There are no spoilers in this review.
If you are going into this movie thinking you’re going to get a sequel to one of the great action flicks of the ’80s, reminiscent of “Commando” or “Escape from New York,” you’re going to be disappointed–remember that the original Blade Runner was not that type of movie either. It was a film that embodied the word “dysptopian” and forced you to question the very essence of what it means to be a human being. The action sequences were quick and artistic, placed sporadically between long bouts of investigation and philosophical conversations. The very things I love about the film.
Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049” explores those same depths. A new blade runner, played by Ryan Gosling, stumbles across some secrets that prompt him to search for the protagonist of the first film, Rick Deckard played by Harrison Ford. He’s been missing for 30 years, and the film hearkens back to its predecessor–less as an action-driven drama, more of an investigation driven one.
And it’s in this investigation that the Blade Runner series finds its profundity. The investigation is not simply a plot device to lead us to an emotional climax, it’s an investigation into the meaning of humanity. What does it mean to be human? Are you simply a product of the electric signals firing in your head? Are you something more? Do you have a soul?
Jared Leto plays the next leader in tech, Niander Wallace. Much like Dr. Tyrell from “Blade Runner,” his twisted view of the human consciousness and desire to play God drives much of what he does. You can see his compelling performance in this short film, directed by Luke Scott (son of Ridley Scott), meant to take place before “Blade Runner 2049.” I would recommend watching this before you watch the new one.
I’ve always wondered why audiences find the robot-human dilemma so compelling. “I, Robot,” “Battlestar Galactica,” the “Terminator” series, “Westworld,” and of course the original “Blade Runner” were all able to capitalize on this theme. “Blade Runner,” and now “Blade Runner 2049,” articulate these themes quite clearly. These films and shows enable us to look at human nature by comparing it to something that is quite literally discovering its own humanity as the story progresses–robots endowed with human qualities. Side by side with these robot characters, we explore the very roots of human nature.
The action is that modern brand of action that I love so much. The movies of the 70s and 80s will always be dear to my heart, but the hip-fire, spray and pray style action was never my favorite. Like Drive, this film is rich with long, drawn out breaks in the action, punctuated by quick and brutal scenes that are over before you know it. In my experience, this is true to reality and resonates with how we know the world to actually be.
This brings me to the visuals. These were some of the best visuals I have seen in a long time–they serve the story, they set the tone, and they just plain look cool. Villeneuve has successfully recreated the original world of Blade Runner, but he has also pushed the limits and we get to explore this destitute world a little more.
I will make one recommendation before watching this–watch the first one first. I sincerely do not believe this to be a simple addition to the story years after the first. The two films are intimately tied together, and because of this you can see Villeneuve’s passion for the original film bleeding into his sequel. Not only does the atmosphere do the ultimate justice to its predecessor, but the stories link together in creative and compelling ways.
It’s a hefty 2 hours and 45 minutes, and though it’s rife with philosophical ideas, it’s tactfully done and not heavy-handed or too abstract and “artsy” for a regular viewer. It’s highly entertaining, but I would not walk into this thing expecting a fun action movie to casually watch. I gave it a very high rating with the understanding that it’s not for everyone, but if you know what you’re getting into, I feel like you’ll share the fantastic journey I embarked upon while watching this film.