I’m not a fan of sequels and reboots. I could ring off a long list of reasons why but for the sake of brevity, they’re usually lazy cash grabs. I especially hate when there’s absolutely no story left to tell. Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled about the announcement of another Blade Runner. There are up to seven different versions of the original Blade Runner movie depending on who you ask, but my version has an open ending. What happens after Deckard and Rachael run away together? It doesn’t matter. This ambiguity is left a far greater impression than any other ending. In my mind, I could choose my own ending. Creating a sequel could be disappointing if it didn’t align with my version of the story. Well, I was wrong on every front. Blade Runner 2049 definitely has a story to tell. My worries were alleviated because it’s unfair to call this Blade Runner a direct sequel to the original.
What made Blade Runner the sci-fi standard it has grown to become was Ridley Scott’s vision of dystopia. LA has become an overpopulated, smog-filled wasteland. Those who remain on earth are here only because they aren’t good enough to move to other off-planet colonies. R Blended into this version for the future was noir elements from the past. Blade Runner 2049 not only rebuilds this world but advances it. The world is even more crowded with a new line of replicants. The smog is a bit thicker. Yet we still have our titular enigmatic Blade Runner.
This movie isn’t about Deckard, it’s about Officer K. K is now thrown into the path set by Deckard when he chose to run away with Rachael thirty years before. This movie is about his journey. As he searches for his own truth, his path overlaps with Deckard’s, and he finds his own truth as well. The star of this movie is easily Ryan Gosling as K and no, not because his name is obviously the biggest one on the movie poster. It’s because I can’t think of any other actor I would rather have as Officer K. Now, I like Ryan Gosling but he can be hit or miss. There are times when he’s really good and other times he’s outshined (See: Gangster Squad. Actually, don’t). In this movie, he was a perfect choice. Much like Harrison Ford in 1982, he exhibited an effortlessly cool demeanor while exhibiting vulnerability. Under Villeneuve’s control, a lot of scenes in 2049 are totally silent. Gosling is alone in a lot of these scenes. With total silence, it’s totally a risk to have your audience drift but he commands attention.
Ultimately, this movie works because just about every decision made was the best one. From the opening aerial shot, I know this movie is in good hands. I was initially afraid of the two-hour and forty-three-minute runtime but not one scene is wasted. This is a world I missed and I didn’t know how much I missed it until I returned. I didn’t know the question “What does it even mean to be human?” asked by the original would lead to even more questions. 2049 is filled with more action than expected and would have been a good movie if it took this angle, but it’s a great movie
I’m also ready to admit that Denis Villeneuve is now on the Mt. Olympus looking down at all other working directors. Although he’s had back to back critically films with Sicario and Arrival, I still don’t think either of these top Blade Runner 2049. 2049 is a beautiful movie in every single way. The lighting is perfect, the colors pop off the screen and the only thing I would change about this experience is seeing it in IMAX.
Blade Runner 2049 won’t’ be everyone’s thing, considering the original is an acquired taste itself. But if you loved the original, or great sci-fi movies in general, then 2049 won’t disappoint. This movie is not only the best films of the year, but the best sci-fi movie since Children of Men.
[By the way, I apologize Denis. You’re really the master and we’re all just living in your world]