Review: Blade Runner 2049 – a chip off the old replicant

It’s been a looooong wait, but Ridley Scott fans can finally see the sequel they have demanded: Blade Runner 2049.

Directed by Dennis Villeneuve (Arrival, Prisoners) the 164-minute film takes everything that was unique about the original and amplifies it with the help of state-of-the-art special effects and a genius production team.

Set in a dark, misty, dystopian California in the year 2049, the film’s protagonist K, played by Ryan Gosling, who mirrors Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard character from the original. K is a blade runner who is himself a replicant; the film follows his quest to find answers to a game-changing discovery.

The film is being widely being regarded by critics as the best so far this year. Hatch saw no reason to disagree. It boasts an 88 per cent Rotten Tomatoes rating and an 8.7 on IMDb.

There aren’t many characters in the central cast, which makes the plot easier to follow through sometimes confusing revelations. Jared Leto, Dave Bautista, Robin Wright and Ana de Armas all do a wonderful job with their characters. To play the role of Niander Wallace – inspired by the visionary Eldon Tyrell, who invented the replicants – Leto adopted the full method-actor discipline he is known for, to the extent of wearing blinding contact lenses throughout the shooting of scenes featuring the visually impaired character.

Are you feeling real, punk? Harrison Ford reprises his role as Decker in the sequel. Thomas Tobler review, 8oct2017
Are you feeling real, punk? Harrison Ford reprises his role as Decker in the sequel.

The original Blade Runner is famous for its critical use of symbolism. This film adopts a similar technique but adds a futuristic spin.

Eyes return as a primary symbol throughout the film: now, replicants can be identified by a code on their eyes. Memory is used as another crucial symbol. K has to come to grips with the fact that our most treasured memories are sometimes those we didn’t create ourselves.

The score of the film is another element that plays a huge part in teasing with the emotions of  its audience. It was written by Oscar-nominated composer Johann Johannsson, with some late tweaks by legendary film scorer Hans Zimmer (Dark Knight) and Benjamin Wallfisch, who worked together on Dunkirk. Villeneuve brought them in belatedly to help Johannsson get closer to the mood of Vangelis, who wrote the acclaimed atmospheric score for the original Blade Runner, and that decision has paid off handsomely.

“It’s hard to get to Vangelis’ angle. We have Johann’s breathtaking atmospheric sounds, but I needed other things, and Hans helped us,” Villeneuve told Studio Ciné Live in June.

The most stunning aspect of the film is Roger Deakins’ cinematography. The number of visual techniques featured is astounding; the scenes he creates will stay in your mind for a long time.

A criticism: this film would have been so much better had the first trailer not revealed that Ford would reprise his Deckard role. It seems that was a marketing ploy to attract the cult following of the original, reassuring them that this movie was faithful to the original. But Ford’s character is not seen until halfway through the film. Imagine the bombshell impact had that been kept secret!

Blade Runner 2049 is a film that will resonate with you long after you exit the cinema, so brilliant is its execution.

Like the original, it will leave you questioning what it means to be human. – Thomas Tobler

Top image shows Jared Leto, Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford and Sylvia Hoeks in promotional media from Warner Bros and Sony International.

About Thomas Tobler 12 Articles
Northern Beaches of Sydney local, with interests in music, movies, pop-culture, current events and everything in between.