Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas
Synopsis: A young blade runner's discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who's been missing for thirty years.
Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller
MPAA Rating: R (for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language)
Release Date: October 6, 2017
One of the most fascinating questions one can ask is what makes it so special to be a human being. Is it our intelligence? Our uniqueness from other creations? Our ability to communicate and build cities and civilizations? Or is it something deeper and more spiritual--that we have a soul? Whatever the answer may be, the question is one that has been asked and debated since our origins.
The question has been investigated in many science fiction books and films the last several decades as well. Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982) and James Cameron's The Terminator (1984) are both neo-noir films of the cyberpunk sub genre of science fiction that investigated the difference and relationship between humanity and artificial intelligence. Blade Runner was particularly compelling due to its plot involving replicants (artificial beings that look and act extremely similar to humans) living amongst humans working as slave labor in off-world colonies. Though not a box office or even critical success during its initial release, the film gained a cult following in the 1990's and has since been hailed as one of science fiction's most influential and powerful films to ever be released.
It comes as no surprise then that a great amount of pressure came on director Denis Villeneuve's shoulders after agreeing to helm a sequel to Ridley Scott's classic. The film, set 30 years after the events of the first film, follows a young blade runner (Ryan Gosling) as he uncovers a secret and sets out to find former blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who inexplicably vanished after his experiences in the first film.
Sequels (especially those following acclaimed previous installments of a series) are one of the trickiest films to write and direct. They need to present fresh, exciting, and compelling material that doesn't directly copy the material from the first film yet also bring back the world and characters that fans fell in love with to begin with. James Cameron accomplished the feat masterfully twice with Aliens (1986) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)--both films that brought back characters from the previous films and further developed them while also delivering more action (and lavish special effects), suspense, and thought-provoking ideas.
With Blade Runner 2049, director Denis Villeneuve has delivered the best sequel to a science fiction film since Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
From start to finish, Blade Runner 2049 is an engrossing, visually striking science fiction film that brings back the visual and philosophical beauty of the first film and expands it to new, exciting levels. The visual effects are breath-taking in the truest sense of the word, with Villeneuve honoring the neo-noir aesthetic of Ridley Scott's film while also delivering more visually lighter scenes that highlight the astounding futuristic city landscapes and dynamic colors. Every scene is beautifully shot, with rain and snow incorporated into the cinematography as well as beautifully lit night and day sequences. The visual effects are the best I have seen since Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron, 2013), and the film will unquestionably receive Oscar nominations for Visual Effects and Cinematography and be a front-runner for winning those categories.
Importantly, though, Blade Runner 2049 doesn't just succeed in bringing striking visuals to the table. The film is just as engrossing underneath, as it presents philosophical questions that were touched upon in the first film but are further developed here (Hampton Fancher, co-writer of the first film also returned to co-write 2049). This is a "thinking person's movie" that presents complex, intriguing ideas along a plot line that, while not itself overly complex, is one that twists and turns on occasions and keeps the viewer guessing.
The only downside of Blade Runner 2049 is its 2 hour 43 minute runtime, which feels slightly bloated by the end of the film. Minutes could have been trimmed down from minimal dialogue sequences and the numerous establishing tracking shots that are reminiscent of the original's sequences. Nevertheless, the film is so beautiful to behold that these longer sequences are forgiven and the pacing of the film as a whole is steady enough to keep interest.
Blade Runner 2049 looks and feels like a James Cameron-operated sequel--one that brings back the characters from the original and immerses you back into the story world you fell in love with, all the while ramping up the visuals, action, and enthralling ideas without copying or taking away from the material presented in the first film. It is on the same level of Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day and should receive several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Basing off his last several films (Prisoners, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049), director Denis Villeneuve is one that should be catching the eye of studios and fans alike as a crafty, talented, and bold director that is sure to provide more excitement in the future.