Thursday, October 12, 2017

Blade Runner 2049: The movie you need to see NOW

Ask anyone who truly knows me as to what my favourite movie of all time is and they will answer without hesitation: Blade Runner. Ridley Scott's 1982 neo-noir cyberpunk scifi is the one movie I religiously turn to, again and again - for escapism, for deep mental immersion, for suspension of disbelief, for science fiction themes and awareness and for the tropes of cyberpunk. While there are a number of movies that have classified my personal genre of geekdom, there are very few that stand out as 'definitive' movies. The original Alien (another Ridley Scott marvel), Metropolis, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the original Star Wars Trilogy, Akira and a few more all fit into this genre. Movies that I find myself returning to time and again, year after year. Of these, Blade Runner is Number One - The quintessential science fiction masterpiece, a movie that I simply have to watch at least once a year - normally on a rainy winter evening after a drive through the neon-lit, rain drenched urban sprawl.

35 Years later and Director Denis Villeneuve has crafted Blade Runner 2049. Set some 30 years after the events of the original film, the new Blade Runner arrives at a time when a slew of reboots and sequels have hit, overcapitalised by studios ever eager to exploit our nostalgic revelry in favour of that devil of demons: commercialism. So, the question: Does Blade Runner 2049 live up to its predecessor and does it deserve an honourable spot in my list? Or has it fallen by the wayside, and will many just see it 'just like any other machine - neither a benefit nor a hazard.'?

From the outset, Blade Runner 2049 is visually spectacular, a remarkable and fascinating masterpiece of cinematography to behold. It captures all of the elements that made the original such a pleasure to watch. From the gorgeous opening visuals of a futuristic agricultural landscape, to the burnt orange glow of a radioactive wasteland to the dark, grimy, yet synthetically sexy dystopian Los Angeles. The movie manages to not only capture the atmosphere of the original but build onto it in a way that unshackles the visuals from mere nostalgic fan service. I must commend Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins for their spectacular work here. Every scene is perfectly shot, every camera angle superbly rendered. If this is not Oscar-worthy material, then don't bother with the Oscars at all.

While this is the same world of the original Blade Runner, much has changed in the last 30 years. Replicants are still being manufactured, but not by the Tyrell corporation. In 2049 that prestige goes to Jared Leto's Niander Wallace, who's poetically-menacing Ozymandias-like complex inspires a sense of mysticism and fear. The themes from the original are still present and the eternal question as to "What makes us human" still resonates throughout the film but with a deeper, more profound meaning. And while Harrison Ford may have stolen the show as the trench-coat wearing Blade Runner Deckard, it's Ryan Gosling's 'K' who takes centre stage in 2049. While we speculated (and possibly speculate still) as to whether Deckard is a Replicant or not, we know from the very outset that K is indeed a manufactured newer model - created to simply obey.
Gosling simply shines in this role and his progression, from his easy-go, gun-toting Replicant hunter to a deeper, complex and morally challenged  character is the standout performance in the movie. Oh, don't worry, Ford's Deckard is along for the ride too and, true to his character, he is still chugging the whiskey - albeit in a slightly more upmarket post-nuclear wasteland Las Vegas hotel than his old dingy LA apartment.

Without spoiling any of the plot, the 2049 narrative is masterfully written. Even though it uses a plot device to drive the story forward, it is not so much the 'where are we going' as opposed to 'how did we get here?' and in this, I believe, it shines. A few movies have followed similar paths, abandoning the need to exhaust all aspects of the mythology in favour of a better story line (thinking of you Logan :-) For me, this is what makes a movie: a simple, yet solid plot line, that refuses to bow to closure. Because closure in cinema discards all room for mystery, for open-ended discussion and makes the annoying presumption that the audience is stupid and incapable of drawing its own conclusions. Blade Runner 2049, like it's predecessor, does nothing of the sort: It leaves room for interpretation, for pondering and for absorption. This is one movie that you will be thinking about days after and in the end, how you perceive it is your claim to your own 'human-relativity'. The score, while not quite as evocative as Vangelis, is still an audible delight and will be on my track-list for many moons to come.

Apart from Gosling, Ford and Leto, there are a number of excellent performance. In fact, second to Gosling's K, is Ana de Armas's Joi. Her AI holographic character has one of the most complex roles with undertones which border on the philosophical and emotional and manages to capture every scene with powerful beauty. Sylvia Hoeks is poignantly ruthless as the Replicant Luv and Robin Wright's Lieutenant Joshi has some of the best dialogue in the movie. There's even a cameo by Edward James Olmos and yes, he's still folding origami. Dave Bautista's character Sapper Morton is imposing yet gentle and his reference to a miracle is perhaps the underlying reference to the movie as a whole. 

Blade Runner 2049 is indeed a miracle of a sequel. A miracle of a visual and narrative spectacle. Definitely one for the geekdom list. 9.5/10

Be sure to checkout the 3 Blade Runner shorts which prequels the events of 2049, especially the absolutely amazing anime Blackout 2022 by legendary anime filmaker Shinichiro Watanabe (yes, he of Cowboy Bebop fame).

  1. Nexus Dawn:
  2. 2048: Nowhere to Run:
  3. Blackout 2022:

1 comment:

  1. Very well written, this is truely a worthy sequal.

    The most pressing question left at the end of the movie is when will Wallace corp start taking pre-orders for Joi. I need a holographic girlfriend ASAP.


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