It’s been 35 years since Blade Runner was released in the cinemas and during those 35 years we have had plenty rereleases and recuts of the same film. Some of these versions of the film had narration, some clearly showed Deckard to be a replicant, and some kept it very much ambiguous. And finally some 35 years later we get a sequel. The sequel is set in 2049, a world where replicants has integrated with society (kinda). One of these is K (Ryan Gosling) who is programmed to execute older replicants. However, on a mission he finds a body of a replicant who gave birth to a child. Ignoring instructions from his superior, K looks to find who that child is that can shake the foundations of the world’s society.
Clocking in at over 160 minutes, Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner: 2049 is a slow, mournful and thoughtful film about a machine trying to find its humanity. It covers much of the same themes of the 1982 film, what makes us human (is how we cherish and are formed by our memories?), and does it in a way that results in very powerful and moving experience. The film’s slow pace and thoughtful nature may not mean that the brilliance of the film has an instant impact, but like the film a more thoughtful approach to thinking about what the film means that more can be taken from it.
It is a slow film, there are many scenes of Ryan Gosling’s K working slowly as the camera takes in the dying world around him. K is keen to give his life reason and meaning, and the discovery that his life may have came about from two people who loved each other rather than being created in a factory along with thousands of other replicants just like him gives K the impetus to find his humanity. The film’s slow pace gives the time for the film’s thoughtful approach to its themes so that the emotionally charged ending has genuine emotional weight, especially when the perfectly timed Vangelis theme kicks in.
The film brilliantly builds on to the world already created by Ridley Scott some 35 years ago. The desolate and colossal LA has never looked so uninviting and the city of Law Vegas has returned to the desert it once was (only with giant, disused hotels and casinos). Roger Deakins' stunning photography allows us to take in this giant sets and landscapes with wide, panoramic shots of a dying and ill world. It’s not a film that quickly edited with fast, kinetic energy which makes the film no different to the original Blade Runner. The editing is ponderous and powerful and results in a more profound experience even one has to spend a little bit of time pondering the film themselves.