Over the past few years, we’ve suffered through a swash of uninspired sequels being made decades too late. Studios fish for our time and money with nostalgia garnished hooks. Occasionally, the regurgitation offered up wasn’t entirely bad, but it’s difficult to recall any that verged on perfection. When a follow-up to the sci-fi classic “Blade Runner” was first announced, cinephiles around the globe gasped in potential horror…. Not only is it dangerous to try and follow up what many consider perfection, but it has been 35 years since the original!
As the cast and crew fell into place, expectations varied wildly. Ridley Scott was at the helm but as a producer, not director. He’s created masterpieces, but “Prometheus” and “Covenant” made the world doubt he could make lightning strike twice within a franchise. Next, we learned that Denis Villeneuve, hot off the success of “Arrival” would be filling the Director’s chair. His last few films have clearly demonstrated his mastery of building tension and painting a scene with light and shadows. The only thing that could enhance his talent would be pairing him with one of the greatest cinematographers of all time, say perhaps Roger Deakins? We’ve already seen what this duo can accomplish in “Sicario” and “Prisoners”, just pondering what could be accomplished between them in the world of “Blade Runner” is chill-inducing. And finally, Hampton Fancher, who wrote the original screenplay, returned to co-write “2049” with Michael Green. If there was ever a dream team for a “Blade Runner” sequel, this is it.
But did they succeed in pulling off the impossible? Undoubtedly, yes. It’s very rare that I leave a screening and wish I could walk right back in and immediately rewatch it. It’s even rarer when I feel that way about a film over 2 ½ hours long. “Blade Runner 2049” is a thing of pure beauty, even when we are watching scenes of humanity’s ugliness. Occasionally I will refer to a film as “visually poetic”, but “2049” is poetic in every sense. The musical score, which is sometimes nothing more than ominous chords, and other times fully fleshed out, fits the emotions of the scenes perfectly. Moments of silences are earned just as much as the moments of violence. The yin and yang of cruelty and love are an ever-present theme throughout the story, as is the lingering self-doubt we all have when examining the emotions and motivations of others. Does this person really love me? Do they think they do, but don’t comprehend it? Am I special? Am I a nobody? Does anyone care if I’m here or not? Do androids dream….?
The pallet of colors follows along with the themes our main characters are experiencing. Occasionally we are bathed in multiple neon colors, while other times it’s dialed back, resulting in some of the most beautiful monochromatic shots my eyes have ever seen.
A good film is always more than nice music and pretty colors, though. Some have criticized the plot of “2049” for being too simplistic, but what is plot more than a framework on which your story to build? Many of the very best films in cinematic history had extremely basic plots. Even the first “Blade Runner” is considerably basic when reduced to it’s lowest denominator. “Noir film about a detective hunting 4 runaway androids.” In comparison, “2049” has more mystery to it. Our brave young Blade Runner, K (Ryan Gosling) stumbles upon a secret that was buried (literally) 30 years prior. In true Noir fashion, each stone he upturns leads to another more startling question. His journey for the truth evolves into a personal journey which explores a number of classic sci-fi themes and ties neatly into the original film.
The studio has sworn critics to secrecy on a number of plot points. While it ties our hands a bit in discussing the film, it’s refreshing to know that, if audiences hurry, they can experience the movie with all of the surprises intact. There are few things finer than a jaded moviegoer being legitimately caught off guard with a twist, and then the broadening implications of this twist dawning on them.