In many ways, Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve has a task on his hands of similar scale to the one that faced JJ Abrams a year or so ago. Taking up the reigns of a sci-fi property that, after a couple of re-releases, has come to be regarded by many as a high point in sci-fi filmmaking.
The job of reviewing the movie in any persuasive or coherent way is also limited by the fact that Villeneuve specifically asked all write-ups to omit narrative details of any kind in order to not spoil the audience’s enjoyment of the movie.
Set some 30 years after the events of Scott’s original, LAPD Blade Runners, cops tasked with hunting down rogue replicants – sophisticated androids – continue to plough their furrow. One such Blade Runner, Officer K (Ryan Gosling) happens across a chance discovery while on a supposedly routine mission that sets him on the tracks of a missing girl, a case which brings him into the path a long-missing Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).
Blade Runner scriptwriter Hampton Fancher returns to partner Michael Greene and has delivered a script that is as existentially driven and thoughtful as his original. Contemplative and smart, Blade Runner 2049 ponders issues of mortality and identity just as its predecessor and Philip K. Dick’s inspirational novel Do Androids Dream of Electic Sheep, did. There’s a frequently amsuing and often touching extra element of depth, a foray into the murky world of AI relationships, via K’s holographic girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas), an artificially intelligent piece of consumer tech aware of its own nature. K reassures himself that his line of work is justified on the grounds that the replicants he retires are created, rather than born, and consequently do not possess souls. While manic corporate giant Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) justifies his army of slave drones on the grounds of progress and historical precedent (all great human leaps forward came at the expense of a disposable workforce).
Cinematographer Roger Deakins along with musicians Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch combine to create an experience that is dizzying and thrilling both visually and sonically. The rain-sodden murky world of the original Blade Runner returns but this time built upon, creating the impression of a cityscape suffocating itself. Villeneuve deploys CGI effects regularly but in such a tempered and considered a way that it never feels remotely obnoxious or out of place.
The narrative is not, as some plainly wrong reviews have suggested, overwrought or needlessly complex, but unravels with an unhurried sense of determination that allows the film to revel in its own beauty. It’s akin to lighting candles and running a hot bath but not getting in for a good half an hour so as to metaphorically soak in the simple pleasure of the light and heat before literally soaking in it.
Any follow-up to methodical and ambiguously provocative original needed to be exceptionally good not to flounder in the wake of the masterpiece that preceded it. Amazingly, Denis Villeneuve has succeeded in creating a sequel that is very possibly its equal.
Chris Banks | [rating=5]
Sci-Fi, Thriller | USA, 2017 | 15 | 5th October 2017 (UK) | Sony Pictures Releasing | Dir.Denis Villeneuve | Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Ana De Armas, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista