Hollywood is obsessed with nostalgia; remakes, reboots, and sequels to popular or pre-existing franchises have been in abundant supply in Hollywood for the past few years. This year alone, we’ve received Beauty and the Beast, Power Rangers, The Mummy and Kong: Skull Island, which are all remakes of popular franchises. There seems to be a bit of remake fatigue right now. This is precisely why when we were told that we would be getting a sequel to Blade Runner this year, fans were both eager and skeptical.
A sequel 30 years later typically does not bode well; case in point, Independence Day: Resurgence. Surprisingly, Blade Runner 2049 delivers on all levels.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners, Arrival), Blade Runner 2049 expands upon the 1982 sci-fi, neo-noir classic by telling the story of Officer K (Ryan Gosling) and Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) as they individually hunt down a missing child whose very birth could change the face of their reality. Set in a seedy, dark and depressing dystopia, Blade Runner 2049 gets the tone and atmosphere of the original just perfect. We feel as though we’ve only been away from this universe for a few months, not a few decades.
While Villeneuve and company nailed almost every aspect of the film, the cinematography, by Roger Deakins, is probably the film’s biggest stand out. The cinematography in this film is without a doubt some of the greatest in any film. Wide, sweeping shots show the grandeur and spectacle of the world, while dark and contrasting colors help to add a bit of mystery and intrigue. It’s all handled beautifully.
All of the major and minor players here all execute their roles perfectly, undoubtedly thanks to Villaneuve’s outstanding directing. Gosling, a Replicant (genetically bioengineered human beings used for slavery and other tasks) who struggles to find his place in the world and gain meaning for his existence goes the entirety of the film not truly sure how to feel about anything. He is something of a blank slate, much like the audience; he takes in what is presented to him and simply tries to make sense of it. Leto also delivers an exceptional performance, playing a CEO with a God-complex looking to create Replicants who can procreate. Although he is barely featured in the film, he shines any time he is on screen.
Blade Runner 2049’s story doesn’t feel like a tacked on plot for the sake of a quick money grab. It feels like an organic extension of the original film. It manages to incorporate several elements of the first film, particularly Harrison Ford’s Deckard, brilliantly. The film is certainly a “slow burn,” which works against it at certain points. The film comes in at a whopping 2 hours and 44 minutes, and it can take a toll on its audience with some of the long and lingering scenes. However, once you are invested in the world and its characters, it will be hard to stop. And once you leave the theater, you’ll be thinking about the film and its underlying symbolism for days to come.