Blade Runner 2049 Review: Smashing Sci-fi

Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford team up for Blade Runner 2049. Photo: Supplied.
Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford team up for Blade Runner 2049. Photo: Supplied.

The original Blade Runner, released in 1982, was a critical and commercial flop that almost toppled Harrison Ford and director Ridley Scott’s careers. 

The movie proved too vague for many audiences and critics, with many seeing it as a pretentious waste of cinema resources. 

Since then, several different versions have been released. Critical reception grew stronger over time, before 2007’s Blade Runner: The Final Cut was dubbed a masterpiece for its direction, production design, visuals etc. 

Questions continue to surface over the 1982 original; Is Rick Deckard (Ford’s character) a replicant (robotic beings Blade Runners are tasked with destroying)? Is it as good as people say? Will Ridley Scott ever reach those heights again? Just to list a few…

Cut to 2017, and Blade Runner 2049 has come along to make its presence known. 

This long-awaited sequel kicks off 30 years after the awe-inspiring events of the original. 

Blade Runner K (Ryan Gosling) hunts down tough, out-of-line replicants for the LAPD. 

He leads a simple life – working as an emotionless gun-for-hire during the day, going home to entertain AI girlfriend Joi (Ana De Armas) at night. 

Under his boss(Robin Wright)’s instructions, K heads out on a perilous mission that could tear the fabric of society to shreds.

Ultra business mogul/replicant creator Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and his right-hand woman Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) mean to hunt K down before he finds out the truth.

That is as far as I am willing to go into the plot. Prior to the film’s release, a million film fans cried out ‘SPOILERS’ in a whiny chorus. 

What I will say may effect people’s expectations. My advice is simple: Don’t go into Blade Runner 2049 expecting blockbuster fluff. 

At 2 hours and 43 minutes, it’s more of a deep, philosophical drama than a taut sci-fi thriller. 

Many people in my screening checked their watches, while two got up and walked out half an hour before the end. 

Director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival) does not care about audience expectations or big-budget production templates. 

From day one, he and Blade Runner screenwriters Hampton Fancher and Michael Green set out to create a moving, unique organism that was in-sync with the 1982 original. 

The first hour may test your patience, moving glacially from one scenic vista and vague line of dialogue to the next. 

Many scenes, punctuated by Gosling’s vacant stares and ticks, exist to world build rather than progress the plot. 

The second half, however, delivers a handful of film noir/action tropes to kick into a higher gear. 

Harrison Ford’s Deckard comes into play much later than you think, but he and Gosling’s rapport ramps up the pace. 

Villeneuve’s haunting, confronting style lends itself well to Scott/author Phillip K Dick’s vision of the future. 

Even the subtle touches are worth pointing out; the original’s collection of flying cars have dissipated, with only street-cleaning vehicles and police cars remaining.

It is more of an introspective think-piece than anything.

Its discussions of economic despair and over-crowding/under-resourced populations are encapsulated in a mere handful of frames. 

Blade Runner 2049’s MVP is cinematographer Roger Deakins. Villeneuve and Deakins, having worked together on 2013’s Prisoners as well as Sicario, understand each other’s signatures. 

Moving harmoniously through each scene, Deakins’ camera work is steady throughout every slow-burn, ponderous scene and intense action sequence. 

Blade Runner 2049 also crafts some of the year’s most interesting characters.

Gosling moves between roles of immense pain and hilarious hijinks with ease. His handful of expressions, and trenchcoat, make K someone you cannot take your eyes off. 

Supporting performances from Lennie James, Mackenzie Davis, Dave Bautista and Barkhad Abdi are icing-on-the-cake effective in smaller roles. 

Blade Runner 2049 provides a thought-provoking look at tomorrow while being eerily reminiscent of today. 

Despite all the polarising elements (run-time, for one), it is the must-see movie of 2017 so far. 

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