Thirty-five years after Ridley Scott’s original “Blade Runner” (1982) pioneered the Hollywood sci-fi scene, “Blade Runner 2049” follows with a thrilling, poignant sequel. The original “Blade Runner”, a dystopic 2019 fight between replicants and humans, follows Blade Runner Rick Deckard as he tries to track down and “retire” the remaining replicants. The film is a stunning introduction to the world of science fiction and underlines an inherently existentialist question of what it really means to be human. In his final scenes, Deckard is seen escaping with a replicant lover. From that point, director Denis Villeneuve picks up and transports us into the world of “Blade Runner 2049”.
Set in a futurist 2049 Los Angeles, the world is divided into replicants and humans. Officer K, played by Ryan Gosling, is a Blade Runner tasked with uncovering a dangerous secret. In his search for the truth, K’s path interlinks with former Blade Runner Rick Deckard, who is played by Harrison Ford, the 1982 protagonist. In his mission to save humanity, and the replicants, from malevolent replicant manufacturer Niander Wallace, portrayed by Jared Leto, K stirs questions of love, paternity, and the value of human life.
The plot of “Blade Runner 2049” is original, well crafted, and unpredictable. Although the original movie is loosely based on a novel “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?”, by Philip K. Dick, the sequel is a completely new creation. The writing develops multiple subplots that build several layers into the film’s story without going overboard and overwhelming its audience. The action sequence of the film is well paced and not at all gratuitous, blending easily into the story and the organic character development. With characters questioning mortality and the authenticity of emotions, the love arc delves deep into questioning what it means for a person, or a replicant, to fall for another.
Officer K is a hero that does not ask for the title. K is a multi-dimensional protagonist who gives viewers the classic pleasure of rooting for the main character without having to debate the outdated “good guy vs bad guy” trope. Smart, sensitive, and an absolute badass in a fight, K demands admiration and envy from the opening scene.
What makes the characters of “Blade Runner 2049” so special is the intricate development of all narratives, whether major or minor. In a twist on the neo-noir femme fatale, Luv is a replicant striving to prove herself as Wallace’s favorite. On a different layer, Joi, an artificially simulated hologram, poses as a love interest, assistant, and superego to Officer K. Joi’s programming to offer unwavering support questions what it truly means to love, and her desire to be real offers a touching insight into artificial intelligence.
Visually, “Blade Runner 2049” is a cinematic masterpiece. Cinematographer Roger Deakins, 13-time Oscar nominee, has managed to create a film that can be stopped at any second and still manage to produce a perfect picture to frame. Whether it’s the smoky neon lights of the LA markets or the sandy orange hues of a desert wasteland, Villeneuve’s vision and Deakins’ cinematography have created an aesthetic treasure.
The actors of “Blade Runner 2049” helped transform the film into such a gripping alternate universe. Aside from Ryan Gosling’s impeccable portrayal of Officer K, Harrison Ford makes for a classic, heroic Deckard, while Jared Leto’s performance as Niander Wallace is eerily stunning. In addition to that, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoeks succeed in delivering multifaceted women, and Dave Bautista packing punches is always a plus.
Instead of explosions and violent spectacle, “Blade Runner 2049” takes a much deeper route in storytelling. Amidst the replicants and the humans is a great, unanswered question on the nature of humanity. Building on the existential questions of “Blade Runner”, the sequel takes the narrative of artificial consciousness to the next level, grappling with themes of family, memory, love, and human-ness.
In a riveting and moving sci-fi masterpiece, “Blade Runner 2049” questions what it means to be truly alive. What does it mean to come from an origin, how does that change us, and what is the worth of a life, once taken? How does our past shape us into the human beings we become, and what is it that makes us human? The questions that “Blade Runner 2049” poses have been asked since humans have been conscious, but the film presents them in an innovative, close-to-home way that will stay with you long after the theater lights are on.
The ideal way to view “Blade Runner 2049” would be to watch the original “Blade Runner” (1982), followed by the three short film prequels: “Black Out 2022”, “2036: Nexus Dawn”, and “2048: Nowhere to Run”. If you made it this far, you’re ready for the 2049.
In a few decades, “Blade Runner 2049” is bound to become a cult classic, so might as well get it while it’s hot.