Thirty-five years after the original cult-classics release, Blade Runner 2049 has continued the universe of Blade Runner, while adding new age elements and improving upon its prior.
Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, in his first work since Arrival last year, has created a stunningly beautiful film - a seemingly hallucinatory, sensory odyssey through landscape and light. Although incorporating visual jump-offs seen in the original, 2049 pushes into a different reality. From creating a ghost-town Vegas, cyberpunk LA streets, all the way to an endless junkyard, the world of 2049 is the fantasy of unforgiving soulless capitalism. The artistry of this fever dream is most comparable to that of pornography; nothing is real and yet everything is available.
Gosling’s performance as 'K' highlights characteristics of Harrison Ford's original character, and he has considerably bulked up since last year’s La La Land. His naturally charismatic demeanour is back in the impassive and aloof mode of “Drive” (2011) and “Only God Forgives” (2013), to create a character who’s every bit inscrutable as he is cool.
Blade Runner vs. 2049
Let’s start with the most blatant comparison. Ridley Scott masterfully directed the 1982 film, using a slow-burn approach that gave audiences the opportunity to take note and soak in the immense detail of a dystopian 2019 L.A.
Denis Villeneuve is one of the most exciting directors in Hollywood today, however he uses a similar, patient approach to create a deserving sequel. Villeneuve’s version is an achievement in itself, more epic and ambitious than the original, not letting a bigger budget hinder the vision.
The original Blade Runner has an overarching narrative that ends up being fairly simple. It sends Deckard off on a breadcrumb-quest to ‘retire’ replicants. It is a movie shaped as much by its style and themes as it is by the plot, which compliments the minimalistic approach.
And although 2049 finds its narrative built off the foundation laid out by the original, it is more ambitious, and far less repetitive in its investigative approach, and has more than one aspect of the movie to follow at once. It retains specific mysteries while creating new ones, and manages to do a good job standing alone.
One main aspect of the 2049 that falls short of the original is the score. Vangelis created a synth-driven, jazzy score that stood out as a main element. It still stands peerless in the sci-fi genre in comparison to the approach Villeneuve took.
Although just like in his recent work in Dunkirk, Hans Zimmer's composition references the original 1982 score whilst subtly forming its own being. The singular thumping gunshot percussion that opens the 1982 film is present and beats through this film like a foreboding advance of fate as other themes reoccur to recreate a sense of melancholy and loss. Zimmer is perfectly able to honour the original score, while placing his own signature, bombastic mark on the film.
Blade Runner 2049 is not the film audiences have grown accustomed to watching. The pace occasionally puts the plot in the foreground and some story elements are introduced only to drift away to the land of potential sequels. It can easily be misunderstood because it requires consistent attention, a markedly different experience then the action movies we have grown accustomed to watching that feature little more than intervaled explosion scenes. But Villeneuve has managed to create a thoughtful piece of sci-fi, which surpasses the gravitational pull of its inspiration to become a vast improvement of Blade Runner.