Late in the 20th Century, Director Ridley Scott advanced science fiction cinema into a new phase with a film that virtually defines the genre: ‘Blade Runner’.
As a superior slice of science fiction, the movie sought to mirror both the dark intelligence and decaying vision of Philip K. Dick’s novel ’Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ However after a bloody mauling at the box office, ‘Blade Runner’ died upon distribution. Deemed too dark and depressing for audiences pining for the next ‘Star Wars, ‘Blade Runner’ looked like an expensive flop.
Consigned to life as a VHS rental, its importance seemed to be over. However, as a video tape, it would finally find its audience. Now able to watch its scenes over and over again, film fans began to peel back ‘Blade Runners’s’ layered meanings, all of which led to a complete revaluation of the film. It was no longer being called a failure. Now, it was being a called a masterpiece.
As a result, any science fiction film since ’Blade Runner’ has had to, in the words of its character Eldon Tyrrell, “shine oh so very, very brightly”. -And many haven’t. However 30 years after the original, the ’Blade Runner’ sequel is now here in the form of ‘Blade Runner 2049’. -And thankfully, it does.
‘Blade Runner 2049’ is a film full of echoes…
As a sequel, ‘Blade Runner 2049’ is a film full of echoes. From its score, to the visuals, to the production, to the acting and the choice of dialogue, it is a movie replete with references. Some are overt and some are more veiled, all of which is fitting given ‘Blade Runner’s’ density. Like like the original movie, ‘Blade Runner 2049’ is a film that has been made to be seen twice.
Giving up its gifts a little more readily than its predecessor, ‘Blade Runner 2049’ not only does justice to the original movie, but it also remains accessible for a new generation of movie-goers who may not have seen ‘Blade Runner’. Whilst clearly being conscious of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, director Denis Villeneuve has still managed to produce a discernibly “Denis Villeneuve movie” that is not some slavish replicant of what went before. Deftly side-stepping ‘the-same-but-different’ demands that can dog most highly anticipated sequels, Villeneuve has made some made brave choices here in how he stretches ‘Blade Runner’s’ envelope without tearing its seams.
The biggest gift is that this film is set in the distant future, with the story resuming in LA many years after ‘Blade Runner’s’ drop dead ending. However, following on from a film whose vision was so prophetic, was always going to be a heavy mantle for any sequel to carry. Despite this burden, ’Blade Runner’s’ original screenwriter Hampton Fancher has delivered a story that gives Villeneuve a genuine license to explore. With a strong cast and suitably a buttoned-down performance by Ryan Gosling in the lead, the acting here is as menacingly detailed as it is believably played.
With a legacy that has drowned as many films as it has inspired, ‘Blade Runner’ has been present at the birth (and death) of many sci-fi false dawns. With its multi-facetted storyline, complex characters and prophetic production design, it has been (and continues) to be a movie ahead of its time. ‘Blade Runner 2049’ fortunately manages to continue that legacy rather than becoming a victim of it. Striking a satisfying mix between complexity and tone, ‘Blade Runner 2049’ manages to find the same highbrow sci-fi that its original set a such precedent in. Neither redundant, nor replicated, ‘Blade Runner 2049’ is a sequel that will hopefully create as many conversations as its original did.