Blade Runner 2049 – Spoiler free review

Blade Runner 2049 review

Starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Certificate 15

Photo: Columbia/Alcon/Scott Free

How do you follow one of the biggest cult films of all time? When tackling a sequel to Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece about an android detector hunting near perfect replicants, the answer was leave well alone. The story had been told. The box office returns had been hugely disappointing, but over the years it made its money back via re-releases and assorted cuts.

Then, around five years ago, the rights were up for grabs, and it looked like Ridley would direct. But while he was busy with Alien Covenant, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (maker of stunning trio Prisoners, Sicario and Arrival) was wisely hired to tell the next chapter in the saga of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).

Photo: Columbia/Alcon/Scott Free

Ryan Gosling is superb as Officer K, a Blade Runner retiring (killing) more replicants while reporting to Robin Wright’s police chief Lieutenant Joshi. But it’s not long before he’s investigating a riddle wrapped in an enigma after an opening showdown with Dave Bautista’s formidable antagonist.

That’s the thing with this movie. It’s so full of spoilers that I daren’t reveal too much about anyone or anything for fear of giving the game away.

So as K embarks on his mission, blind replicant creator Wallace (Jared Leto) makes his moves like expert chess player Tyrell from film one (who he’s clearly modelled on).

Photo: Columbia/Alcon/Scott Free

The rest of the cast is excellent, from Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoeks, to Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James and Bautista. Nobody gives a bad performance and master lensman Roger Deakins creates some of the most beautiful images you’ll see this decade.

Photo: Columbia/Alcon/Scott Free

Unlike The Dark Tower, which shed a bright spotlight on its nods to Stephen King’s other work, references to the original Blade Runner and author Philip K Dick are far more subtle. A pot boiling on a stove might be just that, as could a wasp on a hand, or they could be integral references to Deckard’s interrogation of Rachael in the original.

The audio references are also a treat for obsessives like me. A familiar electronic hum here, a nostalgic whir there. And then there’s the soundtrack. Topping Vangelis’s masterful original score was futile, but Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s booming chords and notes offer a flavour of its predecessor without them sounding like a tribute band.

Photo: Columbia/Alcon/Scott Free

There are at least two great cameos, one created with CGI which slips into the realms of uncanny valley.

There are times when the whole thing reminds me of Tron Legacy, another relatively recent sequel to a cult eighties classic. The difference here is a great story which twists and turns brilliantly. An obvious development early on becomes more complex as things develop. Thankfully I feel one step behind the storytellers instead of 10 steps ahead.

And the finale when it arrives after two and a half hours is near perfect. Or it would have been if the cinemaoger on our row hadn’t ruined the moment with his lit up phone. To be fair he had popped down to tell the staff to turn the lights off after five minutes of a semi-ruined intro, and the couple behind me who decided to talk through the next 10 minutes were polite enough to shut up for the rest of the movie once I asked them.

Photo: Columbia/Alcon/Scott Free

This won’t be for all tastes. The movie really takes its time, the polar opposite of popcorn tentpole movies which aim for the lowest common denominator. Those vistas are superb, with huge electronic billboards (including references to a French car company and the long defunct Pan Am).

Like the original, the mood is also spot on. It has a smoky, late night jazz feel which sets up proposed sequels without feeling contrived. The second act could have been tighter, but that ending, like the original, is a terrific, poetic closing chapter to a bigger story. I just hope I don’t have to wait another 35 years to see it.

8/10

My vlog review

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Blade Runner’s Future Becomes History 

  

He will go on to see things we wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. He’ll watch C beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. And he will go on to give Blade Runner’s Rick Deckard the biggest challenge of his life. Friday, January 8, 2016 marks Roy Batty’s incept date, or actual birth day as any fan of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner will tell you. 

As a 14 year old, I couldn’t believe my eyes after witnessing my first cinema screening in 1982; the thought of 2016 or 2019 being so far in the future, flying cars and off world colonies seemed perfectly feasible. 

When I emerged blinking into the light of a Wolverhampton high street that September, I couldn’t understand why my mates weren’t as thrilled with the movie as I was. They weren’t the only ones disappointed. Warner Bros hoped Scott’s dystopian vision of 2019 would be another smash for star Harrison Ford, but its lukewarm reception among the masses left them far from happy. 

But Blade Runner was a movie ahead of its time in more ways than one. It found a new audience on VHS where fans could pore over every frame of Scott’s meticulously designed Los Angeles, a world of eternal smog and rain, where the Nexus 6 brand of Replicants are so advanced, they prove almost impossible to detect, hence the need for Blade Runner detection units. 

  
Batty, the smartest of the six, would go on to do incredible things, but his life would be cut short due to his four year lifespan in November 2019. However, Rutger Hauer’s mesmerising performance as the android with a soul has proved timeless. 

With Sicario director Denis Villeneuve now hard at work on a sequel with Ford and Ryan Gosling, it’ll be intriguing to see how that long gestating project unfolds. 

For now I’ll be digging out my multi disc set and having my own special night marking the day when the future becomes history. 

Happy birthday Roy.