Denis Villeneuve has achieved the impossible by tackling a benchmark sci-fi techno noir without losing its essence. Building on Scott’s original, Blade Runner 2049 surpasses expectations and raises the bar.
Unwanted sequels are commonplace in an industry low on inspiration with money to burn on repackaging, recycling and reintroducing old product. Nowhere does this statement apply more fervently than in relation to Blade Runner. A cult classic of dystopian proportions which disappeared without trace after its initial release in 1982, then found fame through a burgeoning home video boom. Fostered into existence by a hot headed Ridley Scott and featuring an on the cusp film star in Harrison Ford, stories of its troubled production are now legendary. As a movie however its influence on the industry is immeasurable and stands apart as both trailblazer, inspiration and cinematic world building example without equal. Which is why Denis Villeneuve should be commended for making Blade Runner 2049 something which emulates rather than replicates this certified classic.
What Villeneuve has created alongside his director of photography Roger A. Deakins and production designer Dennis Gassner is a techno noir which lives and breathes. Brutal concrete architecture drenched in snow dappled neon, distracts our attention from high rise, techno savvy single cell rabbit hutches. Anonymity through overpopulation where a new generation hunts outdated “skin jobs” at the behest of an omnipotent corporation. By embracing sweeping vistas, panoramic plateaus and mountains of derelict hardware, Deakins, Villeneuve and Gassner have given us a tangible sense of time and place.
Performances from the principle players are uniformly low key, measured, nuanced and a touch clinical. Sylvia Hoeks as Luv is emotionally ambivalent, cold-bloodedly efficient and detached in her application of violence. Every role save Deckard instils the same level of icy detachment into a world where real humanity has all but disappeared. Ana de Armas as Joi also deserves mentioning as companion to Ryan Gosling’s K, making a potentially one note performance something altogether more rounded. What Ford brings to the table however is character miles. Deckard has a lived in feeling which translates on screen into heart breaking moments of pathos, giving Ford somewhere substantial to go emotionally whilst providing him with closure.
However this Blade Runner belongs to all of them not just those actors on the billboard. Each one from Robin Wright through to Jared Leto and those in between commit fully to making this world live. Original screenwriter Hampton Fancher joins forces with American Gods’ Michael Green to give Villeneuve and company a world thirty years on but still recognisable. Effects are seamlessly interwoven or practically done in camera further grounding this world for the audience. Plot is simply achieved with minimal fuss allowing things to evolve at their own pace. That being said pacing is glacial, mood is everything and narrative progression pedestrian at best. However the experience is worth the running time and a recommended second viewing.
For myself and many others Denis Villeneuve has achieved the impossible by tackling a benchmark sci-fi techno noir without losing its essence. Not only building on Scott’s original but in many respects surpassing expectations and raising the bar.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright
Released: 2017 / Genre: Science-Fiction
Country: USA / IMDB
Blade Runner 2049 is available NOW on Digital Download, 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™, DVD and Limited Edition 2-Disc Blu-ray™.