It is so common within the landscape of cinema to be let down by sequel that is attempting to capitalize of the success of an older film part of that franchise. Blade Runner 2049 is absolutely, without a shred of doubt, an exception here.
Set roughly 30 years after the events of the first Blade Runner (1982) – we follow the journey of replicant named simply ‘K’ (Ryan Gosling) as he discovers a find that could change the world.
Blade Runner 2049 follows suit from the previous film by integrating a lead character that struggles with both loneliness and understanding himself. I won’t reveal too many plot points other than the lead character is indeed a Blade Runner and has the task of uncovering a greater mystery behind the replicants. Watch the first film, and beyond all that, the less you know, the better.
Ryan Gosling offered one of his best performances as the apathetic and emotionally conflicted Blade Runner – his performance reminded me a lot of Drive (2011), with a reserved personality but a strong will to fight. Jared Leto doesn’t have massive screen time but instills a sense of power, vision, and control in his character – he’s a visionary and wants to be nothing else. Ana de Armas plays the role of Joi and the love interest to our lead character, her integration as a character throughout the film had a far deeper meaning and spoke on many levels to many of the themes that Blade Runner is so famously known for.
All of the themes in this film form a connection that endears the audience to think beyond reality – just like the original Blade Runner, we are faced with heavy philosophical and metaphorical questions, such as: What is a soul? What makes love real or artificial? What makes a person, a person? Despite many of these questions being subtle throughout, it is far more easily accessible for the audience to grasp than the previous film – though not done in a way that cheapens the experience or dumbs down the narrative.
It’s adamantly clear that the amount of work put into the visual imagery is staggering – it’s vibrant, blackened sprawling vistas and dusty landscapes blend advanced technology with ancient architecture and philosophy. From the muggy and crowded bright city streets that brim with life in the pouring rain, to the abandoned ruins and empty halls that leave echoes of the past. This film indulges itself just as much as the previous Blade Runner with its intensely dramatic lighting that further pushes the theme of religious iconography and also serves as a way to show the emptiness of the interiors in relation to the character on screen.
The production design was beyond stunning and almost every detail would place it right at the top during awards season. The music and sound design of the film filled the entire cinema in awe, with its riveting synth that emulated tones from both the original Blade Runner and Arrival (2016) – there were moments that sounded a bit over-the-top, but everything else gave a spine tingling sensation. The original soundtrack was also integrated nicely without being too overused.
Blade Runner 2049 potentially improves upon the original, with a clearer focus, richer performances from all cast members, and a far more conscious flow to the film itself. I’m ready to re-watch it again and I definitely recommend you get your ass to the cinema. Blade Runner 2049 richly elevates the story to new heights beyond what anybody expected – while offering the utmost respect for its predecessor by not bowing to the Hollywood cash grab machine.