Within the first minutes of Blade Runner 2049, the audience is immediately reminded of how much its 1982 predecessor changed cinema forever. Ridley Scott’s film has influenced so many other sci-fi classics over the past thirty years, not just from a technical perspective, but on a storytelling level as well. So the notion of continuing the story decades later seemed questionable to say the least. Even director Denis Villeneuve was iffy about helming a sequel at first. Just as Villeneuve turned in a modern science fiction masterpiece with last year’s Arrival, though, he’s done the same in Blade Runner 2049.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this film is that it functions as both a standalone work of art and a second chapter in the Blade Runner franchise. If you’re not familiar with the first movie, you can still admire Blade Runner 2049 for its gripping performances, jaw-dropping atmosphere, and visually arresting set pieces. However, if you’ve seen the original film, along with its various director’s cuts, you’ll appreciate the story even more. This is a rare sequel that doesn’t simply repeat the same old formula. It evolves the world and ideas touched upon in its forerunner all while maintaining the same integrity.
Blade Runner was like a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. The same can be said about this follow-up. Since unraveling the narrative is such a blast, I won’t go into spoiler territory. All you really need to know is that Ryan Gosling stars as a blade runner that’s assigned the most eye-opening case of his career. Along the way, the audience is left to contemplate what it truly means to be alive.
Having already starred in neo-noir greats like Drive, Gosling couldn’t be better suited for this role. He’s not alone, as we also get stellar work from the likes of Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, and Jared Leto, just to name a few. Harrison Ford is also back as Rick Deckard, who plays an integral part in the mystery at hand. Just as he did for Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ford revives one of his most beloved characters in a deeply effective performance worthy of a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
With its vision of 2019 Los Angeles, Blade Runner set a new standard for futuristic cities in movies. Blade Runner 2049 has somehow raised the bar even higher. Every location in the film is like a labyrinth that knows no end. Roger Deakins’s captivating cinematography couldn’t be more perfectly planned out with shadows in all the right places. You could fill an entire museum with nothing but shots from this film. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s musical score only adds to the movie’s all-encompassing splendor.
Of course as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Blade Runner has stood the test of time thanks to both its visuals and its story. The screenplay for Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t disappoint, telling an involving tale about humanity and artificial intelligence that keeps you guessing every step of the way. Once the audience reaches the final destination, they’ll be left haunted, uplifted, and utterly grateful that Villeneuve made this movie. Does that mean Blade Runner 2049 surpasses the original? Again, Blade Runner altered the course of moviemaking in so many ways that it’ll forever be in a league of its own. As far as long-awaited sequels go, however, this is one of the most complete successors since Mad Max: Fury Road.