by Alan Yudman
The original BLADE RUNNER was based on the Phillip K. Dick novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”. If Dick had subtitled BLADE RUNNER 2049 it might have been “Do Androids Dream of Wooden Horses”.
That first movie is considered a ground breaking in the science fiction genre. It was dark and thought provoking. The hero was really an anti-hero. It dealt with themes such as humanity, what it means to be alive and slavery.
So, could Ridley Scott’s 35-year-old vision of the future be updated or expanded upon? Why even try? The answers are absolutely and why not? BLADE RUNNER 2049 is a worthy sequel to the original. It is the rare copy that is better than the original. Kind of like a Tyrell Nexus-8 is a vast improvement over the Nexus-6.
Rather than craft this himself, Scott turned the reigns over to Denis Villeneuve, the director responsible for ARRIVAL, SICARIO and PRISONERS. Sorry, “responsible” has a negative connotation. He is the genius that brought us those wonderful movies. The “franchise” is in good hands.
BLADE RUNNER 2049 shows us a more dystopian future. There has been a war. A new more compliant type of android has been developed by a genius (mad) named Niander Wallace (Jared Leto). The Blade Runners are now hunting down the last of Tyrell Corporation’s Nexus-8 models who are “blessed” with an open ended lifespan. One of Wallace’s improved androids is a Blade Runner. Ryan Gosling’s “K” has found one on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) is farming and living alone. While dispatching Sapper, K finds clues to something else. Something dangerous.
That is where BLADE RUNNER 2049 turns into a kind of noir detective story. K uncovers clues that indicate a Tyrell android gave birth to a child about 30 years ago. A dangerous idea in a society where androids are thought of as less than human. But if they can give birth? The ballgame will change.
Wallace seems to know all this. His androids are wonderful, but cannot parent a child. That makes them less than perfect in his eyes. He wants perfection. So he dispatches his “henchwoman” Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) to shadow K because he knows this will lead him to the child and his/her father. And that will give Wallace the knowledge he needs to make his perfect creation. K has to track down Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) to get answers.
That is the basic plot of BLADE RUNNER 2049. But there is so much more. It delves deeper into what humanity really is. It again addresses, but doesn’t answer the question of slavery. Wallace has a chilling monologue about that. That’s the thing. The movie asks questions, but does not really answer them. That’s ok. It is thought provoking in the best possible way.
Villeneuve’s vision of Los Angeles (and San Diego and Las Vegas) is right in line with the first movie. It is dark, dirty and depressing. Gloomy does not begin to describe the tone. The visuals are breathtaking thanks to Roger Deakins. The score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is perfect.
Gosling is wonderful. How do you bring humanity to something that isn’t human? K has memories, including one about a toy wooden horse that is key to unravelling the mystery. But is that his memory or is it implanted. You can read the confusion and frustration in Gosling’s eyes. He is cold, but not unfeeling (he has a virtual wife). Gosling is subtle in all the right ways. Leto is a great villain. Not mustache twirling at all. But he is menacing.
BLADE RUNNER 2049 is nearly 3 hours long. But even though it is not packed with action, it is packed with tension and great filmmaking. So those hours fly by. We have waited a long time for the next chapter in this story. It was worth it. This is a great movie on every level.