A sequel to Blade Runner was always a good example of a sequel that doesn’t need to happen, or that straight up shouldn’t happen. Well, it happened, and it was… good! It doesn’t quite match up to the original in a lot of ways, being more a good sci-fi story than a neo-noir story that’ll make you think, but it’s a damn fine near-three hours of storytelling. Let’s take a closer look at Blade Runner 2049!
In 2049, replicants are servants and slaves in society. K, a replicant, works for the LAPD as a “Blade Runner”, an officer who hunts down and “retires” rogue replicants. At a protein farm, he retires rogue replicant Sapper Morton and finds a box buried under a tree. The box contains the remains of a female replicant who died during an emergency caesarean section, demonstrating that replicants can reproduce sexually, previously thought impossible. K’s superior Lieutenant Joshi is fearful this knowledge could lead to a war between humans and replicants. She orders K to find and retire the replicant child to prevent the truth from coming out…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
Two artificial lifeforms looking in a scope, one says to the other… wait, no, that’s not a thing.
K (Ryan Gosling) – A replicant created to hunt down rouge replicants. He has memories of a childhood implanted in him, but soon begins to wonder what is reality, and what is fiction…
Joi (Ana de Armas) – Joi is a series of hologram projections people can buy for their homes to perform many tasks or just be friends or partners. K has one such Joi that he has become particularly fond of.
Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) – Rick Deckard has been in hiding for decades, ever since his replicant girlfriend mysteriously gave birth to his child, all to protect it from the life on the run it would inevitably face.
Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) – Luv is a replicant that serves directly under Niander Wallace, the current replicant craftsman. She is willing to carry out any order he gives… ANY order.
Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) – Member of the LAPD who K reports directly too. She doesn’t treat replicants as poorly as some, but still fears an uprising, especially after the blackout in 2022…
Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) – Head of Wallace Co., the company that brought out Tyrell corporation and eventually created the new line of replicants. He’s blind, but with the technology of the time, he’s far from useless…
Dr. Ana Stelline (Carla Juri) – Stelline has been in confinement since she was eight, but has a great knack for creating the false memories that are placed into replicants. She has a few secrets lurking in her background, too…
Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) – A replicant from before the blackout, Sapper has been on the run for a long time. He was present at the birth of Deckard and Rachel’s child, and is willing to die to protect the secret…
Stunning in a different way to the original, but still stunning.
To start with, the movie does a good job of creating the dystopian world seen in the original, but it isn’t a neo-noir film. Gone are the long sequences in dark, tight streets and small apartment staircases, replaced with frankly amazing looking wide-open spaces and brightly lit areas. It’s a sci-fi film in a dystopian future, and it’s a great one, so it’s different than the original, not better or worse.
The key plot point of a replicant-human child is a good one, and given the runtime it has plenty of time to slowly play out. I do find it funny that the rebooted Battlestar Galactica took so much from Blade Runner (human-looking artificial life rebelling against their creators, blending in with regular humanity, are the artificial life more human than the humans, the phrase “Skin jobs”) and now Blade Runner 2049 is doing a “how is it possible that the artificial life has given birth” “find the hybrid” storyline… plus they all have Edward James Olmos in it! He can’t get away from the skin jobs! (and neither can I as I ended up reviewing them all at the same time…)
Ryan Gosling’s K is an interesting character, the fact he’s a replicant blade runner being revealed in the opening moments of the film, and leading him down a twisty path. I have to say that I suspected early on that he was the child of Rachel and Deckard, but then they made it so obvious that part way through I assumed it was intentional misdirection, and I was right! Still a great plot to see unfold, with Dr. Stelline being the child and the idea of a greater replicant underground network looking to rebel. The scenes with an older Deckard are fine, though Harrison Ford just looks like Harrison Ford, it didn’t really feel like his reprising his old role (would it killed him to have at least put on a dusty jacket or something?!)
The first half of the film, with K facing off with Sapper, (played with surprisingly subtle acting by Mr. Bautista), and the slow unravelling of the plot is great stuff, very well crafted to tell the story without slowing down to a complete halt. There is also the subplot of K falling in love with his holographic “mate” Joi, and the two eventually going on a trip together. It’s an extra layer to the “replicants are just like humans” plot thread in that a replicant seemingly falls in love with an artificial being more false than he is.
The big climax, with K and Luv doing battle in and around a sinking skycar with Deckard inside is a thrilling battle, and the final scenes with K’s apparent death and Deckard meeting his daughter are a very pleasing and poignant way to end the film.
It’s Harrison Ford as Deckard! … If Deckard wore what Harrison Ford happened to be wearing that day.
I appreciate his work ethic when it came to this film (legitimately making himself blind via contacts on set), but Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace came across as too cheesy and over-acted, personally. I’m sure he was going for a Rutger Hauer exaggerated performance, but he’s no Rutger Hauer, who managed to do it with great charisma that drew you in.
There is also the problem of dangling plot-threads. The underground group of rouge replicants and Niander Wallace getting his comeuppance are left in the air for a presumed sequel, which you should never do. Now the film has under performed at the box office, it’s unknown if this storyline will be continued or not. This problem was avoided last time given the open and shut case of the first film, but if this ends up being the last Blade Runner (or the last until Blade Runner 2079, released in 2048…) then it’s kind of annoying.
This scene was so bright and purple it nearly burned out my retinas… Pretty cool though!
Blade Runner 2049 manages to create an entirely new feeling film but stays true to the world created in the original. It’s like when Alien went from horror to the action of Aliens, two films in different genres but equally great, this film isn’t quite up to the pretty much impossibly high level of the original, but it’s a great sci-fi film and doesn’t in anyway tarnish the brand. After all this time there are now two Blade Runner films, and they’re both great. What a weird world we live in!