‘Blade Runner 2049’ takes you back to a place created 35 years ago (review)

“The key to the future is finally unearthed. Bring it to me.”

There is nothing that epitomizes sci-fi noir like the 1982 film, Blade Runner. This film not only restructured the way the beautiful mesh of science fiction and the noir style work together but also how music for films like this would sound forever. It’s incredible how the ethereal orchestra of swelling synthesizers mimic the smooth jazz of noir film to create this out of body experience in this film, making you feel that even though you are watching a futuristic movie, you still have a nostalgic vibe. God, I love that movie.

It’s been almost 35 years, and Blade Runner still stands the test of time, amazing fans young and old. No one had envisioned that after all this time, there would be a possibility to create a continuation of that universe, and further the story of Rick Deckard and the replicants. No one, except for Denis Villeneuve, director and visionary of outstanding films such as 2015’s Sicario and 2016’s sci-fi film, Arrival.

Now, I’m going to state this right here, right now: Villeneuve is no Ridley Scott. As outstanding of a director Villeneuve is, Scott has paved the way for creators like Villeneuve to traverse. But I can solidly say that Villeneuve deeply understands Scott’s world. And he displays it proudly in his sequel 35 years in the making, Blade Runner 2049.

Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a new blade runner for the Los Angeles Police Department, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. His discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who’s been missing for 30 years.

“I want to ask you some questions…”

Like I said, Villeneuve is no Scott, in terms of stature. I think that’s something we can all agree upon, whatever your opinion may be of Scott’s more recent work. Scott, in his lengthy career, has created genres and sculpted the very essence of what we now know as science fiction filmmaking. Villeneuve, however, does something that I feel is wonderful and special: he understands the world that Scott has created.

He’s not just wanting to create a film that looks similar, or sounds the same; he wants to create a film that true fans will see and have no doubt that it is in the same universe. From the sights to the sounds, Villeneuve fills our senses with awe and inspiration, bringing us back to a place that many may have forgotten at one time. A place that goes back to the first time we ever saw the first film, even to the time we saw our first sci-fi film in general. It brings us to a place that feels familiar. And that, in itself, is no easy feat.

Villeneuve brings back the feeling of a streetwise cop looking to fulfill his duty as a Blade Runner, and enjoy the small amenities he could afford. Ryan Gosling, in no way, shape or form, seems out of place; he disappears in the rugged Detective that drinks not to pass the time, but to forget about it. He is marvelous in this role, and much like his previous performances, Gosling is the true gem of this picture. It isn’t just the way he enters a scene, or delivers a line; it’s the way he becomes the scene. Ryan Gosling is a true actor to the core, and this film solidifies that.

“The key to the future is finally unearthed.”

Opposite Gosling is the enigmatic Niander Wallace, head of the Wallace Corporation, and played by Jared Leto. Leto creates a creepy aura around himself throughout the film, speaking to individuals as more of a philosopher than the head of a major company. This should be no surprise to anyone, as Leto tends to wax poetic in most of his recent roles. But his demeanor and unassuming nature in the film draws a sense of uneasy tension that you can’t shake. An ability, as an actor, that you can’t teach.

Other key elements of the film are Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoeks, all individuals who add to the overall storyline and help the film tell a cohesive tale. Each of these roles adds to the pillars that this film is built upon, but one man stands at the top of that precipice: Harrison Ford. Reprising his role as Deckard, the sauced grouchy detective from the first film, we find him sauced and grouchy and retired.

His return to this property was the cherry on the cake, if you will, as this film wouldn’t have been the same without him. Seeing him appear onscreen as the former Blade Runner now on the lam after the events of the first film just brought the rains of nostalgia down in the theater. Many older members of the press who had seen the first film at a press screening, much like this, all had glistening eyes as he slowly made his entrance in the film.

Throughout the film, you could tell that care was put into each scene’s composition, as every moment never seemed to be wasted. This was all thanks to Roger Deakins, the cinematographer who has worked with Villeneuve in the past. If you loved the vision and cinematography of 2015’s Sicario, then you’ll love this film. Every second of this film is an art piece frozen in time and captured on camera for all the world to see, as it’s visually stunning and breathtakingly precise in what it presents.

“They do not know what pain is yet. They will learn.”

This film, as great as it is, doesn’t deliver without breaking a few eggs. Unfortunately, my biggest gripe with the film isn’t character arcs or music selection, but runtime. At a steady yet manageable two hours and forty-three minutes, this film will test your ability to remain focused. Not because the film isn’t engaging, but that the film requires so much of your time. Even the most engaged moviegoer has a threshold. The film’s story is beautiful, but not every theater patron has the perseverance to sit through a movie that long, no matter how great a film may be.

All in all, I think this an incredible film! I loved the story, the cinematography, the characters and the filmmaker’s decision to honor the original rather than reinvent it. Many filmmakers in the past that have decided to rehash an older property tend to lean more on the side of rebooting the story than continuing the story. For some, this has been a success, such as the horror film that came out last month, It. Others haven’t been as lucky, such as the sci-fi reboot that came out earlier this year, Ghost in the Shell. Choosing how you want to interpret a story, and deciding to do more than just recreate or continue a tale, but also honor it, truly shines through in the finished product.

Blade Runner 2049 does just that; it honors not only the film that came before it but the genre that it birthed. This film is a time capsule in a modern shell, appearing to be something new, and bringing you to a place of old. This feeling of nostalgia creates an incredible experience, as a lover of cinema, of where the sci-fi noir genre came from. It’s an absolute homage to its predecessor, showing fans and filmmakers, alike, that even after 35 years, a film created with care and honor can certainly keep a story alive, even after all these years.

Rating: 4.5/5 atoms

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