Saturday, 7 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049 - Movie Review

It’s quite hard to believe that Blade Runner was originally a commercial and critical failure when it was released in 1982. Ridley Scott’s film has inspired so much media in its wake, from anime like Ghost in the Shell to video games like Deus Ex, and has been referenced and discussed endlessly with its themes of humanity and artificial intelligence; debate has raged on as to whether or not the protagonist Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) was actually a replicant, the synthetic androids that are virtually identical to humans but have more physical strength and fewer emotions. As the success of the movie grew over time, thanks in part to re-edited versions of the film by Scott, the idea of a sequel began to blossom. After nearly a decade of development, and Scott relinquishing the director’s chair to have it be filled by Prisoners and Arrival director Denis Villeneuve, a sequel arrived on the big screen following one of the longest sequel gaps in history. Better late than never I guess.

Blade Runner 2049 follows a new Blade Runner, Agent K (Ryan Gosling), who retires the older Nexus models of replicant as a result of a newer brand created by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) being released onto the market. On one of his retirement missions K stumbles across a mysterious clue that indicates that a child has been born from a replicant, something believed impossible to do, and he is given the mission of finding and retiring the child. In the process he has to find former Blade Runner Rick Deckard, who has been long gone following the events of the first film.

The original film managed to exceed expectations in both storytelling and its visual style and it’s a pleasure to report that Blade Runner 2049 manages to meet up with the quality of the first in both departments. Story wise the movie doesn’t skip a beat with its philosophical mindset, still managing to draw the audience in with the deeper themes of the lore, with the themes of what it’s like to be truly human rising to the forefront once again and handled in an intelligent and thoughtful manner. Like the first this movie is a slow burner but a completely enthralling one, with the mysterious swirling around and coming together to create a darkly exciting film – it runs at over two and a half hours and it doesn’t feel as long as that, although you certainly will be feeling the length at points. All the cast do a strong job and their characters are all nicely done. Gosling fits in well as the dark and brooding Officer K, a man struggling with his own past and memories whilst also fighting to do his job – though it’s fairly obvious what’s coming it’s well done and Gosling’s performance helps greatly. Leto does well as the villainous Neander Wallace, with a creepy intonation assisted by an uncanny design with no eyes, though his character does fall behind a bit in the villainous stakes during the third act and becomes a little redundant. The rest of the new team do well, with stand outs including Dave Bautista giving a brief but surprisingly effectively emotional performance at the film’s beginning, Robin Wright delivering a tough as nails performance as K’s supervisor and Ana de Armas having a soulful and saddening role as K’s artificial intelligence girlfriend and demonstrates great chemistry with Gosling. As for Deckard, he has far less time in the film than you may think (he doesn’t appear on screen until 105 minutes in, to be precise) but you’ll barely have missed him thanks to Ford rechannelling that gruff badass performance from the first film whilst adding in a new layer of bitterness and sadness thanks to the events that happened to him after 2019.

But where Blade Runner 2049 shines the brightest is with its visuals. Every single shot of this movie looks incredible; Los Angeles in 2049 still has all the bells and whistles and more that it had in 2019, with lots of grand scale jumbotrons and holographic advertisements that look absolutely incredible and lifelike, whilst Las Vegas where Deckard has been hiding out is given a gloriously washed out orange tint to it, adding to the dark apocalyptic feel of the Blade Runner universe. All of this is gorgeously shot by Roger Deakins and he certainly deserves to finally get his long-awaited Oscar with this film. Wrapping everything together is the score; the original had such an amazing score courtesy of Vangelis and Hans Zimmer does a wonderful job at replicating the style of the score with his work, as keyboards drone to create a brilliant ambiance that goes amazingly well with the cyber-punk atmosphere. As a stray observation, the score, as well as many of the sound effects and even some lines of dialogue, is ridiculously loud even in a standard 2-D screening, so be prepared to be blown back into your seats for much of the time.

Blade Runner 2049 is exactly the sequel that the original Blade Runner deserves and it’s definitely on par with that film, even surpassing it in awesomeness at times. It attains the deep philosophical bent whilst not being too overt, pretentious or heavy-handed and melds it with some strong action and a gripping storyline that will keep you captured throughout all of its 163 minute runtime, which is no small feat. All the new hands in the cast do a strong job, as does our returning former hero Harrison Ford, but easily the greatest thing about this new movie is its visuals, with beautiful cinematography and a fine mix of both practical effects and CGI to get a believable dystopian world. This may be the most gorgeous looking film of the year, and it combines with a strong story to make Blade Runner 2049 one of the finest sci-fi sequels in recent memory and well worth the wait.

Blade Runner 2049 – directed by Denis Villeneuve, story by Hampton Fancher, screenplay by Fancher and Michael Green, produced by Andrew A. Kosove, Broderick Johnson, Bud Yorkin and Cynthia Yorkin, starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista and Jared Leto. An Alcon Entertainment/Thunderbird Entertainment/Scott Free Productions production, a Warner Bros./Columbia Pictures film

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