The original “Blade Runner” became the defining film of ’80s science fiction upon its 1982 release. The movie inspired filmmakers, writers and directors worldwide to release similarly-styled works ranging from the classic movie “Terminator” to Japanese anime “Ghost in the Shell.”
“Blade Runner 2049,” the sequel set 30 years later in Los Angeles, recaptures the retrofuturist world and aesthetic of the original and beautifully brings it into the modern era of technology. Just as in the original, the sequel is overflowing with skyscrapers covered in Japanese neon signs and colossal screens, dark and rainy atmospheres and futuristic fashion full of exaggerated cowl necks and oversized jackets.
Both the original and the sequel revolve around the idea of “replicants,” androids created to function as humans, and an overall mission to hunt certain dangerous replicants. But while the original movie focuses on eliminating four replicants, “Blade Runner 2049” revolves around hunting down one: the daughter of original Blade Runner Rick Deckard and his replicant partner, Rachael. The same central themes of self-identity, humanity and technology exist among many others in the sequel, but the plot feels matured, deeper and more captivating than the original.
“Blade Runner 2049” doesn’t just parallel the original in its plot and themes, however. The sequel takes the same sense of wonder and cinematic choices that shaped the original and infuses them into the movie purposefully and effectively.
The original film enchanted moviegoers of the time with unbelievable technology such as flying cars, androids and voice-commanded computers, and the futuristic technology is ever-present in its sequel. Holographic human partners, advertisements able to hold a conversation and mass-produced models of mankind hark the same feelings of astonishment that were evoked in its predecessor.
Cinematically, “Blade Runner 2049” is unarguably a masterpiece. The dark, rainy, neon atmosphere established in the first film is reimagined with a modern, dystopian twist. The film is a visual Candyland, from staggeringly bright orange deserts to vivid, deep purple and blue city streets. Every shot in the film is wallpaper-worthy, and nearly every scene could stand as its own poster or art piece.
The sequel also matches the original in its rather lengthy runtime. “Blade Runner 2049” surpasses the original’s runtime of two hours and does not stop there, ending after a whopping two hours and 45 minutes.
Though understandably daunting to some, the length is necessary to fit the deep, interesting and at times confusing storyline. Scenes and certain subplots almost never seem extraneous; they all further the plot, character development or themes unveiled throughout. The film pulls you in, slowly reveals itself and never gives a reason to pull out a phone and check the time.
Furthermore, the movie is teeming with talent. “Blade Runner 2049” is directed by Denis Villeneuve, whose last film, “Arrival,” was one of the most critically acclaimed movies of 2016 with eight Academy Award nominations. Ryan Gosling, who played the protagonist of the movie named “K,” fits the role of a part-human, part-android blade runner perfectly. He delivers a solid, powerful performance on par with the exemplary acting in his last movie, “La La Land.” Harrison Ford performs his original role of blade runner Rick Deckard as well as in the first film, and the incredibly creepy performance of Jared Leto’s character Niander Wallace and Ana de Armas’ role of Joi are of the most outstanding in the movie.
“Blade Runner” and “Blade Runner 2049” have one other aspect in common: both experienced very disappointing box offices. With a movie this intriguing, exciting and stunning, it is a shame to see the film underperforming and underappreciated. According to New Musical Express, the sequel made a mere $74 million in its opening weekend compared to its $150 million budget. Additionally, the movie has been pulled from 855 theaters as of last week since its release on October 6, according to Forbes.
There isn’t much time left to catch the film in theaters, but as far as fall films go, “Blade Runner 2049” is a must-see. While it won’t change the world of science fiction, it is more than worth its runtime, worth the ticket price and most importantly, worth the watch.