runner 2049 is still visually spectacular, but its effects are used skillfully to create a sense of scale and nostalgia for a time when individuality wasn't crushed beneath technological functionality.

It's a theme that is perhaps more relevant now than it was 35 years ago, as is the environmental devastation surrounding 2049 Los Angeles, a spectacle we see more of this time.

With a running time of more than two-and-a-half hours, Blade Runner 2049 could be a slog.

The fact that it isn't is partially down to Villeneuve's epic recreation of Scott's vision, but credit should also go to the cast.

In addition to Gosling's central performance, Leto is typically menacing - and Harrison Ford's return to another of his iconic roles does not disappoint.

Of the rest of the cast, Robin Wright and Ana de Amas are most impressive as characters wrestling with similar dilemmas to K.

For all its excellence, Blade Runner 2049 is a difficult film to do justice to with praise - it simply has to be seen and appreciated in the same way as the original.

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