“Blade Runner 2049” is a sequel 35 years in the making. In 1982, “Blade Runner” was released and did modest business, yet it has become a Sci-Fi classic. Now, director Denis Villeneuve is going to make a new classic and he has raised the bar for science fiction movies to come. Originally based on a book by Philip K. Dick, the original “Blade Runner” and now “Blade Runner 2049” are creating a well-defined world of dystopian future despair. But it is done with so much visual style and beauty that it becomes amazing.
“Blade Runner” was set in L.A. 2019, where Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) was employed as a ‘blade runner’ (a person who hunts down and ‘retires’ replicants. Replicants are android human-like recreations, and back in 2019 there are some who rebelled and caused major trouble. When Deckard ‘retires’ a replicant it means that he must kill them. Deckard meets a replicant named Rachel, and the two of them drop off the map and are never found. These events then echo into a future L.A. when the year is 2049.
Officer K (Ryan Gosling) works for LAPD doing ‘blade runner’ type operations for the department. His boss is Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) who sends him on a mission to ‘retire’ Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista). Morton is an older style replicant who has gotten into trouble. Officer K takes him on and Morton is killed. But something is discovered on the property where he was living. There are bones inside a box, and the ramifications are huge.
The old Tyrell Corporation (from 2019) has been taken over by Wallace Industries, led by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto). He is a global billionaire who has recreated the replicants (once banned after an uprising in 2022). Officer K also has a companion named Joi (Ana de Armas) who is also related to the Wallace company. Wallace has an assistant named Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) who is efficient, brutal and lethal. Officer K has to visit with Wallace to find out some missing information. Because of an event back in 2022, many of the electronic records are scrambled or wrong.
Officer K needs to investigate further and goes to the San Diego Landfill Area. There he finds an orphanage that is run by Mister Cotton (Lennie James). But there are critical pages missing from his records, and Officer K comes up short. Then he meets with a freelance ‘memory creation specialist’ named Dr. Ana Stelline (Carla Juri) who might hold some information. There are other clues that lead Officer K to the ruins of Las Vegas, where he locates the missing Deckard. There are many confrontations, and multiple people are searching for Deckard and the knowledge he might possess.
People think that Deckard holds the key to the mystery bones found on the Morton property. With so many people (and so many replicants) wanting to find out so much missing information, the city is ready to explode into violence and disruption again. There is a fear of a new rebellion from the replicant masses who want to become “more human than human”. Officer K is getting more and more confused about his own past and his own life. But will the mystery of the woman’s bones ever be solved? And was it true, that the woman was a replicant and she died in childbirth? How could that be true? And what does that hold for the future?
It takes a lot of guts to revive a movie that many consider a classic and make it the entry point into a new sequel. The first movie is not required to watch prior to seeing “Blade Runner 2049”. But it makes the story elements much more tangible. The various characters are introduced, and a few of them are carried over from the first movie. To say anything more would ruin parts of the story. But it really helps to get the original screenwriter (Hampton Fancher) to work on the overall story and the new screenplay.
Acting is superb for all characters. Ryan Gosling is very good at being stoic and unperturbed, but Officer K slowly gets drawn into a mystery. Harrison Ford reconnects with his Rick Deckard character, with all the added years of wisdom and loneliness. Robin Wright hits the right combination of tough leader and anxious participant in a story that could overwhelm society. Ana de Armas is fun to watch in an unusual role. Jared Leto and Dave Bautista have standout cameo roles. Sylvia Hoeks does really steal the show with her performance as Luv.
The story and music (Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch) balance out perfectly. With a score that sometimes echoes the original “Blade Runner” sound track (by Vangelis), it drives the action and signals the emotional arc of the movie. But because these are ‘moving pictures’ – then special thanks must be given to cinematographer Roger Deakins. He renders the movie as a visual treat, with each scene rich is color and striking clarity. His work here deserves to be rewarded by the Academy…
Of course, there are some issues, such as the length of the movie. It is close to three hours long, and that is pretty rigorous for most movie audiences. However, it would be hard to find any scenes that could be cut out totally (although some might be shortened). At times the sound and the audio seems to overwhelm, and certain audience members could have issues with that. The future city of LA still has future buildings adorned with ‘Atari’ and ‘Pan-Am’, and that puts a wrinkle into the production.
Overall, it is as close to being a Classic starting right at its release. If you enjoy Sci-Fi movies, and you have seen “Blade Runner”, then this is a must-see. If you enjoy well-made movies and know nothing about ‘Blade Runner”, you would still want to check this out. Do not wait until the year 2049, when they just might be getting around to making another sequel!