Blade Runner 2049 – Evolutions and Revolutions

Last week I wrote about what I was expecting from Blade Runner 2049. Yesterday, after years of waiting, after months of filming and hype, I got to witness the evolution of one my favourite films, Blade Runner, in Blade Runner 2049, and quite simply, it was brilliant!

Almost from the very moment the lights when down in the auditorium I was entranced and enthralled with the spectacle unfolding before me. It had the look and feel of the original film, but with all the modern enhancements you’d expect. The world of Blade Runner 2049 works not only on it’s own, but as an extension of it’s foundations.

Denis Villeneuve has managed to do the seemingly impossible in film today. Make a film that is not only a great sequel, but a great film all on it’s own. Even if you’ve never seen Blade Runner you would not be lost in watching Blade Runner 2049. This is not a film for fans only.

Wallace Corp. advertisement of Joi (Ana de Armas) attempts to entice ‘K’ (Ryan Gosling) in Blade Runner 2049 (c) 2017 Warner Bros. Pictures

Blade Runner 2049 is a film for anyone that loves a great story with unique and varied characters. It’s a film that doesn’t overwhelm you with huge explosions or flashy CGI set pieces. Rather, Blade Runner 2049 is a slow burning film that takes its time to build its story and world around the characters in a logical and meaningful way. This reminds me of films from the 1940’s and 50’s, where the story was paramount and everything and everyone in the film was there to build that story.

Blade Runner 2049 captures the menacing sense of pessimism and fatalism so relevant to the film noir sensibilities of Blade Runner. This is a film shrouded in dark paranoia and darker secrets. Secrets that only come to revelation if you allow yourself to fully engage with the characters and their world.

Hampton Fancher, who co-wrote the original Blade Runner, returned to develop the story and co-write the screenplay, along with Michael Green. His experience with the original has clearly been of great influence, but he also hasn’t allowed that set up some sort of blatant ego worship of Blade Runner. No, he and Green clearly wanted to move the world forward and have done so in a way that, while logical, offers a delicately deft touch to the small details of the worlds of both Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049.

Ana de Armas as Joi and Ryan Gosling as Officer K in Blade Runner 2040 (c) 2017 Columbia Pictures
Ana de Armas as Joi and Ryan Gosling as Officer K in Blade Runner 2049 (c) 2017 Warner Bros. Pictures

The cast of Blade Runner 2049 has done a superlative job in bringing Philip K. Dick’s inspired world to life. Ryan Gosling plays Officer K with a mix of anger and sorrow that you would expect in a world such as this. His confusion with his feelings for Ana de Armas’ Joi are written on his heart and on his sleeve. It’s this relationship that parallels the relationship of Deckard and Rachel (Sean Young). This relationship serves to reinforce the questions of what is it that makes us human and how do we love. Mackenzie Davis’ Marlette and Joi are brought together to heighten this question in a disturbingly new fashion.

Jared Leto as the ruthless Niander Wallace in Blade Runner 2049 (c) 2017 Columbia Pictures
Jared Leto as the ruthless Niander Wallace in Blade Runner 2049 (c) 2017 Warner Bros. Pictures

Jared Leto seems to have a taste for playing characters that are slightly out of step (or completely as in the case of Suicide Squad’sThe Joker) with what we might think of as being normal, and Niander Wallace is no exception. Leto gives Wallace the sort of brooding menace we might expect from a villain in a disturbing Scandinavian thriller. Wallace is Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel) taken to his inevitable final form. In another film that would come across as trite, but in Blade Runner 2049 he only raises the overall pathos of the film.

And then there’s Harrison Ford. Including the main character of the original film in a sequel set thirty years on, might have been just a passing nod or irrelevant homage. In this instance it’s quite the contrary. Not only is Rick Deckard relevant to the plot, he is in fact integral to it. Without the inclusion of Deckard, the story would have ground to a complete halt as the story is written.

Harrison Ford reprises his role as Rick Deckard in Blade Runner 2040 (c) 2017 Columbia Pictures
Harrison Ford reprises his role as Rick Deckard in Blade Runner 2049 (c) 2017 Warner Bros. Pictures

I know Harrison Ford has been fielding questions as to why he reprised the role, but after seeing the film, I think he was as intrigued with the development of the Blade Runner world and Deckard’s place in it, as he was with the paycheque it included. Whatever he was paid it was completely worth it.

At the conclusion of the film I was surprised, not by how things were resolved, but that nearly three hours had passed. I admit that I was a little concerned at its length, however, now I wish there had been more.

As is typical in a story of this nature, at the end Blade Runner 2049 leaves us with some interesting questions. In the best films, I think, it’s the questions that are left unanswered that leave a mark on you. It gives us a place for our imagination to go, and blanks for us to fill in as we see fit. Questions that will no doubt be debated on by fans in the coming years. If Blade Runner 2049 had ended with everything being wrapped up in a nice neat package it would have lost it’s impact and been much poorer film for it.

Denis Villeneuve has given us an intelligent, subtly crafted, and superbly acted film. It gives me great hope for his future work, which includes Frank Herbert’s science fiction masterpiece Dune. I can’t wait.

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