Contains Spoilers for Blade Runner 2049
Set 30 years after the original Ridley Scott cult classic, Blade Runner 2049 picks up the action in LA with Detective K (Ryan Gosling), a Nexus 9 tasked with retiring older models who have run from their duties. Much a mirror image of the original, Detective K is a good substitute for Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) and looks damn cool in the smoky opening shots as he skulks around a protein farm. Where it begins to differ from the original is that we know from around ten minutes in that K is a replicant. He takes a beating from his first target, Sapper (Dave Bautista) that no human could have withstood.
The film is beautiful and Director Denis Villeneuve has created an eerily deep world that builds and improves on the original. The melting pot of the US culture depicted in the film has widened from the original. Asian culture, clothing and signage is just as prevalent as it was in the original but now so is Russian and Eastern European. The city itself seems more lived in, more vast than it did in the original and all this adds to the mounting undercurrent. Literally anyone could be a replicant. That keeps with the theme of the original in a way that transcends what it has become now. Ridley Scott in his subsequent cuts to the original in the form of the Director’s and Final Cut made it more clear that Deckard had false memories and was a replicant, something he reiterated in interviews. Harrison Ford, the actor behind Deckard, doesn’t believe he is and the author of the novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, Phillip K. Dick, wrote the character as human. It has been a subject of debate for decades and if you’re expecting it to be cleared up in this film you are sorely mistaken. In a way I’m pleased, we don’t need to know, that’s the point. Does it matter if he is a human or a replicant? What is it to be human?
Detective K certainly shows human qualities, the desire to belong, the drive to do well. The most humanising part of K is his relationship with his holographic artificial girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas). Like himself she is a product of Wallace Industries, a tech giant that took over from Tyrell Corp who went bankrupt when Replicant production was banned. Enter Nainder Wallace (Jared Leto) a brilliant and blind inventor who made his fortune from perfecting food production at a time when humanity was starving. He believes he is perfecting the Replicant race, having built the Nexus 9, a model that will not run, and wishes to use them as slaves to expand his empire across the stars (having already expanded Earth’s interests to a number of planets). He is a haunting antagonist who eerily lacks the humanity he wishes to instil in his creations. His Replicant enforcer Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) gives a dynamic and threatening face to his quiet subtly and the two offset each other well. The holy grail Wallace seeks is to make the Replicants able to breed as he is struggling to keep up with demand, something it is revealed was perfected by Tyrell but the knowledge was lost during the Replicant rebellions and technological blackout that followed.
The film meanders gorgeously at a pace that defies Hollywood convention, clocking a run time of close to three hours. I love it for that boldness, that unashamed self indulgence was brilliantly done and executed. I would have happily sat through three more hours of cinematic grime. This is where the film takes the premise of the first and flips it on it’s head. Blade Runner 2049 is a story about an android who could be human unlike the original where it was a human who could be an android. This works well and we learn that evidence of a Replicant giving birth has surfaced and the baby was sent into hiding. This throws up ethical questions and threatens to uptip the balance of nature as the created can now create. It comments on our own value systems, how do we gauge worth? Detective K is doubting his memories, they are too vivid, too real and we are made to believe K could be this machine that was born not made. He goes to Las Vegas, a radioactive dead zone, to track down the last known location of Deckard. The contrast of this place with the industrial neon of Los Angeles is staggering. Vegas is a dusty haze, orange and red it’s primary colour pallet.
The writing team of Fancher and Michael Green, coupled with the Directing talents of Villeneuve have created something both respectful of the original and an indulgent piece closer to the source material of the novel than even the original film. It gives nods to the die hard fan whilst being accessible to a new age of audience. The origami unicorn is replaced by a wooden horse, the dynamic of Rachel and Deckard is replaced by Joi and K. We learn of the fate of Rachel and Deckard, their child and most importantly if Replicants can now produce, what separates them and us? The world is vivid, the story enchanting. I cannot wait for a second viewing and emplore you if you have yet to do so to get yourself to the theatre as promptly as possible.
Blade Runner 2049, in my opinion, is an instant classic and is one of the best films I have seen in the last decade.
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Written By James Bowers