BLADE RUNNER 2049
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Screenwriters: Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, based on characters from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick.
Ana de Armas
Runtime: 165 mins.
Australian Release Date: 5 October 2017
Previewed at: Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney, on 4 October 2017.
Early on in Denis Villeneuve’s new film, there’s a scene where a character says, “But you’ve never seen a miracle.” Some two-and-a-half hours later, when the last credit of Blade Runner 2049 has faded to black, you’ll be saying to yourself, “Oh yes I have,” or at least something very close to one. We’ve waited 35 years for the follow-up to Ridley Scott’s majestic Blade Runner and it’s been worth the wait. Villeneuve, the French-Canadian director of Arrival and Sicario, has created a fitting sequel, one that pays homage to the original and yet is not afraid to take its own path.
In a nod to its antecedent, Blade Runner 2049 opens with Roger Deakins’ camera looking down on a futuristic Los Angeles, and it’s not a pretty sight. In this time, ‘blade runners’ are still hunting down rogue ‘replicants,’ (manufactured humanoids), especially earlier models that had started to exhibit human emotions and were thus judged to be dangerous. Ryan Gosling is ‘K,’ on a mission to find one of these replicants, who gets more than he bargained for when he lands at a protein farm on the outskirts of the city. To say more would be to reveal spoilers and, in a short intro to the press preview, the director specifically asked the media not to reveal any plot details in their reviews. He wants his audiences to go in ‘cold,’ as it were, like we did. Fair enough too.
What can be said is that the mis-en-scène of the film adheres to the neo-noir black heart of Scott’s original vision and for this credit must go to cinematographer Deakins, production designer Dennis Gassner and costume designer Renée April. It’s even bleaker (in a good way) than Blade Runner - the air is thicker, the light darker, the climate harsher and the atmosphere generally more oppressive. There are those same extraordinary cityscapes, with skyscrapers acting as giant billboards for advertising holograms and streets overflowing with multi-ethnic characters speaking in polyglot tongues. Wisely, from the get-go the producers brought in Ridley Scott as Executive Producer; he immediately reached out to screenwriter Hampton Fancher, co-writer of the original film, who went on to compose an entire novella in place of a conventional screenplay, so keen was he; Michael Green, who’d worked with Scott on Alien: Covenant, was then approached to turn the story into a script. All of these contributors had Philip K. Dick’s original questions in mind as they worked on the project: What does it mean to be human? What defines us as human beings and could it be replicated? These are just some of the intriguing themes running through this outstanding film and Villeneuve brings them out with his usual talent and visual skill. He has said that, “My goal was to honour the film noir aesthetic of the first movie while giving the new film its own identity,” and in this he has succeeded hands down.
Blade Runner 2049 is a fully immersive experience that instantly grabs you and doesn’t let go for 165 minutes. Gosling is perfect as the new blade runner and Ford brings gravitas as the now elderly Rick Deckard. Ana de Armas is a stand-out as K’s store-bought love interest and Wright brings just the right note to her role as K’s boss in the LAPD. Perhaps Jared Leto overplays his evil overlord character a little too much but it’s a minor quibble. The atmospheric, industrial score by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer dips its lid to Vangelis’ music from the original movie but is very much a beast of their own creation. It’s integral to the film. Overall, this is a fascinating, thrilling, dark ride into our possible dystopian future. Be afraid! With AI just around the corner, the issues it raises are becoming increasingly pertinent and must be confronted. Blade Runner 2049 is a highly entertaining way to get the ball rolling.