How does one make a truly great sequel to one of the most iconic science fictions of all time without pissing off the original fan base and also giving something new to those not familiar with the material?
The answer is simple – hire director Denis Villeneuve and team him up with Roger Deakins.
Blade runner 2049 is much more than the film you expect it to be - a visual masterpiece, but also a mainstream storytelling triumph.
It’s an intelligent, challenging piece of big budget cinema you see so rarely nowadays. It’s not just a faithful continuation of the Blade Runner mythology but also the beginning of a whole new direction into the franchise, a peek into the vast possibilities of a dark, neon lit futuristic world full of desensitized human and even darker androids.
The best way to enjoy Blade Runner 2049 is to go in completely blind, not knowing absolutely any plot details. In fact the screening I attended had a note by Villeneuve himself urging us not to disclose any key details of the plot to others.
All you need to know is – the film picks up a few years after the events of the first one. The world that was built continues to exist, and androids from the Nexus 6 program continue to be hunted by the task force of Blade Runners. Ryan Gosling plays K, a Blade Runner whose mundane day at work eliminating Replicants turns more interesting when he chances upon a box buried outside a house. The discovery sets him on a path that will shake the entire foundation of everything he knows about the world he lives in.
The best thing about the film is how Villeneuve and his writers Hampton Fancher and Michael Green lead us expertly into the mystery and begin to uncover said mystery in drips, making you piece together the puzzle. There’s a prevalent sense of something sinister going on, a darker force at work and secrets lingering everywhere K turns.
The other home run of the film is the showcase of futuristic technology to portray how humans would ultimately find actual human contact unnecessary. The film cleverly uses this piece to give K’s life an emotional connect, as well as a key bit of detailing that helps K uncover the mystery.
Then there’s the extraordinary atmosphere - built by the terrific cinematography and production design that makes you lose yourself in this world. Nearly every frame is a like a beautiful cyberpunk painting, almost showy at times. When it’s not an enhancement of the dark blue neon from the original film, the film is bright desolate orange like the images from the 2009 sand storm in Australia.
If Deakins does not finally receive the Oscar for this one it’s time for the Academy to shut down. Gosling is perfectly cast, and you’re better off not knowing anything about the rest of the characters in the film.
The other big accomplishment of the film is how it addresses some of the questions and fan theories that the original film generated. Once those questions are finally answered, it really does feel like a film made by a whole team of people who worshipped the 1982 film, and wanted to live up to it rather than making a cash grab.
Watch it on the biggest screen possible the soonest you can.