In 1982, Ridley Scott made a film entitled ‘Blade Runner’ that was so far ahead of its time that it was poorly received at launch and only gained cult status in later years after it has inspired countless intellectual properties such as the anime Ghost in The Shell and the video game franchise Deus Ex, amongst others. For its sequel over 30 year later, Scott gave the reins over to French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, who has acclaimed hits such as 2015’s Sicario and 2016’s Arrival under his belt. The most important question on the minds of fans: Does Blade Runner 2049 do justice to one of the most iconic science fiction films of all time?
As a sequel to 1982’s Blade Runner, it mostly works. Villeneuve has successfully retained the cyberpunk visual style of the original, along with its eerie aesthetics and forlorn atmosphere. Blade Runner 2049 is a visual feast, with extremely high production values and excellent cinematography. I’d even go so far as stating that Blade Runner 2049 is the best-looking science fiction film of 2017 to date, which will surely be contested by the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi later this year. Calling it, Roger Deakins for Best Cinematography in next year’s Oscars!
Plot-wise, Villeneuve and the film’s writers managed to connect the storyline threads from the previous film into a coherent product in Blade Runner 2049. Where is Deckard and Rachael now? Is Deckard a replicant? Some of these questions are explored while some remain unexplained. Unfortunately, Blade Runner 2049 ties up some lingering questions while introducing a bevy of frustrating new questions which stink of sequel bait. Despite everything to the contrary, newcomers who haven’t watched the original Blade Runner can still fully comprehend the film’s plot although they won’t be able to fully appreciate the easter eggs and references.
I personally feel that the 2 hours and 43 minutes runtime is a tad too long, especially since it gets draggy in the middle of the film. I won’t get into details regarding the plot but some parts are better off with tighter editing. Even I, a self-proclaimed science fiction enthusiast, checked the time a few times during a few of the ‘introspective’ scenes. Casual moviegoers might find this massive runtime intimidating and avoid this movie altogether but I assure you it mostly justifies its bloated runtime.
If you’re looking forward to the return of Deckard (Harrison Ford), you won’t be disappointed, although he does get less screen time than the main protagonist K (Ryan Gosling). The female cast of Blade Runner 2049 also receive impressively adequate screen time, especially Joi (Ana de Armas) and Robin Wright (Lieutenant Joshi). However, all this comes at the expense of Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) and Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), who gets the disappointingly little screen time and character development, considering how hyped their roles were in the marketing leading to the film’s release. Look for the return of a fan-favourite character from the original film who reprised his role in a short but meaningful scene.
Before (or after) you watch Blade Runner 2049, I recommend watching the three prequel shorts on YouTube, bridging the 30-year gap between 1982’s Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049. These are not essential for understanding Blade Runner 2049 but simply provides extra context for the background of Blade Runner 2049’s world.
First up is Blade Runner Black Out 2022 is an anime short directed by Shinichirō Watanabe, who famously known for directing acclaimed anime series such as Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, set three years after the events of Blade Runner, featuring the story about the creation of the new Nexus 8 Replicant series and downfall of the Tyrell Corporation.
Next is 2036: Nexus Dawn is a live-action short starring Jared Leto as Niander Wallace set 13 years before the events of Blade Runner 2049 about the story of Wallace’s attempt to convince lawmakers to allow the production of his new series of more obedient Replicants.
Finally comes 2048: Nowhere to Run, starring Dave Bautista as Sapper Morton, which is set only 1 year before the events of Blade Runner 2049, telling the story of how Morton’s actions of saving a mother and daughter from thugs leads to him being outed as a Replicant.
After 2016’s phenomenal Arrival (Watch it if you haven’t! It’s the best science fiction film since Ex Machina, in my opinion!) and 2017’s Blade Runner, Denis Villeneuve is definitely a filmmaker to watch out for. I sincerely believe that he could finally revive the science fiction genre to what it was in the golden eras of the 1970s and 1980s, when sci-fi was at its best creatively. Films like these and series like equally fantastic Star Trek Discovery might spark a new science fiction genre renaissance. Of course, this is all speculation but there’s always hope.
Summarily, it is this writer’s opinion that Blade Runner 2049 is an excellent film in its own right and a serviceable sequel to the original Blade Runner. Ultimately, Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t manage to surpass the still-relevant original Blade Runner. That just goes to highlight the capability of truly iconic intellectual properties to stand the test of time and advancement in technology.
WOT WE SCORE IT: 85/100
Alleef is Kakuchopurei.com ‘s resident movie buff and is a huge comic book fan. You can follow his comments and rants on Twitter here.