Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Blade Runner 2049: A Worthy Successor To A Sci-Fi Classic

Source: Warner Bros.

                                                        *MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS*

Blade Runner is a masterpiece of science fiction. Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi thriller was a groundbreaking piece of cinematic history which initially received a mediocre reception but in subsequent decades has come to be regarded as a cult classic. A classic which I was ever so fortunate to have seen thanks to my Dad's impeccable taste in movies (one of the many things he did for which I am eternally grateful). For many years there was talk of a possible sequel with no fruition- until now. Director Denis Villanueve, one of the big names in directing right now, has brought us the long awaited sequel, Blade Runner 2049, which is also produced by Ridley Scott. Their collaboration on this piece has yielded an outstanding follow up that not only a worthy successor to its predecessor but is a great film in its own right.

Our story brings us into the futuristic Los Angeles we saw in the first film, but a lot has changed in the 30 years that have passed. The Tyrell Corporation, who had been responsible for the creation of the humanoid replicant machines used as a labor force, has since gone bankrupt and has been taken over by the brilliant Niander Wallace (wittingly played by Jared Leto). Wallace is regarded as the creator of the vital technology that helps humanity continue to survive. He has improved on the development of replicants which has increased their life spans (previously limited to four years) and reduced their potential violent outbursts which became a problem over the years. As was the case before, the police force keeps a special unit designated to hunt rogue, and now outdated replicants, and "retire", or terminate, them- these individuals are known as Blade Runners. One of the best Blade Runners in the unit, simply referred to as "K" (superbly played by Ryan Gosling), is sent out to a barren farmland to retire a known replicant who has remained in hiding named Sappor Morton (played by Dave Bautista). After his confrontation with Morton, K searches the property and discovers evidence of what could be major advancement in the development of replicant evolution. This discovery eventually comes to the attention of Wallace who knows this valuable information will help him create the ultimate replicant. K's path to the answers to this new mysterious development eventually take him on a search to find the retired, and now reclusive, Rick Deckard, who holds the answers to this most important, and potentially deadly, discovery. K must use all of his resources to not only survive, but to protect the lives of the people who are close to him.  

I went into this film somewhat reluctant. The trailers looked good, the cast was stacked with talent, and confirmation of the return of Harrison Ford as Deckard were all good signs that this would be a good film.However, for me this was a sequel to one of my all time favorite films, one that has been held very dear to me for many years. I was concerned that this new film would merely serve as a soft reboot in an effort to capitalize on a potential series of sequels, which in today's Hollywood is the norm. It was by far my biggest fear going into the theater opening night. Much to my delight, my fears were laid to rest. This was not only a worthy successor to the original, it was an outstanding story in its own right. Ryan Gosling was simply superb as the protagonist in the story and his performance is outstanding considering the many moving parts that his character entails. The supporting cast is also a strength of the film and each actor/actress delivers powerful performances in their respective roles. Another big question for me going into this was how effective Harrsion Ford would be reprising this role after so many years. While I feel that some of the attitude that he so wonderfully exuded in the original is not present in this chapter his presence in his scenes were decent- a few good moments but nowhere near the scale of his earlier effort. It is also clear that Director Denis Villanueve has a passion for this project and it shows throughout. The tone and aesthetic of this film is on point with the original, the story flows at steady pace, and the visuals are stunning. The score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch doesn't have the same impact that the Vangelis score had on the original but it is still good and effective within the film.  

I am curious to see how this film will be received by audiences now that it has been 35 years since the first film captured audiences. Unlike Star Wars or Indiana Jones, Blade Runner is not the resurgence of a once fledgling franchise of which Harrison Ford was a part- this is a sci-fi classic that has survived the ages on its own merits which thankfully had Harrsion Ford as its lead. I hope that audiences will embrace in the same way that I loved Blade Runner when I first encountered it in 1982. 

Reel Rating (Out Of A Possible Four:


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