Movies are sometimes like pieces of advice from an old friend: they can be things that you never knew you wanted but somehow needed all along. I genuinely had zero interest in seeing “Blade Runner 2049,” and it’s not because I have an aversion to science-fiction – in fact, I’ve seen the director’s cut of “Blade Runner” (1982) three or four times in an attempt to like it.
While I admit that the cinematography and production design of the old movie were fantastic, the plot often left me frustrated, being that it is bafflingly simple, but delivered in the most complicated way. I could not find it in my heart to care for any of the characters until literally the last 10 minutes of the movie.
“Blade Runner 2049” takes the positive aspects of the old film’s universe and everything else to new heights. Instead of rehashing the experience of the old film by following the same characters and cinematic techniques, director Denis Villeneuve manages to create a world that feels new and fresh but still very much stays true to the original film.
The plot, while more complex and winding than the original’s, is much more coherent and extremely compelling. Many applaud the original film for its exploration of the nature of humanity – what it means to be human, what makes us who we are, and what one can do to become a human in the first place.
Honestly, for me, that aspect of the original felt hamfisted, as if Ridley Scott really only flirted with the idea before putting style over substance (except for Rutger Hauer impressive “Tears in the Rain” monologue, which was not an invention of the story but of the actor himself).
But “Blade Runner 2049” actually digs deep into these lofty concepts without alienating its audience. It puts these questions of human nature and the existence of the soul front and center as we follow the story and interrogate the motives and actions of its characters.
To complement his movie’s finely crafted story, Denis Villeneuve chose some of the best in the industry to support it, including cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose work viewers might know from “Skyfall” (2012), and editor Joe Walker, who doesn’t hold the audience’s hand through the puzzles of the plot, but leaves hints and clues to where it is going.
The performances all around are captivating. Ryan Gosling as the synth Blade Runner “K” is so perfectly robotic and unemotional but also so deeply emotional; the supporting cast (Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, and Jared Leto) also do fantastic jobs.
This movie isn’t flawless, but it’s pretty damn close. Sometimes when the movie hangs a bit too much onto its predecessor, nagging frustration comes back, and occasionally there are moments where the film drags. But to be honest, I couldn’t care less.
It’s a shame that this movie isn’t doing so well at the box office, but, to be fair, I don’t think most people really asked for a sequel to “Blade Runner.” This film is probably going to end up like its predecessor: not a commercial success, but a cult classic. Because at the end of the day, it’s not a movie that anyone wanted – but it’s a movie we needed.