Blade Runner 2049

When we left Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), the futuristic cop who hunts down bio-engineered humans called Replicants at the end of the original Blade Runner (1982) some 30 years before the events of this first sequel, he had eluded the authorities and escaped with a female Replicant named Rachael who he had fallen in love with. Racheal we learned was a special experimental model made by Tyrell Corporation without an expiry date, whereas all previous Replicants had a fail-safe four year life span. Now retired, Deckard intended to live the remainder of his life in hiding with her. 

Hampton Fancher, writer of the original screenplay was passionate about the Philip Dick novel on which the movie was based. He felt strongly about the characters and his screenplay, but when Ridley Scott officially signed onto the project as director back in 1980, his script would go through many changes as Ridley visualized the world of Blade Runner. It was a nightmare for Fancher as tensions between him and the director increased, but Ridley had his own ideas and needed to find a visual esthetic based on the leading edge futurist visions of sci-fi artists at the time.

Naturally when it finally came time to write the long awaited sequel to what has become the seminal dystopian future noir thriller, Hampton Fancher, just as passionate about the story he helped bring to life 35 years earlier, was once again consulted about how the story should progress into uncharted territory now that the look of the world had been established and engrained in the culture.

The story has been smartly and logically projected into the future in an exciting way that leaves the possibility for more chapters in this fascinatingly bleak future world of a discarded earth. Visually stunning and still as relevant as ever, the central themes of what it means to be human in the original film are still very much in the forefront of the modernized sequel Blade Runner 2049, directed by acclaimed French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve - Arrival (2016), Sicario (2015), Prisoners (2013), Incendies (2010).

Earth is now a vast wasteland of garbage, a giant landfill of sorts for the waste from off-world colonies as a backdrop for a potential revolutionary tinderbox when we learn that in the intervening years between 2019 and 2049, the bio-engineered slave class of humans have been secretly working to gain their freedom and right to live among humans and possibly replace them. 

The Replicant Freedom movement was formed by a new class of advanced robots who eventually learn something no one thought was possible and which has the potential to eventually free them from human oppression. The Tyrell Corporation who had produced the synthetic humans in the original film is now bankrupt and replaced by a more menacing company Wallace Corp. that builds new advanced and more obedient versions of the Replicants. 

The young agent in the Blade Runner unit of this film, Agent K, (Ryan Gosling) is now actually a Replicant himself working for the LAPD to find and ruthlessly retire rogue Replicants. He’s regarded with contempt by the rest of the department. Using Replicants to find Replicants is risky but makes sense since Replicants are faster and stronger than humans.

In the first film Replicants were portrayed as evil but we eventually gained a kind of reluctant sympathy for the Nexus 6 Replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) after we saw him redeemed while his life expired and he decides not to kill Deckard in his final poetic moments. In Blade Runner 2049 there is an effort to make us feel much more empathy for the discriminated Replicants who want nothing more than to live with dignity and in peaceful coexistence with humans.

The neon noir-ish melancholic mood of the original film has been preserved for this follow-up with expressive synthwave retro-electronic music by Oscar winning composer Hans Zimmer, darkly resonating with the original Vangelis soundtrack. 

Likewise, as you would expect, the ground breaking visual style of the original has been enhanced successfully, adding many modern touches by cinematographer extraordinaire Roger Deakins, in what could be some of his finest work. The dreamlike color saturated environments will linger in the mind long afterward; a testament to his staggering talent. 

Roger Deakins is best known for his work on the films of the Coen Brothers before he worked on films like Sicario (2015), and Prisoners (2013) for Denis Villeneuve, as well as a visual consultant on many computer animated films including Rango (2011) and Wall-E (2008). He is expected to win a long overdue Oscar for his extraordinary body of work.

Music and images blend so well together in Blade Runner 2049 to create a total immersive otherworldly experience, it’s a good bet to pick up some hardware for technical achievement at the Oscars this year and will not disappoint the many fans of the original cult classic.


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