Blade Runner 2049, 2017.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve.
Starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, David Dastmalchian, Barkhad Abdi, Lennie James, and Jared Leto.
A young blade runner’s discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for thirty years.
Over the last 30 plus years, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner has gone on to become a cult hit with a huge impact on modern science fiction stories. Whether it’s through television like Battlestar Galactica or the Mass Effect video game series, Blade Runner‘s influence can be felt through much of the sci-fi genre. Its sequel, Blade Runner 2049 from director Dennis Villeneuve (Arrival) and produced by Scott, had a lot to live up to. Fortunately, the film not only succeeds in living up to the original’s legacy, but arguably being one of the rare sequels that surpasses its predecessor.
Villeneuve retains the look and feel of the original, making 2049 a gritty sci-fi film noir that focuses more on the characters than action. Ryan Gosling gives a great performance as K, a replicant blade runner tasked with hunting his own kind. Gosling perfectly displays the conflict within the character throughout the film as he toes the line between being a machine and what it might mean to have a soul. He puts a lot of nuance into his performance, in particular his facial expressions, mannerisms and speech. The further along the journey he goes, the more K changes in ways both noticeable and subtle.
The next two standouts of the film are Ana de Armas as Joi, K’s personal AI, and Sylvia Hoeks as Luv, a replicant constantly monitoring K. Hoeks is a scene stealer throughout the film, giving a very intimidating presence. Much like Gosling, Hoeks’ delivers on the physical aspect of her performance with her animated expressions and fighting style. While Harrison Ford and Jared Leto aren’t in the film too much, they each make the most of their time. Ford gives a very different portrayal of Deckard from the first Blade Runner, showing a man who is a bit more vulnerable, tragic and sympathetic while Leto comes off as a very creepy and intriguing villain. Robin Wright also shares a good report with Gosling as K’s superior officer, giving the character some nice depth as she sees K as a disposable asset, yet feels somewhat protective of him.
The film’s cinematography is almost a character unto itself. Every shot of Blade Runner 2049 is beautiful with a crazy and varied colour palette. Villeneuve and his cinematographer Roger Deakins deserve so much credit for making out of the best looking films of not just 2017, but in recent years. They capture the look of the original while updating it and give audiences very impressive shots and sets. The climactic fight among the waves is one of the most suspenseful and gorgeous sequences of the year, easily standing as evidence for 2049‘s great visuals.
The only criticism about the film is that it can be a tad slow. Clocking in at 2 hours and 45 minutes, there are some times where the film seems like it drags. However, the tension and mystery do build well and deliver some great payoffs for the characters. Despite the slowness of the film, Blade Runner 2049 is a very entertaining and thought-provoking watch.
The special features presented are good, though lacking in some areas. A lot of emphasis is placed on the practical effects of the film, such as how they built sets and used real locations as opposed to green screening, which are interesting, but I wanted to learn more about the special effects the film uses. While the special effects are spare in the film, there are some standout moments that would have been great to see how exactly they brought them to life. One moment is when Joi and Mackenzie Davis’ character sync up in of the most poignant moments of the film and the other is when a certain character is briefly revived. Seeing how Villeneuve and his production team accomplished these feats from a visual standpoint would have been nice additions to the Blu-ray, but they are sadly missing.
The features that can be found are:
Prologues – The blu-ray contains the three prequel shorts for the film – 2022: Black Out, 2036: Nexus Dawn and 2048: Nowhere to Run. These short films fill in some of the gaps in the 30 year time frame between films and offers additional insight into some characters. For those who wanted to see more Leto in the film, Nexus Dawn expands on his motivations and how he got to be where he was at the film’s start. Black Out, meanwhile, is a very well-made anime detailing the period known as the Black Out where some Replicants rebelled. It captures the looks of both movies and makes one think how well a full Blade Runner anime might be. Nowhere to Run, meanwhile, focuses on Dave Bautista’s Sapper Morton on his farm sometime prior to the film.
Blade Runner 101 (11 minutes) – This series of short features delves into the basics of Blade Runner mythology for anyone who hasn’t seen the original and also provides some extra information for the sequel, such as the role Jois play in society or how Wallace Corp rose to such prominence.
Designing the World of Blade Runner 2049 (22 minutes) – This lengthy features has Villeneuve and members of the cast and production team talk about how they made the sets and why it was so important for them to shoot a bit old school rather than rely heavily on green screen or special effects. It’s a cool and enlightening look at the making of the film since so much of it was done practically.
To Be Human: Casting Blade Runner 2049 (17 minutes) – Villenueve runs down the characters of the film and how he made the decisions with each of the actors. We also get to hear from the actors themselves on how they created and portrayed their characters, offering some additional insight into their motivations in the film. Some of their thoughts offer a different perspective on their roles when you next watch 2049.
It’s not much in the way of special features and, as I said, it would have been nice to see how the special effects were accomplished. The features still offer an insightful look to Blade Runner 2049‘s production, but are lacking. Still, the Blu-ray of Blade Runner 2049 is worth picking up for the cast, story and visuals alone. The sequel is more than worthy of the original’s legacy.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★