It seems Hollywood (or maybe just Harrison Ford) is always pushing the envelope when it comes to long-awaited sequels. The original Blade Runner under-performed at the box office in 1982, but later achieved cult classic status, especially after the release of the 1992 Director’s Cut. So I was curious about Blade Runner 2049‘s $150-Million budget. Would it just be a big explosive sci-fi extravaganza, or would it maintain the immersive, slow-paced mystery approach of its predecessor? Because after 35 years, if it didn’t get everything exactly right, it would be a colossal disaster that would forever tarnish the original.
K (Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner in 2049 Los Angeles who “retires” stray replicants that live off the grid. He’s also a replicant himself; a newer model complete with hobbies, a home, and a holographic girlfriend named Joi (Ana de Armas). After K’s latest “retirement”, the body of a woman is dug up beneath the crime scene. The autopsy reveals that, at the time of her death, the woman was both pregnant…and a replicant! Though it seems impossible, K is tasked with finding out if this pregnant replicant actually managed to give birth. But when the clues start pointing to his own dreams and memories, K has a pretty good idea who this miracle replicant child might be. And his investigation leads him to the child’s father, none other than former Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).
Slow. That was the first movie, and it was the best kind of slow there was. It pulled you deep into their world so you didn’t just see it, you felt it. And the sequel does this almost as well (at 164 minutes, it’s a little much to bear, but not a deal-breaker). It’s 30 years later, so the world of Blade Runner 2049 is very different but still recognizable; from the flying cars, to the colorful hairstyles, right down to the giant neon “ATARI” signs sprinkled throughout the city. This is not OUR future; this is Blade Runner‘s future. It’s populated by shady characters in an even shadier world. It feels real and it feels possible. Every bare room, every rainy street corner, every holographic advertisement, are sights to behold. As the story progresses, the world opens up, revealing vast expanses never before imagined but which fit right in with the established lore. The best adventure movies make you feel like you’re along for the ride, and what a ride this is.
The trickiest thing about long-awaited sequels (or sequels in general) is telling a story that’s both great and doesn’t ruin or alter anything about the original. And I can safely say they’ve nailed both of those criteria with Blade Runner 2049. It can seem difficult to come up with a story after the main story has ended, but thankfully the writers thought of something no one expected: a replicant — pregnant? We never got to see the insides of a replicant in the first movie (we do in this one!), but we already knew each individual part was made by different scientists, from their eyes to their memories. They’re not traditional robots or androids; they’re basically human, just artificially made. That’s what makes the central story so intriguing. It would have worked just fine as an original movie, but works even BETTER as a sequel to Blade Runner.
For decades, one question has been on every Blade Runner fan’s mind: is Deckard a human or a replicant? All I can tell you is: No fan gets left behind here. Everything about this movie is meticulously attended to and pays careful respect to the original, regardless of which version you prefer. I’m not saying it’s too safe or anything, but this kind of love and care for not only the stories and characters but also the feelings the movie evokes has easily made Blade Runner 2049 one of the greatest sequels of all-time. It stands tall whether it’s on its own or paired with the original. The best thing about it is that this feels like an important story to tell, and they tell it expertly well. It masterfully expands the already rich mythology while neither adding nor taking anything away from the original. This is how it’s done, guys!
4 out of 5