Every now and again, Hollywood proves that it’s still worth something and spurts out a gem like Blade Runner 2049 – a sequel that wasn’t needed, but very much appreciated.
If we’re speaking candidly, we’re certain we went into a mild panic attack the moment news broke that a sequel to Blade Runner was officially happening. As one of the most quintessential science fiction films of the last half century, we had palpitations at the possibility that we would see the legacy of Deckard Cain tarnished.
Thankfully, not only does Blade Runner 2049 manage to build on the original’s penchant for question just what it means to be human, but manages to shine on its own next to a genre-defining series entry. For those that might have been snoozing, the premise of the world is that the existence of replicants – androids made in our image – is widespread and commonly employed for labor, warfare, and general servitude. As with any good plot concerned with humans cohabitating with humanoid servants in a form of born-into slavery, it doesn’t take long for problems to run rampant.
Although the world of Blade Runner has decidedly taken a turn for the worse – sorry, Vegas – the crispness by which it is vividly portrayed has only oodles upon oodles of eye candy to dole out to the viewer. There is no shortage of spectacle out in the film market, but Blade Runner 2049 exudes an air of deliberate detail work throughout its runtime. Long, pregnant pauses giving way to slow and sweeping shots of the surroundings does more than just drive home the film noir influences, it paints a picture of world just begging to be explored – and director Denis Villeneuve ensures that no pixel is wasted.
While we could heap the praise onto 2049’s visuals, acting, and soundtrack, it’s the core idea of the film that deserves to be held up and lauded far more than the rest. The era of the broody protagonist never really disappeared, but its within Villeneuve’s cyberpunk masterpiece that all of that ruminating amounts to something – not just shtick attempts and injecting some “mystery” into a character.
The core question at 2049 remains fundamentally the same as in the original, but puts a twist on it that results in what is an even more compelling reason to give chase than Deckard’s previous outing with the ill-fated Batty. The theme of pursuit runs throughout much as in the first, yet the clever addition of [SPOILER] a replicant giving birth is something that upends expectations from the outset.
It sounds trite, but it should be praised that 2049 does its utmost to give both Gosling’s and Ford’s characters more in their arsenal than the infestation of alpha-male hoo-rah traits that has descended on the industry like a plague. The likes of K (Gosling) and Deckard (Ford) strike a softer picture than most would think, offering images of men that are brought together over a promise of family, only to be thrown back out into a world in which they don’t belong.
After all these years, we’ve finally been given the Blade Runner sequel that we always wanted, but never dared to hope for. So long as Hollywood doesn’t get greedy and attempt to shoehorn another installment somewhere along the line, we’ll be as fine as that whiskey that Deckard has been sipping on all these years.