Blade Runner 2049 is everything I wanted and so much more.
For the sake of honesty, I’m going to tell you that I’m a huge fan of Blade Runner. So, I am far from an impartial judge when it comes to Blade Runner 2049. The original film set the bar incredibly high and I was more than hesitant (but still excited) when I heard that a sequel was set to be released some 35 years later. Sitting down to watch this movie, I had high expectations for this film. I would go so far as to say they were bordering on impossible. After 2 hours and 43 minutes, I’m still in complete shock. How is it possible that Denis Villeneuve managed to make a movie that not only met my expectations but left me absolutely delighted?
I’m in awe at how all the pieces of Blade Runner 2049 managed to fit together so perfectly. From the first 10 minutes, featuring David Bautista in a performance that has me convinced that he has more potential that I could have given him credit for (the guy is best known as Drax for crying out loud) to the epic conclusion (which I’m not going to spoil), I’m still trying to find something to complain about. The lynchpin that held all the pieces together though is Ryan Gosling, who was absolutely phenomenal. As incredible as the film was, I doubt it would have come close to the same level without him.
Gosling plays his part with a thoughtful stoicism. Always seeming as though he’s struggling slightly to keep his emotions pushed down deep, but his eyes betray him in a beautiful fashion. He’s almost like one of those noir detectives who never lets on just how smart or resourceful he really is. His performance is subtle, his character constantly seeming almost disinterested in everything going on around him, which gives him plenty of room for character growth. Something he takes full advantage of. He hardly leaves the rest of the cast in the dust though. Everyone in the film is extraordinary from Harrison Ford to Ana de Armas to Sylvia Hoeks. While it’s very different from the original with Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah, but it’s one that brought just as much to the table.
Visually speaking, Blade Runner 2049 is a far cry from the original. However, it maintains the same spirit. Blade Runner 2049 is a bleak film, but it has a lot more color to it. Instead of dark, rain-filled skies, it’s filled with a colorful haze that lets light through, but never the sky. This is just one example showing that Denis Villeneuve has tremendous respect for Blade Runner, but isn’t afraid to expand the universe with new ideas of his own. He manages to alternate between a claustrophobic city and the sprawling mess that lies just outside it. Honestly, the cinematography was spectacular and seemed to focus on making the characters seem as small as possible in this ever-expanding world.
What made the original so compelling were the philosophical themes that it tackled. Exploring the idea of what it is to be human and the importance of memories when it comes to defining who we are. Blade Runner 2049 certainly retouches on these elements, but it recognizes that the first film seemed to ask most of the important questions. Just like the cinematography, the film shows respect from the first one but expands into new ideas or re-establishes the themes by presenting them in new ways. For one thing, AI is a recurring element that’s used to ask the question, “what is real and what’s programmed.” The implications of which are just as deep the second time around, but with more of a subtle nod towards Her. Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a sequel without addressing the concept of memories and their role in our own identities. In this regards, Blade Runner 2049 is very much a direct as well as a spiritual sequel.
While it comes close to the original in many ways, there is one way that I feel Blade Runner 2049 is superior. It does a much better job of capturing emotion. Not just in the characters performances, but in the way it portrays it with its visuals and sound mixing. It’s a film that makes you feel so much, even during the times when little is actually happening on screen. It manages to create a truly surprising empathetic bond with the audience, which speaks volumes to the amount of skill displayed in making this movie.
I know that I will definitely be seeing Blade Runner 2049 again in theaters. The only real question is how many times. There is also little doubt in my mind that Blade Runner 2049 will be making a well-deserved appearance at the Oscars next year and if there is any justice it will take home plenty of awards. For this reason, I cannot recommend it highly enough to you. It’s spectacular and thought-provoking at the same time. Such a rare combination of both Stars and Popcorn is one that deserves to be seen on the big screen. So take my advice and get to ordering your tickets. You don’t want to miss this one!