This review contains spoilers
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is masterpiece that needs no introduction. It is a film which I fell in love with as a young adolescent boy after obtaining a VHS copy and watching it on my mum’s VCR. It left an indelible impression on me, it was like nothing I had seen before, and it stayed with me ever since. Hence, one could understand my feeling of trepidation when a sequel was announced a couple of years back. But I need not have worried, Blade Runner 2049 is a worthy companion piece to the original 1982 film, and much more.
I watched it pretty late at my local cinema and wondered out into the street in a complete daze. It took me a good few moments to register what I had just witnessed, it was quite simply a mind blowing experience!
Denis Villeneuve has expanded on the big questions from the original film on to a much larger canvas, whilst remaining respectful to Scott’s film.
He delves on themes such as the nature of the soul, memories, love, and most importantly, the world changing “miracle”, which is central to the theme of the story.
One of the biggest strengths of the original film was its visual grandeur and world building, and 2049 carries on in similar fashion. The dystopian vision of Los Angeles is elevated to a whole different level, with mammoth skyscrapers, pyrmaids, neon lights and perpetual rain. In essence, Blade Runner 1982 inspired hundreds of films which came after it with its distinct visual style, and now it’s come full circle with 2049. Roger Deakins’ cinematography is simply aweinspiring, with expressionist shadows, sepia hues and lights; it’s a symphony of visual delight. If he fails to nab that elusive Oscar yet again, then there is something seriously wrong with the universe.
The score is also very strong; it doesn’t copy Vangelis’ iconic work, but tip toes around it, like a mechanical groan that rises up to a cresendo during key intervals of the film. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch have done a man’s job, and I have very little issue with it. In fact, I was hearing the soundtrack recently and it was then that I realised that the whole thing worked beautifully. Blade Runner 2049 is a much bleaker film than the original with a feeling of coldness and melancholy, and it perfectly suits the visual tone of the film. There are certain moments which just stirs the soul much like Vangelis’ work, key moments being the opening scene and the all round feeling of foreboding and wonder when we see shots of the city, and when K is taking Joi “for a ride”, the latter is mesmerising and pure Vangelis.
Ryan Gosling is superb as K; after seeing him in Drive I knew he would be perfect for this role. There is a certain sadness to his character, an emptiness which is filled with memories of a wooden horse, and love for a holographic AI called Joi (Ana de Armas).
Their interaction is very heartfelt, especially in the love scene where Joi tries to super impose herself on another character, so K can make physical love to her. Their relationship raises questions of whether Joi mimics love, or has the actual capacity to love.
And then there’s Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) who is quite simply put, scary as fuck. She is like Zhora on speed, full of anger and emotional turmoil.
Robin Wright as K’s boss Lieutenant Joshi was another strong character whom I enjoyed. She is stern, but has a soft spot for K which is evident when she helps him to escape.
I really enjoyed the “cameo” of David Bautista as Sapper Morton, the rogue replicant who lives on a protein farm. His character is tinged with a deep sadness, like a solitary soul burdened with a big secret. His interaction with K is brief, but is a moment which is integral to the story.
Much was talked about the role of Jared Leto as industrialist Niander Wallace. We only see him twice in the film, and both times he is chewing up the scene like a malfunctioning electric sheep, in other words, maybe a little bit overboard. I would’ve preferred someone maybe a little bit older (mirroring Tyrell in the previous film). Villeneuve originally wanted David Bowie, but alas, his untimely death proved otherwise. Leto isn’t bad by all means, but it could’ve been so much more.
Harrison Ford’s return as Deckard is really welcome, and he does a much better job (in terms of a reprisal role) than his appearance as Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He is world weary, and in hiding in the radioactive wonderland of yesteryear. A sepia toned wasteland of memories past, littered with statues…and bees.
There are just a couple of issues I had one of which was the CGI appearance of Rachel.
If there is one thing I hate in movies more than anything else, is seeing a CGI human character, Rogue One being a case in point. The CGI Rachel is very convincing, but the eyes were not quite right (and I don’t mean the colour!) nor the facial pattern when she speaks albeit briefly. I think her appearance would have worked better if we saw her from a long shot, and for the close ups, from her back in order to gauge Deckard’s reaction better. But hell, I’m no film director and obviously Villeneuve would’ve gone through the scenario many times. Rachel’s cameo was nearly a year in the making in terms digital effects work, and the only plus point I suppose is that it’s better than the CGI Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin we see in Rogue One, but you can tell something is off about her.
Blade Runner 2049 is not your typical blockbuster; it is slow burning, philosophical, with a feeling of melancholy and aching sadness. I had tears….in the snow