In the age where it’s been easier than ever to create a beautiful film, true cinematic masterpieces have become increasingly rare. The Blade Runner franchise lies at the heart of sci-fi cinema, accomplishing a status as a 35 year old cult classic. Its sequel, ‘Blade Runner 2049’ feels like a cinematic miracle, a sequel which improves on the original in many ways, making one ponder the very essence of what it is to be human.
Ryan Gosling stars as the brooding hero: an L.A.P.D. employee known as K—an abbreviation of his serial number, he continues the titular profession of a Blade Runner. Just as Harrison Ford starred in the original, he follows his programmed duty to hunt down and ‘retire’ renegade genetically engineered artificial humans known as replicants. The replicants, who have been used for slave labour since the previous movie (over thirty in-universe years) are the crux of the movie’s central theme: what is it to be human?
Directed by Denis Villeneuve and joined by lauded cinematographer Roger Deakins, the film is beautiful, shot for shot, with deeply satisfying and complex visuals that capture a dystopian future society as something both familiar and disorienting. Vehicles soar through bleak Californian skies, while advertisements evolve into seductive holograms that light up the night. The film is a visual masterpiece throughout, and fans of cinematic marvels will not be disappointed in the cyberpunk dystopia presented.
Clocking in at over 2 hours and 40 minutes long, the film is a long ride with a statement: we’re not pandering to casual film viewers. The action scenes aren’t slow and dramatic; rather, they’re quick and brutal. Pans over virtual cityscapes are given more screen time than Ryan Gosling bursting through a stone wall, a feat that would have garnered more than five seconds of screen time in any other film. “I appreciated how little the film held my hand throughout the movie. It made it very satisfying to piece together the plot for myself,” said Natan Shaviv ‘18. Fans of the series appreciate the lack of hand-holding in the films. “The plot was extremely perplexing, and I felt like you needed some background from the prequel to really understand what was going on,” said Jessica Wang, ‘18. “It was one of those movies where you were able to formulate a story but picking up little details here and there until the end of the movie.”
“I appreciated how little the film held my hand throughout the movie. It made it very satisfying to piece together the plot for myself.”
The film was released on October 6th, 2017, and it has mainly received excellent reviews. Yet, it bombed at the box office on release. Critics suggest this was due to an inflated budget given to the movie: a cult classic sequel, whose original also bombed at the box office. Yet, in two weeks it succeeded in out-grossing most Sci-Fi films, breaking major records for the genre.
Villeneuve is to continue making Sci-Fi cinema, and he is expected to begin directing the movie adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune soon.