Blade Runner 2049
“You’ll see things, you people wouldn’t believe.”
It’s been a fresh 24 hours since I saw Blade Runner 2049 at the iMAX theater in New York City. Probably the last film I’ll see in New York City for a very long time and thirty-five years since the masterpiece that is Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner film premiered in theaters.
Blade Runner for me is the zenith of my movie collection and possibly the film I go back to the most in my collection, even if it’s just played in the background of whatever I’m doing in that moment. That film to me is the best Science-fiction film ever made if not TOP 5.
Blade Runner was an adaptation of Phillip K Dicks’ novel “Do Androids Dream Electric Sheep” that became the work of art that stands the test of time all these years later; the name “Blade Runner” was taken from a book by late poet William Burroughs, replacing the original film title of “Dangerous Days”. The 1982 film was plagued with studio interventions, budget problems and tight schedules but, through a collaborative effort and enthusiasm by cast and production team the film was released and shook the world in spite of not doing well at the box office. Blade Runner unfortunately was released close to the premieres of monster hits E.T., Conan the barbarian and The Thing… yeah, yeah, Wrath of Kahn too. The studio and test audiences didn’t like or understand the subverted themes of the film and as a result the film was cut to appease film audiences; even going so far as to add an unnecessary voice over by Harrison Ford. In the boom of the summer blockbuster, Blade Runner fell short. But thankfully to the innovation of VHS, Blade Runner found its momentum and found its audience and cult following.
Blade Runner conceptually was a mix of Science Fiction or more specifically Cyberpunk with hard elements of classic Film Noir. It was endless nights and detective work among the High-Tech and Low Lives of a future Los Angeles on the skids; in a futuristic setting that was more analog rather than the polished digital that is our real and present world. The hard shadows and contrasts of Film Noir was present but enhanced with neon colors and dreary daylights. It was heaven in hell. The nihilistic dread of was there as well. It was nineteen-forty’s California but in the future.
The themes of the 1980’s Blade Runner are the same questions its sequel asks the viewer in 2017: What is it to be human? Is the soul exclusive to humanity? If Replicants are made in our image then therefore do they also have a soul? How can you value life in a future where life is as fragile as the flame from a match in the wind?
Rick Deckard was a Blade Runner, who’s job revolves around the investigation, screening and possible retirement a.k.a. execution of renegade Replicants; half cop and half death squad. The years of retiring said property, property nearly identical to human beings, has chipped away at Deckard’s own humanity. – he’s an isolated man detached from everything. The only thing he has left is his messy apartment, his photographs and the whiskey that loneliness allows him to share. Until the day he is assigned the case of the missing Nexus-6’s that escaped an off-world colony and are suspected to be holding out somewhere in Los Angeles. It’s this case and his experience with the group leader Roy Batty and his meeting and relationship with a Nexus Replicant named Rachel that Deckard regains some semblance of his humanity and some kind of optimism in this dark rainy future.
The visual effects of the original film are unparalleled in terms of detail and complexity. Every visual effect shot in Blade Runner was in camera. It wasn’t so much the script that suckered you in. It was the immediate shock and awe of it all from the opening shot to the climax that immersed you in this cyberpunk world that was a living breathing entity of its own. You wanted to be in this world. The style and spirit of this film would go to influence every piece of science fiction since from AKIRA, Johnny Mnemonic, Strange Days, The Matrix, Total Recall, Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop, Natural City, the 5th Element and the list goes on and on. It is for me and so many others in the world “Never- Never Land”, its Shangri-La, and the Philosophers Stone by which all descendants of the genre must measure up to. It is better than Star Wars and better than whatever wish-wash papier-mâché the big studios try to water board us with for twelve months every year.
It’s film noir for hackers, cyber geeks and adults. It’s science fiction for a contemporary mankind.
That film is as old as I am and after thirty-five years I can safely say with a deep sigh of relief that Blade Runner 2049 is the best sequel any dedicated cult fan of the Ridley Scott classic could ask for. It’s a flawless, engaging and absolutely beautiful piece of future-noir fiction that asks the same questions that the first film asked, hitting on the same notes and moving that narrative as well the story forward thirty years from the point when the first film ended.
I refuse to talk about or reveal any specifics on the films plot because, the film works best when you go into your local theater with a blank surface of expectation and just submit yourself to this beautiful masterwork for the best and human two hours and forty minutes of your life.
The acting is exceptional with strong performances all around. Jared Leto as the ominous Wallace gives a wonderful performance that redeems him in my eyes from the absurd disaster called “suicide squad”. Harrison Ford for years has been (in most films) just serviceable but, not here. Here Ford’s performance is so freakin’ on point in his return to Rick Deckard; giving us a Deckard that is very deep and shattered and alone yet hardened and indomitable. Ryan Gosling was cast for the lead role of Detective K specifically by the production. Ryan Gosling is the heart of the film and Gosling shows more range of emotion in this film than I’ve ever seen him inhabit. Ana de Armas, my heart and adoration only grows with her and this is the film that will cement her career as a leading Hollywood actress. Robin Wright (Wonder Woman, Princess Bride, State of Grace) plays K’s superior officer. Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy, Skyfall) is continuously surprising me with his talent, here he plays Sapper Morton. Mackenzie Davis and Carla Juri play Marietta and Dr. Ana Stelline. One person that must be spotlighted is Sylvia Hoeks’ performance as LUV; a very complex, deep, tempered performance as a Replicant and the dangerous left-hand of Niander Wallace. She gives off the façade of calm, professional and composed but boiling behind her eyes is madness. A tortured soul broken from the actions she’s been ordered to commit. She’s a psychologically fragmented and unhinged soldier justifying cruelty and violence with duty, loyalty and a purpose for being “the Best” in the eyes of Niander Wallace.
The music was composed by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. A varied almost airy group of compositions that go from hidden light keys to distorted synths into deep reverbed bass and loud almost industrial procession, like something you’d imagine played in the 40k Universe during an Imperial Guard parade in the Emperor’s honor. Yet, hidden underneath all those pieces of music is the classic Blade Runner themes; existing in the veins and essence of this modern masterpiece.
I’m not even going to go into the visual effects because like I said, “You should go into this film an empty vessel”. You will be in awe and immediately transported into this world in much the same way you were in 1982. The visuals are amazing thanks to legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins and like the first everything you see is in camera; the sets are real; it’s still a living breathing universe. There is nothing that looks like this film. You will either be inspired or intimidated by its enormity and world building.
When I first heard that the Sequel to Blade Runner was going into Pre-production I was hesitant about it. I’ve been let down and disappointed by so many hyped and talked-about cyberpunk films in the last 15 years that I’ve become disillusioned - perfect example of a disaster being the remake to Total Recall. And being that Ridley Scott hasn’t really reclaimed his throne as a science fiction visionary with his recent films, I was even more filled with trepidations about the project: What if Ridley decides to go full on Style over Substance? What if he alters the perfect script with allegories that convolute the rich themes going on? What if we don’t get a full film and have to wait years for deleted bonus footage or new cuts of the film? What if Ridley insists upon us that Deckard is a Replicant?
But then I heard that Denis Villeneuve was directing and I began to breathe easier. I’m a fan of his work from Enemy to Prisoners and the amazing Sicario. After seeing Sicario in theaters, I knew that Blade Runner 2049 was in good hands and I could relax and try hard to avoid any spoilers or unnecessary knowledge about the story.
The marketing for this film was impressive as well. If you haven’t seen any of the three short prequel films that were released prior to the feature theatrical premiere, then people go watch them here on NewRetroWave.com. Every layer of detail in those three shorts just adds more depth and richness to this perfectly oiled machine.
So if I had a rating scale, I’d give this film the highest rating. It’s marvelous and unlike anything in the past ten years. I’ve rarely seen a film as deserving of every damn award and accolade that can be given to a film and crew but, this is definitely one of them. And after thirty-five years, the dedication and love for Blade Runner is fulfilled for millions of people because, we have a Blade Runner sequel that is worth it and is an exceptional film that deserves its place next to the original as the standard for Science fiction or Cyberpunk and Film making as an art form.
Go see it on the biggest movie screen you can find with the loudest sound system. Keep your fingers on that REWIND button into the future.