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Blade Runner 2049 Review

By Kelson Howerton
On October 13, 2017

On June 35, 1982, Ridley Scott’s third film “Blade Runner” released theatrically, sparking the cyberpunk genre and serving as one of the greatest influences to film and entertainment moving forward. Adapted from the novel “Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep” by Phillip K. Dick, “Blade Runner” tackled themes of humanity and what it means to have a soul as it explored a world populated with replicants, bioengineered humans created for slave labor, and blade runners, those whose job it is to hunt down and “retire” rogue replicants. 

    Now 35 years later, Ridley Scott has passed the torch to director Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Sicario,” “Prisoners”) for the long-awaited but much-debated sequel to Scott’s cult classic. Set 30 years after the events of the original film, “Blade Runner 2049” is centered around a new generation of blade runner, officer K, played by the charmingly talented Ryan Gosling. 

    Over those thirty years, the world of “Blade Runner” has seen some big changes. Tyrell Corporation, the company that created replicants and carried humanity to the stars, has been replaced by Wallace Corporation, headed by the blind visionary Niander Wallace, who perfected the work of Tyrell through replicants who always obey. It’s also evident that “2049’s” world is further in the future, as it has a cleaner art direction that seems to put a greater emphasis on “cyber” than “punk.”

    Like the original film, “Blade Runner 2049” is a technical marvel. Everything from its cinematography, editing and sound design is an accomplishment in film. Thanks to the work of veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins, every shot is brimming with color and detail, delivering one of the most visually stunning films to ever hit theaters. The gorgeous visuals and sound design of the film are married perfectly with a beautiful score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, which sets itself apart while paying homage to “Blade Runner’s” legendary score by Vangelis. Much like other Villeneuve films, “2049’s music does not feel like a part of the score, but rather as if it is a living part of the film’s sound design, producing a film totally dependent on sound and music. 

    Unlike the original film, “2049” focuses less on world-building as its primary narrative device and more on unearthing a griping mystery through K’s story. As what starts as a usual day on the job for K evolves into a much larger plot, “Blade Runner 2049” leads its audience down a winding narrative that causes viewers to question what they believe to be true about the film’s world.

    With his performance of K, Gosling cements himself as one of Hollywood’s silent greats. While each and every one of his lines is expertly delivered, the intricacies of Gosling’s character shine through most when he isn’t speaking. In these moments, we get a glimpse into K’s deep loneliness and longing to be someone unique in a world where perfection is mass-produced. While this might sound similar to Harrison Ford’s Deckard, Gosling more than fills the enormous shoes left to him. 

    K’s character is at his best when he is accompanied by love interest Joi (Ana de Armas). Without spoiling much of Joi’s character, the dynamic between her and K is an interesting take on a common sci-fi trope that reveals much about K’s character. K and Joi are joined by some equally interesting characters, including Jared Leto’s god-like Niander Wallace, his replicant assistant/assassin Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), and of course, the returning blade runner retiree, Deckard. 

    While “2049” takes the franchise to new audiovisual heights, the film doesn’t do much new with the genre, following similar sci-fi tropes as the original film and countless other sci-fi films that followed it, nor does the sequel tread any new philosophical ground. However, it does present an incredibly gripping narrative that kept me engrossed throughout every moment of the film, despite its nearly three-hour long run time.

    While the overall pace is slow, staying true to the pacing of the original film, “Blade Runner 2049” is worth the journey for its engaging story and breath-taking audiovisuals. A rare sequel that doesn’t bastardize its franchise, “2049” is a film that understands its origins and successfully carries the franchise to the modern day, resulting in an incredible cinema experience that deserves to be seen and heard in the best theater available.

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