Blade Runner 2049 is a rare sequel that expands beyond its predecessor and standalone as a science fiction epic. Denis Villeneuve brings back the alternate future of Ridley Scott’s original film thirty years into the future in a visual marvel of bleakness, hope and noir intrigue.
In this sequel based upon Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Officier K (Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner hunting and retiring replicants in the grit and grimy world of Los Anageles in 2049. When profound and significant evidence are found during a routine investigation, it leads K into a mystery that involves corporate leader and replicant creator Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), Wallace’s assistant Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) and the infamous Richard Deckard (Harrision Ford). K, like Deckard before him, must undergo a journey of empathy, self-discovery and the err of humanity.
Visually, the film is a beautiful dark model of where current society may be headed. Though still rooted in the reality created by Scott, Villeneuve, along with famed cinematographer Roger Deakins, let the world breathe once more with overpopulation still a problem, advertisements still loud in their vibrancy and no glimmer of the sunshine present. The world is still dirty, radiated and rundown when outside of Los Angeles in the wasteland of California’s previously popular mainstays. Nearly every shot in this, like the film before it, is masterful in their craft, be it K standing in the pouring rain bloodsoaked or in the Wallace Corporation building with the ever-changing yellow glare booming in the dark backgrounds.
The effects shine through with an impressive artificial intelligence sequence blending both a live-action actor and a computer-generated counterpoint seamlessly, albeit still mindbending in its presentation. The cars in the film are still hand built, as our the sets that make the film a realistic future to the viewer despite defunct brands such as Atari and Pan Am still present. They blend seamlessly into the world and do not feel out of place. The story itself is a classic plot in the vein of other science fiction stories about humanity’s progression such as Westworld and Children of Men. It is fascinating in the different routes it goes in fitting in with the previous installments noir inspiration with red herrings and misdirections.
Gosling’s performance is similar to his roles in Drive and Only God Forgive as a cold and calculated man, yet hope lies within him. In moments with his love interest Joi (Ana De Armas), he retains the charm he is known for while remaining in his completive self. Ford returning as Deckard falls back into the world without missing a beat as he did with previous return roles in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Force Awakens. Unlike those roles however, he gets to portray a man broken and lost in time, nostalgic for a bygone life he was rich and prevalent in. There is a beautiful sorrow in his performance. Other standouts include Hoeks as Luv going from a simple side character to full potential evil as the film progresses on and Leto as the monologue heavy and foreboding Wallace.
Blade Runner 2049 is one of the many reason why science fiction continues to thrive in the cinema and serves as a lesson in creating a sequel. It entices the viewer’s mind and does not treat them as any lesser than what they are. It provokes thoughts of one’s own struggles with empathy, allows them to gather their own ideas and trust them to know the world given to them. It builds upon what was delivered back in 1982 and builds upon into a world-building experience beyond compare rather than deter and rehash the ideas of the past. It is a film epic that delivers on every level to become a classic of both science fiction and film as a whole.
FINAL VERDICT: 5 out of 5