“Sometimes to love someone… you’ve got to be a stranger.”
Denis Villeneuve, one of the critically acclaimed directors of this generation for his works on sci-fi Arrival, crime thrillers like Prisoners, Sicario, Enemy & his first devastating masterpiece in mainstream cinema Incendies, brings a long-awaited sequel of a well-known neo-noir classic Blade Runner (1982) and the most anticipated movie of the year 2017.
Taking over the reins of a cult classic like Blade Runner from Ridley Scott is not easy to say the least but undoubtedly Denis delivers a masterpiece which does justice to the original. Also, the 1982 prequel has an interesting history of its own as it was a box office failure when it was released first perhaps due to the release of ET around the same time, a fate shared by another cult classic ‘The Thing’ which was released during that time as well. But Blade Runner gathered cult status over the years with as many as seven versions of the film being released post it’s theatrical run with the latest being the ‘Final Cut’ released by Ridley Scott in 2007. It was of course a challenge for Villeneuve to pick the version he wanted to keep as the reference for the sequel. However, Villeneuve has clarified that the Original Cut (Theatrical version) and the Final Cut (2007) are the sources for his inspiration & reference points for the sequel.
The first & the foremost element which separates it from all the other movies – the cinematographic feat of Roger Deakins (Skyfall, Sicario), it’s is worthy of an Oscar. From the color palette to the attractive aesthetics, each shot is meticulously worked upon to give an enormous IMAX worthy experience of a dystopian future. Such level of cinematography is missing in big budget sci-fi movies like the superhero movies or the Star Trek & Star Wars movies.
The sequel is set 30 years after the original, where agent K (Ryan Gosling), an LAPD agent and a Blade Runner while on a mission to retire an old replicant (Dave Bautista), stumbles upon a shocking secret that could change the course of mankind and replicants. The startling discovery also catches the attention of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) whose Wallace Corporation controls everything in the dystopian future. K’s quest for the truth brings him face to face with the reclusive Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) and the showdown between the two is spectacular and would go down as one of the most memorable scenes in the recent cinematic history. Incidentally during the shoot, Ford accidentally landed a punch on Gosling once and later invited the actor for a drink to make up for it.
The other crucial character which gave an emotional touch to the movie was Joi (Ana de Armas), an AI application for commercial use (sounds like the 2013 movie Her). The interactions between K & Joi might be the only normal or soothing moments in the movie. Their love has a limitation- it can’t be expressed physically. Their emotions & desires can’t be felt- this is an important question which has earlier been raised in Steven Spielberg’s AI & Spike Jonze’s Her.
The background music & direction is in sync with the original piece but it still has its own unique identity which sets a benchmark. After all it has been composed by none other than Hans Zimmer. The direction is a bit different from the original piece, but the long range wide-angle shots are something which fans are familiar with ‘Arrival’. The flying cop car is the perfect angle to provide a view of the dystopian world.
Overall, the tone of the movie is darker & complex as compared to the original. The climax may not satisfy all the viewers as it opens the door to another story. However, it should be kept in mind that this is not serving as a rework of Blade Runner but a continuation of the story which ended Deckard’s (Ford) journey in Blade Runner. It raises few more questions- If replicants are capable then will they be allowed to lead the mankind? Can they develop emotions? Is enslaving replicants a humane act? And more importantly –a world which is witnessing a climate change, is it staring straight into a dystopian future like the film?
Blade Runner 2049 is a strong Oscar contender at least in technical categories- original score, visuals, cinematography, sound.
A magnum opus by Denis Villeneuve. A visually stunning masterpiece of the year!