Blade Runner 2049 Director: Denis Villeneuve Stars: Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas Score: ★★★★½
By WILLIAM ARNOTT
Hollywood has recently made a habit of pumping out reboots of films from decades ago, and it hasn’t always ended well.
Ghostbusters (2016) was a mess, The Mummy (2017) was a critical and commercial failure, and Ben Hur (2016) was widely panned.
There’s always the risk of the latest attempt missing what made the original special, that piece of movie magic that makes films into classics.
It’s now Blade Runner’s (1982) turn for a modern touch, and in making Blade Runner 2049 a sequel rather than a reboot, the filmmakers made a wise decision.
It’s possible to enjoy the new film without having seen the original, but having some context can really help to understand the story, which can often be complex, but usually in a good way.
2049 isn’t a shallow action flick, it’s a cerebral and deep film that explores the nature of what it is to be human, primarily through the protagonist, K (Ryan Gosling).
He’s in the unique position of being both a Blade Runner (someone who is tasked with hunting down and “retiring” replicants) and a replicant himself.
His journey through the film is one of self-discovery where he struggles with his own memories, his emotions, his past and his future.
The pacing is excellent, starting as a gritty noir-inspired detective film as K follows leads on a new case, but soon finding himself in the middle of something much larger than himself, struggling to find the truth.
Harrison Ford makes a return as Rick Deckard from the first film but he isn’t paraded around as nostalgia bait. The acting overall is spectacular, with the exception of Jared Leto as Niander Wallace.
It feels as if Leto is attempting to recreate Rutger Hauer’s “Tears in the Rain” speech from the original, constantly speaking in nonsense metaphors that lack the significance or gravitas of that classic moment.
It wouldn’t be a Blade Runner film without long, slow pans of the cyberpunk world of the future. 2049 has this in spades, showing off spectacularly gritty cityscapes with hi-tech advertisements beaming across LA while megastructures tower over poverty-ridden slums.
It grasps the cyberpunk mantra of “hi-tech, low-life” and runs with it; entire cities reduced to rubble, overcrowding in a dark and polluted urban sprawl, squatters in rubble fighting for scraps and clean corporate corridors all help create a vivid imagining of a dystopian future.
The film is a spectacular work of art, avoiding the the trap of being overly nostalgic or trying to recreate the original with different characters (Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes to mind here).
Blade Runner 2049 is a beautiful, thoughtful and deep film that explores the nature of humanity. If you were a fan of the original, you will almost certainly love this sequel.