Blade Runner 2049: A Runaway Success
By Ryan O’Donnell
The year was 1982. Wayne Gretzky was firing slap shots left and right, Jelly Belly sales were at an all-time high thanks to the President who “won one for the Gipper,” and anyone with either the name Jenny or the number 867-5309, no longer wanted to get out of bed in the morning. In the midst of pop culture, a strange new movie named Blade Runner was quietly released into theaters, boasting game-changing special effects, exciting storytelling, and a thriving new star named Harrison Ford. Despite these factors, the film flopped at the box office like a fish out of water and split opinions down the middle. Over time, critics and audiences have re-evaluated the picture and given it a much more warming welcome. The film still retains an overwhelming cult following and has been considered one of the greatest science-fiction films ever made. The American Film Institute even placed it on their list of the 100 greatest films in the history of American cinema. Now, 35 years later, a long-awaited sequel has been released into theaters.
Rather surprisingly, Blade Runner 2049 took a responsible approach by remaining faithful to its source material. Instead of merely rehashing old plot points and elements with corny dialogue delivered by uncharismatic actors, Blade Runner 2049 continues the deep philosophical themes provided by the iconic original. This is all topped off with colorful characters played ably by an ensemble cast of Harrison Ford, Emmy Award winner Robin Wright (Forrest Gump, Netflix’s House of Cards), Academy Award winner Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club, Fight Club), and Golden Globe winner Ryan Gosling (The Notebook, La La Land). These themes include sanctity of life, what it means to be a human, and environmental preservation. The picture outshines its predecessor in the fields of special effects and cinematography, with big thanks to direction from the acclaimed Denis Villenue (Prisoners, Arrival) and veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men). This is evident from the opening scene, as K soars through an eye-popping view of dystopian Los Angeles in his spacecraft.
The film starts out with a lonely detective named K (Gosling) hunting down Replicants, which are described in the opening prologue as man-made robots designed by the now-bankrupt Tyrell Corporation who have been made unlawful on Earth after a series of brutal and violent revolts against authority. In the midst of his treacherous and often brutally violent quest for the Replicants, K begins to question his own existence and the meaning of life. During his hunt, he discovers vital clues that could lead to a dangerous Replicant rebellion.
Blade Runner 2049’s biggest success comes from its aforementioned jaw-dropping visuals, special effects, and cinematography. Every setting in the film seems as if the audience is inside the movie themselves, from the ruins of dystopian versions of Las Vegas and San Diego to the flash flood where the film’s brutal final fight scene takes place. On top of this, the film is brought to life by awesome performances, especially from the villainous Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), henchman of the Replicant-designing Wallace Corporation’s CEO Niander Wallace (Leto). She fills the shoes of Rutger Hauer, the veteran actor who portrayed the antagonistic Replicant Roy Batty in the original Blade Runner, with her fierce line delivery and sympathetic yet questionable motives. This is subtle but becomes gradually more evident throughout the movie as she cries human tears while committing a murder. Among this, she appears as a good foil to complement Detective K. While K represents a desire for change and freedom in life, Luv seems to symbolize the painful sacrifices a human must make to achieve change and freedom.
Like most films, Blade Runner 2049 is not completely exempt from having a flaw or two. Harrison Ford’s screen time is rather limited despite being advertised in much of the film’s marketing campaign. As a matter of fact, the advertising for the movie seemed to be based mostly on nostalgia for the original film, which is unfortunate, since the sequel is original in its own right. This factor has been pointed to by film buffs and critics as a large reason behind the disappointing box office returns of Blade Runner 2049, which grossed $241.4 million on a budget of nearly $175 million. With a money loss of nearly $80 million, it looks to be a contender for the biggest box office bomb of 2017. This is quite a shame, since the picture is truly worth seeing overall; some are even declaring it as a potential dark horse at the next Academy Awards ceremony.
Although the film’s many plot twists can be confusing at times, they help keep the story intriguing while retaining the darkness and thrills of its predecessor. It may not be quite as satisfying as the original, but Blade Runner 2049 is a very pleasing follow-up to the sci-fi classic, boasting stellar acting, gorgeous cinematography, stunning visuals, and an exciting plot. Rating: 9/10
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Hampton Fancher and Michael Green
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Sylvia Hoeks, Ana de Armas
Running time: 2 hr 43 min
Genre: Science fiction