Blade Runner 2049

Honestly, when I first heard they were making a sequel I wasn’t thrilled, but once I learnt Denis Villeneuve was involved, I was curious to see what he would manage to produce.

Having watched his previous film, Arrival—based on the original short story, “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang—I felt he had the skill to create an outstanding adaptation. And while listening to an interview, I learnt Denis Villeneuve also happened to be a passionate fan of the original, which was a plus. Of course, I loved the original, for the obvious reasons I reiterated in the Blade Runner review I posted here in the blog. Still, I was skeptical.

I saw Blade Runner way back in the 80s. It was a time when a lot of us were scared and excited about the future. But that was then, and today that future seems partially here. So, while watching 2049 I didn’t share the same emotions I had back then. The foreboding of what was to come, had been replaced with, it’s here, now. Well, somewhat.

Fortunately, after viewing Blade Runner 2049, it turned out to be a splendid sequel, leaving me pleasantly surprised. Denis Villeneuve pays homage to the original, and does so admirably. I can’t wait to see what he does with Dune.

However, some found it to be a long film. And to be truthful, it’s much longer than the original. Two hours and forty-three minutes long to be exact. The original had a running time of under two hours. I didn’t mind the length. It actually gave me ample time to relish in the spectacle, the soundscape and the visually stunning sights, which were staggering. But the film’s length might have accounted for the less than stellar box office performance, possibly hampering a further sequel.

Set 30 years after the original Blade Runner, the earth has waned into a dystopian quagmire. With technology no longer the answer to all our prayers, nor humanities savior from ourselves; but a cold, clinical enslaver.

Due to persistent poverty, only the few—I suppose the rich and powerful—have access to more advanced devices and luxury, and even they seem misplaced from their empathy on a world plagued with mass extinction. Where the distinction between humans and replicants is blurred by a shared ‘quasi-alive’ subsistence. So, in retrospect both films share the same gloomy outlook Philip Dick had for humanity, when he wrote Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep. Exploring what it means to be human and the moral distinctions made between life and simulated-life.

Looking out from ‘K’ Ryan Gosling’s shabby apartment, all one sees is an endless night awash in constant rain against a backdrop of lost hopes. Those hopes play like mirrors in the form of corporation logos and giant holographic images, which tease and tempt at what’s left of our addiction to consumerism.

The film’s soundtrack fails to reach the original’s greatness, one that is often described as mythical, evocative and pristine. But it has its moments of brooding beauty and seismic immersion, and manages moments of subtle ambience. Finally, towards the end, it pays homage to Vangelis’s “Tears in the Rain” with an emotive redux.

As a soundtrack, it’s full of echoes and haunting as hell. Zimmer and Wallfisch did a commendable job, and they were well aware of the fact that it would never match Vangelis’s magnum opus, so they decided not to even try. Though listening to the sweeping suites of “Sea Walls” and “Blade Runner”, one feels they captured ambient elements of the original. And that’s an opinion coming from an amateur soundtrack buff like myself, who also is a huge fan of Vangelis’s work.

The critical response was positive, general consensus calling it an instant classic. Quite an interesting difference in retrospect, if one compares the change of attitudes over the years in relation to the originals initial mixed reactions from film critics of the 80’s.

As a sequel, I would highly recommend it. As does a rewatch, which I intend to do in the not too distant future.