By Russell Zazueta
In Blade Runner 2049, it still rains all the time, and the Tyrell Corp. that created the first line of androids called replicants, has long been out of business.
Director Denis Villeneuve, who also directed Sicario (2015), does a wonderful job in preserving the heavy-industrial, prison-like world that Blade Runner gave us when it premiered in 1982. The visuals are stunning and the story stays true to the original.
It’s a good note for those who don’t care for slow-paced films, but this is a movie where the cameras don’t flip-flop from character to character every couple of seconds. The movie sits on scenes longer than usual to capture moments of dialogue and mood in greater detail. As a result, the movie’s pulse is slow and steady.
The film takes place in Los Angeles 30 years after the first film, where replicants are still a slave race, mining resources on other planets to sustain life on earth.
The Wallace Corp. has taken over replicant manufacturing on earth. Its corporate headquarters in the center of the city towers over every building, making it clear that the Wallace Corp. is the wealthiest, if not the most powerful, business around.
The story centers around a blade runner named K (Ryan Gosling), a cop who hunts down obsolete replicants manufactured by the Tyrell Corp. and is very good at his job. He is indeed a new-model replicant, and like all androids, has superhuman strength, is resistant to pain and rarely misses a target.
Gosling plays the perfect stone-faced personality, not revealing much emotion, and in return, the audience is given an idea of the subtle difference in android and human behavior. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between the two races. Androids are essentially human clones, but during fight scenes and gunfire, there’s no question who isn’t human.
This is a movie with a tasteful director. Although the movie does entertain us a lot with high-octane explosions and battles, he doesn’t sacrifice the film’s more important dramatic themes of existentialism and love over an android’s slick abilities in combat. In other words, the action aids the storytelling instead of burying it.
Harrison Ford reprises his role as the retired blade runner Rick Deckard. In the first movie, he falls in love with a replicant named Rachel and disappears with her without a trace. It’s never been clear if Deckard is human or a replicant and it’s a great reason to go watch 2049.
During K’s investigation of Deckard, he walks the claustrophobic, crowded streets of L.A., during which more of the city’s bizarre culture is revealed. In the future, there are flying vehicles projecting Japanese geishas on big screens. There are giant holograms of Japanese ballerinas dancing around the street. There are replicant hookers and alleys full of grinning thugs. It’s a dangerous place, and much hasn’t changed in the city since 2019.
Edward James Olmos returns as Gaff, now a retired police officer living in a retirement home.
K pays a visit to him during his investigation of Deckard. Gaff’s an old friend of Deckard’s and has nothing to say. His role in the movie is moot, but it’s cool to see him again, especially the origami figures he used as his calling card in the first movie.
The film doesn’t explain much about any U.S. government involvement or its relation to the Wallace Corp., but it introduces Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), leader of the corporation. Leto plays a convincing corporate tycoon who people around him treat as a god.
To aid the vivid colors and cinematography in Blade Runner 2049, veteran music composer Hans Zimmer collaborated with Benjamin Wallfisch for a stunning musical score. Noises that sound like distorted contra bassoons – a motif throughout the movie – describe the vastness of the city. It feels as if the sounds echo throughout the city and reverberate back even louder. Bringing the scenes to life.
Blade Runner 2049 is a fantastic sequel and a must-see for fans of the first movie. It might or might not answer old questions, but will create new ones. The film’s running time is 2 hours and 43 minutes.