(originally published Oct 10, 2017)
SPOILER WARNING: None, but the less you know the better, as always!
As perhaps one of the least necessary sequels imaginable, Blade Runner 2049 makes a surprisingly satisfying case for itself existing.
Denis Villeneuve and the rest of the team lean heavily on what made the original such a masterwork, while still managing to bring something new to the table. Thematically, it advances the central idea of Blade Runner in a sensible direction, and stays true to the original in a way few sequels do.
Like its predecessor, it is an absolute feast for the mind and senses; full of interesting and thought-provoking ideas that fit like a glove in this universe. Also like the original, dramatic stakes take a backseat to theme and mood. The main conflict never quite felt as important as it was stated to be, and while I don’t mind that too much in a film like this, it may turn people off to a larger degree than it may have in 1982, especially given its lengthy runtime (though it still doesn’t feel as long as it actually is).
Roger Deakins working his magic in the Blade Runner universe is like a gift from the cinema gods. He does some truly breathtaking things in this film, and his command of lighting alone is worth the price of admission. Denis Villeneuve continues his ascension into the pantheon of modern directors, paying the utmost respect to the source material while still infusing it with his storytelling sensibilities, bringing an unexpected level of heart to the otherwise bleak proceedings. He was the perfect director for this project, and the results prove it.
Really, the only element that doesn’t live up to the original is the music. It’s not a bad score, but it felt more Hans Zimmer-y than Blade Runner-y. Given how heavily it relies on the original, it’s hard for me to ignore the context that comes with it, and I can’t help but wonder what the score may have sounded like if they followed the original’s example and hired an electronic musician instead of traditional composers. But still, it’s more of a nitpick than anything.
Taken on its own, it’s a breathtaking piece of modern sci-fi cinema. A blockbuster with a brain, crafted by artists at the peak of their creative powers. As a wholly unnecessary sequel to one of the true masterpieces of the genre, it was better than it had any right to be. It’s a respectable, resplendent, and often brilliant follow-up to a classic that is fully deserving of your time and attention.