In 1982, a filmmaker named Ridley Scott (‘Alien’, ‘Gladiator’, ‘The Martian’) took us to a world never before imagined by the human mind. In this world lied breathtaking sights, new and innovative technology, and ideas that would shape life as we know it for the future. No matter how many times this world has been revisited, it still manages to captivate all who visit it to this day, remaining a cultural phenomenon and an experience to witness; it was the world of ‘Blade Runner’! Now, 35 years later, Director Denis Villeneuve (‘Arrival’, ‘Sicario’) takes us back to that same world; only this time, almost everything has changed. The sights we saw have evolved into colorful giants of virtuality and 3-dimensional realism; and while some of the technology remained the same, the world itself has expanded into a bigger, fully realized city of danger and possibilities; The year is now 2049!
As different as it feels, I was blown away by the world of ‘Blade Runner’ more than I was when I first immersed myself in Scott’s vision of the future; there was not much than what I have mentioned above to be the mind-blowing experience I wished it was the first time around. Here, in Villeneuve’s vision of ‘2049’, there is more of an experience with its many settings and breathtaking feel; even Hans Zimmer’s score is booming with drums and synth. I do not know if it is the theater a friend and I went to see this movie at, its quality, or surround sound that did the trick; but the experience I had watching ‘Blade Runner 2049’ is nothing short of epic, beautiful, and one for the books.
The world of ‘2049’ is quite complex in storytelling and character arc – making the original ‘Blade Runner’ feel simple to navigate; while Villeneuve does bring archival moments and elements of Scott’s futuristic world, ‘2049’ manages to stand on its own; feeling fresh and new, making for a visual experience for the senses. Every scene from beginning to end is a feast of style thanks to the cinematography of Roger Deakins. You can feel the storm of a desert, the dust of a crumbling building, the wetness of rising waters, and the chill of snow. All these effects and imagery add to the experience of a future almost 30 years from now. (If we are still around by then.)
Yet, what is a futuristic universe without the characters to inhabit it? While the original inhabitants of the ‘Blade Runner’ world are dead and gone, or are merely visitors to provide fan service, (Even Rick Deckard – as integral to the plot as he is – is just another way for Harrison Ford to return to a franchise he seemed to left behind years ago.) ‘2049’ is filled with a who’s-who of A-listers and attractive up-and-comers you can tell will get more work after this movie. One of the said A-listers being Ryan Gosling succeeding Ford in the role of LAPD officer K. Like the man (or machine — depending on your interpretation of the original ‘Blade Runner’s ambiguous ending.) before him, K is a blade runner. In case you were not up to date, a “Blade Runner” is a special police unit tasked with the killing (or “retiring”) of replicants (Bio-engineered humans made by the Tyrell Corporation for the use of slave labor.) who have gone rogue. While Oscar-winner Jared Leto plays Niander Wallace; the founder of Wallace Corporation.
While I would love to say more, I feel I may be giving too much away, and want others to indulge in Villeneuve’s majesty. Science-Fiction is supposed to be a mysterious and complex creature that dazzles with visual splendor. (and, perhaps, get at least an Oscar mention for “Visual Effects”) Talking about epic science-fiction (or anything close to the adjective) in detail is like a magician performing his greatest trick too soon, while spoon-feeding his audience along the way. It will only ruin the magic. Instead, it is best to just let the audience figure out its complexity and immerse themselves in movie-making magic. It is a shame that ‘2049’ is not doing well in the box-office, (despite taking the number 1 spot over the weekend!) so relax, go out, and enjoy one of the best experiences of the year.