The Blade Runner is a film series that I felt makes you really think about and question the morality of human life. Where the first film focuses on the idea of ‘Free Will’, which is represented in the Replicants as they are engineered from birth and break free from the bondage of slavery and servitude to fulfil their own dreams and desires, despite the fact that they are different from the rest of us yet still crave the same thing that humanity has but does not choose to utilise; freedom.
Harrison Ford takes the titular roll of the Blade Runner, who is a detective/bounty hunter who is charged with chasing them down rogue Replicants and putting them down, but he begins to question everything as he appears to fall in love with one and the villain himself appearing to make a lot of sense. By the end of the film, we are left with a lot to think about as the themes and ideas that the movie represent have been uploaded into us perfectly.
The sequel, on the other hand, continues to expand upon these ideas and throws something new into the mix (that I won’t go into too much due to spoilers) that humans can do, and sometimes take for granted, but the idea of a Replicant doing it could change the face of their world forever.
It’s a very interesting thought and leaves us eagerly engage throughout the film as we desperately want to find out more. That is something that works incredibly fantastic in Blade Runner 2049’s favour, at least it did for me; wanting to find out more.
The entire first act of the film serves as a brilliant world building experience as the story covers details from the original film to bring everyone up to speed, what has happened between the two films, as well as telling us what the world has become. This last one is the main focus of the film (obviously as it is when the film is set), but what I mean by that is not just through explanations are we told how different the world is from the original, but also visually. We are shown the streets of Los Angeles in this dystopia future where technology has now taken over our lives (which is of course relevant in today’s world with how we can imagine our future to be like).
The visuals of the film are fantastic, with each major location looking incredibly different from one another but seamlessly appearing believable with one another. Whether it is in the neon light covered streets of the Cyberpunk style city, the nightmarish dark lit contemplation rooms of the main villain’s headquarters, the post apocalyptic ruins of Las Vegas, the bleak foggy farmlands, or the scrapyard, the film is visually stunning and not a single location looks out of place in this horrific future.
Some of the best shots in the film is when the main character is flying over Greater Los Angeles in both the day and night time. One of these scenes, the background appears to be completely grey, until we realise that it is actually rooftops of compacted buildings and there are slits in the middle of them leading down to the streets below.
The final action sequence takes place with a completely blackened background, so we cannot see anything other than the main focal point of the scene.
Music and sound is another brilliantly done thing here, with similar tunes returning from the original, but also a lot of ambiguous noises mixed together creating the illusion of music, a replicant if you will. It never feels out of place or just background noise, but instead I felt that the music that runs throughout the course of the film greatly serves to give the scenes a much greater depth to its audience.
Even when there is an absence of sound, such as when there are long drawn out shots of the main character looking at something (of which there are quite a lot of, I must admit), it helps reinforce this harrowing world that the film is set in.
As for the main character himself, this is played by Ryan Gosling who has become the latest Blade Runner, charged with hunting down renegade Replicants who have escaped their subjugation and are now in hiding. Gosling plays this roll really well in the sense that he appears to be unemotional and very quiet, allowing the music of the impact of whatever we are witnessing at the time to take the centre stage. As the film progresses he does become more than this, but I really feel as if WE, ourselves, are suppose to feel as if we are his character and am exploring this hopeless technological future. A lot of the scenes in the first two acts show Gosling as he tries to piece his case together and travels to various locations following his next lead. Each location feels as if it is the first time Gosling himself has been there and so it comes across as if both him and the audience are experience this new place making him appear more relate-able.
The other characters of the film do not ever really take centre stage. The main focus is Gosling and his journey, as well as the changes that he faces along the way that make him begin to question everything.
Harrison Ford returns (as per the trailers, so not a spoiler), but is only really in it from the end of the second act and is actually quite important to the plot, rather than being thrown in for the money. Thankfully he does not have to do too many action sequences, as I did start to notice his age when he made a return in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Speaking of which, one thing that I really did like is that a film like this, it is easy to fall into the same structure of the original and tread familiar ground, but this film does really take the series further and not become a replicant of itself.
Gosling’s relationship with actress; Ana de Armas, is an interesting concept in how our relationship with technology is continuing to expand, but personally I felt that this was not done as well as it could have been. It builds up to this grand crescendo, that should have a really powerful response from Gosling, yet it is not properly portrayed to the audience, which makes it feel a little dull and unimportant. While the journey was interesting, and the relationship itself was believable, the pay-off at the end of this plot line feels a little flat.
Jared Leto and Dave Bautista are both actually barely in the film surprisingly. Bautista plays a replicant on the run, while Jared plays the creator and CEO of the new megacorporation who create the new model replicants. Both actors are very good in the scenes that they are in, yet their little screen time makes their characters seem not as important as we are lead to believe.
I suppose this is a good thing considering how the trailers made them seem like the main focus of the film, when in reality there is so much more than the trailers are letting on.
At this point I would like to state that I did not realise that Replicants were biologically engineered humans. From the title which the original film is based off; Do Androids Dream of Electric Dreams, I always got the impression that they were… Androids, Robots. Similar to Bishop in the Aliens universe. But it appears that Replicants are just humans that have been grown in a lab and can be modified however the creator desires.
Maybe this is something that I missed from the original. It does play a very significant role in this film, so it is worth remembering this when you go into it.
My only major qualm with the film is that I did feel everything felt a little bit too convenient. There is one point that is PROPER convenient, but a later reveals this to not actually be what it appears, so I will let that off, but there are lots of other very convenient plot points, such as going to this location and finding the exact person that you need to, in an enormous city, based of some dirt found on an old wooden horse. It just feels a little unbelievable, which might seem amusing to say in a film with replicant humans, off-world colonies, and flying cars, but Blade Runner is that gritty realistic science fiction that we can imagine is what our world will become if we continue on the path that we are on.
I did feel that the film maybe feel a little flat in its last act. The absence of a proper villain did make the film’s last action sequence feel a little uneventful, especially given that bigger action scenes take place earlier in the film.
It is in this act that the story does take a little bit of a strange turn, but it is still told in a way that doesn’t lose its audience.
Overall, the film is a lot easier to digest that the original, but you will need the knowledge of that film in order to truly appreciate, as well as understand, what is going on here.
Visually the film is amazing. It is 10/10 and not just just because I have a hard on for dystopia science fiction and post apocalyptic settings, but just because it is done so well. Scenes that a bleak and have nothing much in there, are brought alive by lighting perfectly.
The story of the film is deep, but nowhere near as much as the first film. While it still holds the noir feel of the original, it loses this whenever Gosling leaves the city and heads off into the ruins, at which point it becomes something else entirely.
While Blade Runner the original I found is an acquired taste, 2049 is enjoyable for everyone (over the age of 18 as is some violence and a ton of nudity) and probably one of the best films of the year, at least in terms of the visuals. I would definitely recommend it, even though the third act of the film was a little bit of a let down, it still did not manage to spoil the beautifully foreboding world that had been brilliant crafted in the first two, which ultimately leaves me with some ideas and concepts that I am still thinking about now and will do long after the film has passed.
Of course it does not have any where near as good an ending as this…. (spoilers from the original)