Directed by: Denis Villenueve (Based on “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” By Philip K. Dick)
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Dave Bautista and Jared Leto
Production: 16:14 Entertainment
Genre: Mystery, Sci-fi, Thriller
My Rating: *****/5
After 35 years, the film “Blade Runner” has been given a long-awaited follow-up with “Blade Runner 2049.” While much has changed since Ridley Scott’s iconic vision of the future graced theater screens in 1982, Director Denis Villenueve has not only crafted a film which honors the precedent set by its senior, but gives an experience which can stand on its own as one of the best films of the year so far.
Thirty years have passed since the events of the original film. In that time, the Tyrell Corporation has gone bankrupt and their assets have been purchased by the Wallace Corporation. Their leader, Niander (Jared Leto), has not only upgraded their androids to the Nexus-8 class replicants, but has even more devious motives than Tyrell. Leto’s performance is highly unsettling as Niander; though he was born blind, the character uses cybernetic enhancements as a second sight. Leto was so committed to the part that he acted as a blind man even when the cameras weren’t rolling. As an LAPD detective known as “K” (Ryan Gosling) seeks to investigate their true motives, he unravels a mystery that parallels real-world tensions of politics, society and technology that results in a visually-stunning fever dream of a neo-noir film.
With a massive budget of $150 million, the depiction of Los Angeles not only shows off many advances in special effects since the original film, but provides its own sense of visual wonder that pays homage to its lineage. Practical special effects co-exist seamlessly with CGI, combining sets depicting San Diego as a dingy husk of steel and concrete with cityscapes of neon, fiberglass and holographic women the size of the Chrysler building. Roger Deakins’ cinematography has an eye for detail that mirrors the camera techniques that Jordan Cronenweth brought to the original film. The musical score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch makes use of the same unique blend of electronic and classical music that the band Vangelis employed to set the tone of the film’s world. As K crosses paths with one of the earlier Nexus-8 models (played by an understated Dave Bautista) and older Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford reprising his role from the original film), the mystery unfolds of not just Wallace, but of the world of Los Angeles in 2049 across a spectacular 163-minute science fiction epic.
One thing to know before you decide to see the film: it is not for the faint of heart. Even though the original film was as dark as it was thought-provoking, this film is arguably darker than the original “Blade Runner.” Still, the fact the film has been made after all these years is a testament
to the impact the world of “Blade Runner” has had on film in the time since the initial release of the original. The presentation, story and characterization make a more faithful live-action “Ghost in the Shell” than the actual remake earlier this year.
While it remains to be seen how the film will perform at the box office or what impact it will have on pop culture in the next 35 years; “Blade Runner 2049” is highly recommended as a start to the fall movie season. While the film has garnered considerable critical and audience acclaim (89% Rotten Tomatoes rating as of this writing), it’s a rare sequel that does the original justice and makes a compelling film on its own. The visual spectacle blends perfectly with a story that keeps you guessing from the first shot to its final frame and characters that are in many ways, truly “more human than human.”
Review by Steven Pryor