A young Blade Runner’s discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for thirty years.
“Cinematic Masterpiece” are not words I use very often when critiquing movies. Maybe that’s because they’re relics from the past. The original #BladeRunner, #TheGodfather, #DanceswithWolves, #TheSilenceoftheLambs, modern cinematic masterpieces. And if you go further back in time, you have #2001ASpaceOdyssey, #LawrenceofArabia, #TheSearchers, and #GoneWiththeWind. See my point? You don’t often hear that phrase to describe a lot of modern films and that is because it is a lost art. Today’s pictures are filled with spectacle, groundbreaking special effects, and 3D images that literally pop off the screen but in amongst all of the onscreen magic which is designed to blow your senses away, something is missing, character development, story exposition, and authenticity, to name but a few.
While #BladeRunner2049 most certainly falls under the science fiction banner, it is also very believable and that is what director #RidleyScott achieved with his groundbreaking 1982 original, and I think it is that one element that caused the movie to flop upon its initial release. People were still high on the excitement and wonderment of #StarWars and #ET and they probably walked into “Blade Runner” expecting more of the same. Boy were they in for a rude awakening. While it bombed at the box office, it eventually found its audience on home entertainment and over the past 35 years, it has grown into a cultural phenomenon, with seven different versions of the film now available on Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD.
Scott’s dystopian vision of the future (the film was made in 1982 but was set in #LosAngeles in 2019) was dark, foreboding, and constantly bleak. It was a future that not many people could warm to and I think that was Scott’s intention all along. He didn’t want to create a story where, for example, like “Star Wars,” it was filled with bright colors and fantastical images, instead, he wanted to go the other way. Back in the ’80s, air pollution was rampant worldwide (especially in L.A. where the movie was filmed) from atmospheric pollutants and Scott infused his movie with it, with practically all of the scenes taking place at night, in the pouring, acidic rain. Scott also interspersed the use of practical effects with miniature models and they were so convincing at the time that to this day, it is still virtually impossible to try and tell some of them apart. The film was dirty and grungy, and it made you want to take a shower after watching it.
With “Blade Runner 2049,” Scott has stepped away from the director’s chair and has instead, handed the reigns over to #DenisVilleneuve, the man responsible for #Prisoners, #Enemy, #Sicario, and the brilliant sci-fi drama, #Arrival. With his vision, instead of trying to recreate Scott’s world, he expands upon it. While the story takes place thirty years later, it still feels very much like the Los Angeles we were introduced to back in 1982. And like our real world, it seems to have cleaned up somewhat. Make no mistake, it is still an overcrowded cesspool of lowlifes, hoodlums, and outcasts, but it is also populated by good people and the occasional replicant, and that is where the story begins.
We are introduced to K (#RyanGosling), an L.A. cop, also known as a Blade Runner. His job is to track down #replicants, bioengineered androids who were manufactured in the past for one reason: slave labor. Known as #Nexus6, and later, #Nexus8 models, they have now been outlawed. Upon their inception, they were given four-year lifespans but as many of them began to think for themselves and develop human character traits and emotions, like love and hate, they demanded longer lives. When they were refused, they rebelled, and in the process, killed many innocent people. In the thirty or more years since their banishment, those left, whose lifespans did not run out, have dispersed across the country and have done their best to blend in with everybody else, working as farmers, or in general labor positions.
K lands on a rural farm which is owned and operated by Sapper Morton (#DaveBautista), a Nexus-8 model replicant who is just trying to get on with his life. K tells him that if he doesn’t return with him to police headquarters, he will be forced to “retire” him. Sapper refuses and the two men fight it out. When K manages to get the upper hand, he shoots Sapper. K asks him as he dies, why he didn’t just comply, and Sapper responds with, “because you have never seen a real miracle.” After returning to headquarters and being commended for getting the job done, Sapper’s last words keep coming back to haunt him. He returns to Sapper’s land and using his police vehicle, is able to take photographs of the entire property, above ground and below. When one of the photographs reveals a hidden object buried deep beneath the soil, he has it dug up. When he returns it to his superior officer, Lieutenant Joshi (#RobinWright), upon further inspection, she threateningly instructs him to destroy the evidence. He agrees but behind her back, decides to investigate the clues himself, which leads him on a fantastic but deadly journey of self-discovery, and to the whereabouts of a former Blade Runner, #RickDeckard (#HarrisonFord), who disappeared thirty years earlier and who might just hold the answers K is looking for.
After the movie finished, all attending press were asked by a #WarnerBros rep, on behalf of the film’s director, Denis Villeneuve, and producer, Ridley Scott, to not talk about certain plot points and key elements of the story that could be considered spoilers so you will notice that this critique is pretty vague. And that’s okay because if I were to have done a thorough review, it would have been difficult to not talk about specific elements of the script without giving a lot of it away.
“Blade Runner 2049” never once tries to reinvent the cinematic wheel, instead, it continues the story that began with the 1982 original. The cinematography by #RogerDeakins (#NoCountryforOldMen, #TrueGrit, #Skyfall) is absolutely stunning and wonderful to behold. Los Angeles is still dominated by huge neon signs and giant billboards advertising everything from #CocaCola to #PanAm and #Atari and Deakins’ lenses allow us to fly high in and around the city, absorbing every grungy, squalid rooftop, but also the never-ending urban jungle in the streets below. While composer #Vangelis created a hauntingly evocative and memorable score for “Blade Runner,” for its new iteration, #HansZimmer and #BenjaminWallfisch have taken over and while chords from Vangelis’ original score can be heard periodically, the new soundtrack is more of a homage to Vangelis than an original work of art.
Ryan Gosling does a fine job as K. As a Blade Runner, like Deckard before him, he is thrown headfirst into the thick of things and has to rely on his smarts and sometimes, physical aptitude, to work his way out. Watching him decipher the mystery we have all been waiting 35 years for, is both exciting and fulfilling. Harrison Ford, as always, shines brightly, and although he only appears later on in the movie, when he reminisces about the past and those who were a part of it, we find ourselves also getting caught up in the moment, a testament to Ford’s impassioned portrayal of the character. While the film does answer many questions hinted at the end of the first movie, it also raises many more in the process. While some are answered by the end of the show, some still remain. Whether there will be another “Blade Runner” film down the road, remains to be seen, and a lot of that will depend on how well this does at the box office. As it stands, “Blade Runner 2049” is a monumental achievement in science fiction, it surpasses all expectations and deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible.
In theaters Friday, October 6th
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