"Blade Runner 2049" lives up to its predecessor
“I hope you don’t mind me taking the liberty…”
The first line of “Blade Runner 2049” seems less like the words of Ryan Gosling’s Agent K, and more like an assertion from the film itself - a statement from the filmmakers directly to the audience saying, “we know we’re fighting an uphill battle against the original. We know we have infinite variables working against us. But we’re doing this anyway, and we’re giving it everything we’ve got.”
And did it ever pay off.
Leading into “Blade Runner 2049," I had high expectations. Denis Villeneuve had directed several of the best films of the past decade, including “Incendies," “Prisoners," “Sicario," “Arrival” and one of my own personal favorites, “Enemy.” I had seen- and thoroughly enjoyed- the original 1982 film, Blade Runner. Ryan Gosling has proven his range as a lead actor with films like “The Place Beyond the Pines," “The Nice Guys" and “Blue Valentine.” Even with my high expectations, though, nothing could have prepared me for the experience of “2049.”
One of the most talked-about aspects of the film is its cinematography - and for good reason. Roger Deakins, 13-time Oscar nominee and two-time collaborator with Villeneuve, is doing phenomenal work - some of the best of his career. Every shot is composed in such a way that it is not only beautiful to look at, but conveys much more meaning than we initially understand. Like his work in Villeneuve’s 2013 film “Prisoners," Deakins makes intelligent use of light sources, angled lines, and frames within frames. He also enjoys diversity in his backgrounds. One moment, we are in a busy street, tall buildings and bustling people framing everything we see. In the next, we are in a barren desert, with only the faint silhouette of a building far in the distance.
But perhaps the most impressive facet of Deakins’ cinematography in “2049” is the color design. There’s everything from barren grays and whites, striking yellows, highly saturated neons and, of course, the trademark dingy, bleak, “Blade Runner” blacks and blues. I couldn’t go through ten minutes of this film without having my breath taken away.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must mention the runtime. The film is two hours and 43 minutes, but I cannot stress this enough: it does not feel like a three hour film. I know that there are people who will be disinterested in seeing “2049” simply because of its length.
It should also be known that this is not an action movie. If you have your expectations set that the plot will resemble any modern action franchise, you will be in for a shock.
The most important change “2049” makes over its predecessor is in its main character’s arc. Gosling’s Agent K has a wonderful arc that draws you in emotionally and hooks you until the poignant final shot. The script carefully sets up a familiar path- one I don’t want to spoil at all - and subverts it in such a way that is not only emotionally affecting, but inventive.
“2049” does what any good sequel should do: it takes what worked in the first film and expands upon it in new ways, stripping away everything that didn’t work. The original “Blade Runner” was innovative, beautiful, thought-provoking, and, like its sequel 35 years later, a box office failure.
Time has been kind to “Blade Runner”, providing it a strong following that has lasted throughout decades. And only time will tell the fate of “2049” - until then, those who have seen “2049” will be treated to a science fiction masterpiece - one they won’t soon forget.