IT’S BOTH THE YEAR AND THE TICKET PRICE FOR IMAX
Blade Runner 2049
Review by Paul Preston
We’re in a movie era where studios are big on pulling out old films or franchises and re-igniting them. The results are mixed, for every Creed, you get an Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I believe movies that have expanded a mythology like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World have resonated more with audiences than straight remakes I defy you to remember like Poltergeist, Total Recall and Footloose.
Whether you remade or continued the story of Blade Runner, you were in for some work, if you planned to do it right. The 1982 original coughed up a dense world of people and robot slaves based on Philip K. Dick’s book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and the look and feel of the movie was like nothing before it and copied a hundred times over since. Screenwriter of the original, Hampton Fancher, was brought in to continue the story. Fancher’s Hollywood history is interesting, for thirty-five years he’s only written a couple other screenplays, and yet he returns in solid form to this franchise to plot a complicated continuation of the story of Rick Deckard and the replicants.
By 2049, not only has the overpopulation that was present in 2019 continued to escalate, but the Earth’s weather has gone haywire (at one point, it’s snowing in Los Angeles). The Tyrell Corporation is no more, leaving replicant manufacturing to Niander Wallace (Jared Leto, in another wonderfully half-bonkers performance), who gained power and made a fortune solving the world’s hunger crisis. Blade Runner 2049 picks up with Agent K, played by Ryan Gosling, a blade runner in the manner of Deckard from the previous movies, assigned to seek out and “retire” (terminate) replicants who have gone rogue.
To say more about this movie’s plot is to involve spoilers. The entire plot of Blade Runner 2049 is a spoiler. The trailers give away nothing but the gorgeous visuals and in the first ten minutes of the film there’s a huge reveal and more keep coming, building a plot that is a smart and logical evolution in the arc of robots who want to have dominion over their own lives. Harrison Ford returns as Deckard, whose disappearance factors into protecting replicants from the likes of Wallace. There are replicant factions bent on giving freedom to their kind, built now solely to obey and K’s closest friend, lover and confidant is a hologram (despite the over-population, one of Blade Runner 2049’s signature themes is loneliness).
This is one of Ford’s finest performances (and films) since Clear and Present Danger and The Fugitive in the early ‘90s (although he’s pretty damn good in 42). He anchors Deckard in a fit of loss and sadness that’s palpable. Gosling is the soul of the film as he takes viewers through an original and inventive character arc. His relationship with Joi, the holographic girlfriend is one of the movie’s best with a brief scene towards the end that’s a heartbreaker (it’s a scene from the trailer that, once in context, drips of melancholy, driving home that if non-humans want to feel, then you’re going to feel everything, even sorrow). Ana de Armas’ performance as Joi is spectacular.
Despite all this, the sequel didn’t find a moment for me quite like Roy Batty’s monologue at the end of the original Blade Runner. That moment where a replicant uses his last remaining moments to act with compassion and in a moment so utterly human, becomes the crux of the two-film arc. 2049 piecemeals together moments both quiet and intense that add up to a lot, but the overall feel is still a bit cold, somewhat detached without galvanizing the viewer, and that may be the point. Future Los Angeles, despite its advances in technology, is a desolate, forlorn place. Batty’s moment remains the emotional highlight of franchise.
You could say the star of the film is director of photography and 13-time Oscar nominee Roger Deakins. The look of this film demands IMAX and its being shown in IMAX 2D, which is a boost to the experience, preventing the 3D projection from dampening the film’s colors and making all the nighttime and rain scenes that much darker. This may very well be one of the best-looking films of all time when you combine Deakins’ cinematography with the immensely detailed work of production designer Dennis Gassner, all spearheaded by director Denis Villeneuve. Villeneuve continues a major winning streak as this follows Prisoners, Sicario and Arrival. The 100-ft. tall holographic advertisements and the vertigo-incuding shots of the giant artifices of the L.A. skyline make this film’s look unique, even to the original.
Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer’s effectively echoes the legendary music of Vangelis from the original, and Zimmer’s bombastic style works here, when employed to the fullest. There were some crowd scenes where I thought a DJ was playing. Filling out the cast are Dave Bautista in a small but very effective performance at the top of the film as a replicant who claims to have witnessed a miracle. Robin Wright brings her oft-used steeliness to Agent K’s boss at the LAPD who sends him in a mysterious mission to avoid societal calamity and Sylvia Hoeks is great as the badass second to Leto’s Wallace, especially when she out-steelys Wright!
Blade Runner 2049, thankfully, is not the product of the money-grabbing nostalgia machine made up of non-feeling replicants themselves who greenlight films to satisfy our longing for the past. It’s a bold push forward on a classic story, told with overwhelming style.
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Release Date: October 6, 2017
Run Time: 163 Minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers