Review - Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 (2017), R, 2h 44min - Prior to this past week, it had been quite a while since I had sat down and watched the original Blade Runner (1982), which was really a disservice to myself, especially when compiling my Most Anticipated Films of 2017 post earlier this year.  On that list, Blade Runner 2049 was only an honorable mention.  Had I seen the original more recently, 2049 would likely have easily cracked the Top 10.  So prior to seeing Blade Runner 2049 yesterday afternoon, I made sure that I did my due diligence and gave the original a re-watch.  And I'm glad that I did.  Not only was I reminded of how awesome the original was, it prepared me for what was to come with my theatrical experience for 2049.

Blade Runner 2049 takes place in the year 2049 (surprise!), thirty years after the events of the original film (based upon the world created by Philip K. Dick in his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?).  The Tyrell Corporation, manufacturer of the world's replicants (bio-engineered androids) went bankrupt a number of years ago, and was then acquired by the Wallace Corporation.  Wallace, a leading manufacturer of artificial intelligence, has improved upon and stabilized the replicant creation process, introducing a product that has been widely accepted and implemented into every day life as servants and slave laborers.  There are still rogue Nexus-6 model replicants that are considered unstable and unsafe that continue to be hunted and 'retired' (killed) by Blade Runners, who are often-times replicants themselves.  Agent 'K' (Ryan Gosling) is one such replicant.  While hunting down rogue Nexus-8 replicants, he discovers replicant remains that show evidence of a pregnancy and birth (supposedly impossible due to engineering constraints).  This leads to a race of a manhunt for the replicant offspring between the LAPD, who wants to eliminate any and all evidence of its existence for fear of what it could do to the state of human/replicant relations, and the Wallace Corporation, who wants to study it in an effort to take the next evolutionary step forward with their product (which would help Wallace meet the product demand).

When I had first learned that a Blade Runner sequel was in the works, I was honestly pretty leery. I felt like part of the brilliance of the original was how ambiguous and thought provoking it was.  Why toy with that by making a direct sequel?  Well, I'm happy to report that I was wrong in that line of thinking.  Director Denis Villeneuve presents a film that is equally thought provoking as well as holding true to the tone, appearance, and feel of the original.  He also expands upon the futuristic world we were introduced to thirty five years ago.  The story presented in 2049 brilliantly integrates characters and archive footage from the original film.  We see a few characters from the original film carry over: Deckard (Harrison Ford), Gaff (Edward James Olmos) and Rachael (Sean Young) all play a role in 2049's story.  The rest of the 2049 cast really helps flesh out this extended view of the Blade Runner world: Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), Joi (Ana de Armas), Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), Mariette (Mackenzie Davis), and Freysa (Hiam Abbass).

Visually and stylistically the film is stunning.  You have the same dark and dreary Los Angeles city-scape of the original Blade Runner, but 2049 also takes us outside of the city to other locales, which may also be dark from an emotional standpoint, but offer a brighter look visually (i.e. actual daylight and no rain).  The score, courtesy of Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch similarly sets the emotional and environmental tone for the film while providing a sense of nostalgia in relation to the original film.

I personally really enjoyed Blade Runner 2049, but I feel as though it is a tough film to unilaterally recommend.  It's long (just shy of three hours), and much like the original, it is fairly slow paced.  The R rating is primarily due to nudity, although what violence there is tends to be head shots to replicants.  If you enjoyed the original, I think it is pretty safe to say that you'll really enjoy 2049.  On the flipside, if you didn't like the original, then don't waste your time.  2049 is more of the same for better or for worse (depending on one's opinion).  I would also not recommend going into this film blind.  It is a direct sequel to the original Blade Runner and makes so many references to the people and events of that film, that you'd likely be lost with no prior knowledge.  2049 is definitely a worthy successor to the sci-fi classic, it just falls in the category of 'not for everyone'. 












*****SPOILERS*****

- There were also three prequel short films released in conjunction with this film that fill in details of some of the events that took place between the original Blade Runner and 2049.  They can be seen below:









- I loved that Deckard wasn't the only character from the original film to be used in 2049.  I also really liked the little touch of Gaff making another origami animal while being interviewed by K.

- I really enjoyed small touches like the continuity of advertising within the world between the original film and 2049.  Coke is featured prominently, as is Atari, which is a bit more surprising as it is no longer the company it once was.

- I loved that 2049 provided a couple answers to questions presented in Blade Runner, while presenting more questions of its own.  I have no idea if there are plans for further Blade Runner films, but if Denis Villeneuve has anything to do with them, count me in!

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