Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

When the original BLADE RUNNER film was released in 1982, it wasn’t a box office success. Both critics and audiences were divided on it. While some praised it for its stunning visuals, others found the pacing slow and the plot razor thin for its nearly two-hour running time. Since that time, director Ridley Scott (EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS; THE MARTIAN; ALIEN: COVENANT) has tinkered with the film numerous times over the years, adding and deleting scenes. Thirty-five years later, it is considered a cult classic.

So what’s Hollywood to do but come up with a sequel? Thankfully, I can report that BLADE RUNNER 2049 doesn’t pander to its fan base the way STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS does. This is not quite your father’s BLADE RUNNER. To start with, don’t expect to see Rutger Hauer, Joanna Cassidy, Daryl Hannah and many others from the original film. Los Angeles cop Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) “retired” them. A couple familiar faces do reprise their roles but I’m not going to tell you who because that would be a spoiler and I’ve promised myself that I wouldn’t reveal any spoilers here. But while there are still replicants and blade runners in 2049, the world has changed in thirty years. Tyrell Corporation is no more, being taken over by Wallace Corporation, which now manufactures a more advanced version of replicant as well as life-sized holograms that are designed for pleasuring the human population.

Ryan Gosling (LA LA LAND) plays LAPD officer K, who, like Deckard before him, is a blade runner. Unlike Deckard, though, whose provenance has been up for debate for the past 35 years, K is most definitely a replicant. We learn that in the first few minutes of the film. On a mission to “retire” an earlier generation rogue replicant (played by Dave Bautista, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2), he uncovers a long-buried secret that could turn the world order upside down. Under orders from his superior to destroy the evidence, K embarks on a journey that leads him to Deckard who has been missing for the past 30 years. Meanwhile, Wallace Corporation owner, Niander Wallace (Jared Leto, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB), also knows that this information can be dangerous to his company’s future so he dispatches his able assistant, Luv (Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks) to follow K to Deckard.

I’m one of those people who wasn’t enamoured with the original BLADE RUNNER when it first came out but I wanted to give it a second chance before I saw the new film so I watched it (The Final Cut version) again a few weeks ago. I liked it better the second time but it still didn’t wow me. BLADE RUNNER 2049, however, did. Like the original, it’s slow-going but about halfway through the film I said to myself that although I have no idea where the story is going, I’m sure as hell going to go along for the ride. Director Denis Villeneuve (ARRIVAL), and screenwriters Hampton Fancher (BLADE RUNNER) and Michael Green (ALIEN: COVENANT) have done a phenomenal job invoking the spirit of the original film while taking the story in an exciting and satisfying direction. Equally outstanding are the stunning visuals and set design, which show the world as an even bleaker place to live than it was 30 years before. The fabulous music by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch jacks up the tension and mystery, too, with its deep, roaring notes.

Gosling is excellent as K. There has been much chatter on the Internet about K’s blank expression throughout most of the film but he’s a replicant, and a very serious one at that, so what do these people want? The best performances, however, were given by Hoeks and Cuban actress Ana de Armas (WAR DOGS), the latter of whom plays Joi, K’s holographic companion. There is much to think about regarding the names of these characters – Luv and Joi – and how they relate to K and to each other. I’d discuss it here but that would be a spoiler. In fact, there is plenty in this film that will keep fans discussing and speculating for years to come.

BLADE RUNNER 2049 is one of my favourite films of 2017. Expect to see it garner at least eight or nine Oscar nominations at the end of the year.

If you’re planning on watching the film, I strongly recommend that you get yourself a copy of The Final Cut version and watch it first. If you’ve never seen the original and you watch the new film, you’ll be scratching your head throughout wondering why things are the way they are.

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live in RTHK Radio 4’s studio at the special time of Wednesday, October 11th at 9:15 am HK time!

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