There are very few films that are released that are presented as one genre and transform into another and the viewing becomes more of an experience than a movie. Blade Runner 2049 did exactly that. Like the original film that was released in 1982, it as a story that belongs mainly in a drama category but is dropped into a science fiction world, and all those elements become an additional character that the audience just wants to see more of. As times are changing and films like this are becoming more widely recognized for excellence instead of just popcorn thrill rides, many elements of this film could very well capture attention of the right crowds as award season approaches.
With an award winning team behind the scenes and on screen, every aspect of this film is like taking a handful of ecstasy for a movie fan. Director Denis Villeneuve was the perfect captain to put at the helm of this massive project. And after the awe-inspiring spectacle that was Arrival, starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner and won an Oscar for Sound Editing dnd was nominated for 7 more including Best Picture and Best Director, Blade Runner 2049 was a sensible next step. With his previous films, Villeneuve has proven himself as a capable director with stories that transcend the screen. The sights, the sounds, and the incredible sets whether real or of complete digital design transports the audience into the story and a different world, which ultimately… is exactly what a film is supposed to do.
Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, this film pulls the audience into their world and won’t let go.
One of the best things about this film considering it is actually a sequel, is that it can be viewed with or without actually seeing the first film. The critical information needed from the first one to enjoy the storyline is presented throughout this film. However, audience members that have seen the first film will be able to enjoy and understand it on a deeper and more compelling level.
The one downside with the film is that the pace is slow. For those that have seen the original, this will be no surprise. For those that haven’t, they might see it as a snooze fest. If people are going to see this film for a big action roller coaster from beginning to end, they will be sorely disappointed. Like the first film, it is a compelling psychological drama that is dropped into a futuristic and science fiction world. What it lacks in a fast paced and action packed storyline, it makes up in everything else. The script, although pieced and weaved together slowly, is a writer’s dream. Jam packed with metaphor, archetypes and the age old question that many writers try to answer ‘What does it mean to be human…?’, the story takes a hold of your heart and pulls you along with it.
Whether human or replicant, the characters are deep, complex and reveal the most vulnerable parts of the human condition
Along with those deeply compelling characters on the page, they were brought to life perfectly on screen. Ryan Gosling portrays K, a replicant and new a generation of Blade Runner. He’s proved that he can hold the title of leading man very well. But walking in the footsteps of Harrison Ford, who once again takes on his role as Rick Deckard, is no small feat… and he wears the shoes well. Although K is a replicant, he is one of the most human characters in the entire story. In a time when the world has overcome devastation and created a synthetic race for slave labor, there is no one more human than their actual creations. The range of emotion that Ryan Gosling is able to convey without dialogue is impressive. And that emotion is even deeper when he shares the screen with Ana de Armas, who plays K’s holographic love interest, Joi.
Although Joi can easily be seen as a representation of everything that is stereotypical for women in film, that is one of the best things about her. In the end, those first impressions are absolutely wrong. Although a hologram, Joi serves as K’s partner in a strange way. Not just in accompanying him while he searches for clues for this case, but almost as if she is filling up the human parts of himself that he’s missing on this search while he goes through an identity crisis. Joi’s presence becomes essential on his journey of discovery and their chemistry pulls you along with him.
But Joi is not the only great female character. There is also Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), K’s direct boss, and Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) who is the direct antagonist and another replicant. One of the best things about these two women, is they are not that different. Where Joi is more loving and feminine, Joshi and Luv are tough and brutal. They both take their jobs seriously and do what they have to do, but one is human and the other is a replicant. Joshi treats K almost like an adoptive son, and Luv treats Wallace (Jared Leto) like a father. Their dynamic is brilliant. In a future world that focuses on basic needs and is entirely pessimistic, these three female characters rise above what could be their cookie cutter roles and give them depth and their own versions of love and loyalty.
Then there’s Jared Leto. He may only be on screen for 3 or 4 scenes, but he steals absolutely every frame that he’s in. His portrayal of Wallace, the creator of the new generation of replicants, is haunting and subtly terrifying. Even though he is blind, Wallace is a giant. A man that you clearly don’t want to mess with. He may be hindered by a disability, but it doesn’t give a disadvantage at all. The best thing about Leto’s performance is the voice and the way that he delivered his lines. In contrast to his presence on screen, the voice is soft and loving, which made it all the more intimidating, especially when he’s promising pain. Yet another slam dunk of a performance from the Oscar winner.
The design and visual effects push at the boundaries and throw the industry into a new era of high expectation
What is destined to be the most memorable thing about this film is the sights and sounds. This isn’t just a film, it’s an experience. The deep tones of the the score, commanded by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, shake you to the core and actually make your chest vibrate, even in a regular theater. (I can only imagine what it’s like in an IMAX theater, which I absolutely recommend!). The score enhances the character that the enormous sets project on screen and fill those walls with character. How this film looked and sounded were the two best nods to the original film and extremely 80’s without actually looking too nostalgic. It reminds you about what you loved about science fiction in that time period, when CGI really just started getting extremely imaginative and these types of films started to become possible. Now, when filmmakers can do almost anything on screen, finally the audience can see and listen to this world the way that Ridley Scott envisioned it the first time.
The lighting and design of this film is masterful and Oscar winning Production Designer Dennis Gassner is responsible. The effect of the moving lighting on the Wallace Corporation sets puts the viewer off balance and almost uncomfortable, especially when Wallace himself is on the screen. It serves as an enhancement for the eerie presence of his character. That is exactly what it does for every different character and separate setting.
This film is a drug for every sci-fi fan, and it comes with a dozen heart eyes emojis.
For me, this was one of the most anticipated films of the year, and it absolutely didn’t disappoint. I am a huge fan of Director Denis Villeneuve. In my opinion, Arrival is one of the best films in years. I walked out of the theater in absolute awe, and for the second time in a row, he has done it to me again. I can’t even count how many times I was smiling an idiot and flailing in my seat over something. Whether it was the score, or the lighting or Jared Leto’s performance, I just couldn’t sit still because every aspect of this film excited me. An aspiring screenwriter, I love film. And I love when creators push the boundaries of what’s possible on screen. That’s what I live for. The way that this film brought a story to life made my heart just explode from my chest.
I’m a huge fan of the action and science fiction/fantasy genres. For many years I have longed for this category to get the recognition that it deserves. Although it’s happening very slowly (like Mad Max winning a number of awards last year), for me, it’s not coming fast enough. My hope for this film is that Denis Villeneuve gets the praise that he deserves. He isn’t just a director, he is a masterful visual storyteller. Everything on screen, is there for a purpose. And not many people know how to transcend a movie into an actual experience, and this man has done so with two films in a row. In my opinion, it deserves nominations in Directing, Score, Visual Effects, Sound Editing and Production Design at the least. Although I can hope for some acting and a Best Picture nod, I’m not too sure the Academy will please me that much. At least not yet. But you won’t hear me complaining if they do. In fact, I might actually cry.
Final Verdict: Despite a few flaws in pacing, Blade Runner 2049 delivers on every level for a transporting experience and will change the genre of science fiction forever
It’s been an amazing year for film, and Blade Runner 2049 is definitely should be in the conversation for best films of the year. It may be an acquired taste, because just like the original, it’s not for everyone. But anyone that’s a fan of film and a fan of science fiction is going to drool all over this film. It has action, an incredible score, compelling characters and stunning visuals. And you can never go wrong with Harrison Ford and some kick ass ladies. Although I am not the biggest fan of 3D, I definitely recommend to at least see this film in IMAX. It’s well worth the time, money and the 163 minutes of runtime. Be prepared to be amazed. This film makes us remember that science fiction can be cool and stunning.