The sequel to Blade Runner,coming 30 or so years after the original, has tremendous shoes to fill. The original, or rather, the various different edits of the original, have become a classic over the last 30 years, with its marvellous synth heavy soundtrack, deep existentialist themes that is perfectly encapsulated with Roy Batty’s tears in the rain monologue at the end. It still has tremendous visuals, with it’s futuristic rain soaked cityscape and noir lighting that has come to define the cyberpunk subgenre aesthetically speaking.
The sequel, from the very beginning, impresses. The synth heavy soundtrack is large, but also capable of the touching subtlety of the Vangelis compositions from the original. I do not think Vangelis composed the soundtrack for this one, but the score here is very much in line with the style of the original, although with it’s own flavour as it is less jazzy and often more drum heavy. Some of it sounds like it would be at home in a Perturbator track.
The visuals also impress. Like the soundtrack, it manages to maintain the style of the original with it’s rainy cityscape, dense and dirty streets and ubiquitous advertisements and text of Asiatic languages as well as Russian. The newest part of the aesthetic comes in the form of holograms that play a role in the overall story and plenty more pinkish hues than I remember from the original. There is also the irradiated wasteland of what was once Las Vegas that feature colossal statues and a yellow-orange hue to the overall look of this section that does a good job of fitting with the dystopia and the world described in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and as part of Villeneuve’s filmography. The film is simply a visual feast all around that perfectly captures the original film and novel, while adding it’s own new elements. Officer K’s (Ryan Gosling) apartment is a little more neat than Deckard’s, but also more barren and the Tyrell building is as golden as ever. However, there is a slightly less industrial vibe in the visuals compared to the original and instead something more ecological, which is a good change as there is a genuine move to expand the world building that is highly successful. While there is certainly a nostalgic element to the film’s aesthetics and even in the narrative, it does not rely on it. High tech low life, it is cyberpunk to the core.
As far as the plot goes, I do not want to say much for fear of spoilers, but what I will say is that it is a compelling mystery that is very well paced, especially considering the run 163 minute run time of the film. It’s twists and turns do an excellent job of expanding on the existential ideas that The general premise is the same as the original, except now we follow a replicant blade runner with a holographic waifu who has investigates the potential birth of a child from a replicant mother. One thing I did not like about the delivery of the narrative is the occasional flash back to scenes in the film that explain the plot, especially towards the end, which I felt were wholly unnecessary and were probably a decision made by the executive producers after test screenings.
In regards to the performances, they are good all round here, although there is nothing quite as good as Rutger Hauer’s performance as Roy Batty, nor does it quite reach the emotional heights that the original did with the Tears in the Rain speech.
Blade Runner 2049 is not just a cynical cashgrab on 80s nostalgia, nor was it made because Ridley Scott needs a new boat: with Dennis Villeneuve at the helm, this sequel to the classic film,and as one of the few films I was actually looking forward to this year, delivers in spades. Not only is it an excellent sequel, it is also excellent as a stand alone piece. Go see it.