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REVIEW: Blade Runner 2049

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment
Ana de Armas with Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049.
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Sequels typically fail. They are rarely the product of continuing to tell a story the original creator wanted to initially expand upon. Blade Runner didn't end with all the loose ends tied up, but it never needed a sequel. It left the viewers with questions, but not from plot holes or  poor storytelling. It stood on its own as a box office dud that went on to become a classic in the sci-fi genre.

Blade Runner 2049 was announced and had every angle covered to not make this a frivolous sequel. One of the greatest directors working, Denis Villeneuve, is attached, the greatest living director of photography, Roger Deakins, and Ryan Gosling as the lead. If it failed, it did everything humanly possible to not be a failure.

“Art is a risk, and I have to take risks. It's gonna be the biggest risk of my life but I'm okay with that,” Villeneuve said about approaching Blade Runner 2049.

This situation is reminiscent of when Good Will Hunting director Gus Van Sant was tapped to direct the remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic slasher Psycho. Of course, it was a disaster, but when asked why he did it, Van Sant replied with, “so no one else would have to.” While it fails on every merit of film, you gotta give him respect for taking on the heat from it.

Denis Villeneuve has a lot to live up to. Not only does a Blade Runner sequel have to be good enough to warrant its existence, it has to fill shoes of a 35-year-old sci-fi cyberpunk classic.

Everyone involved somehow brought the essence of the original film to 2017, made a film better than anyone anticipated and ended up making one of the greatest sequels of all-time. All the while crafting something that lifts the original up and expands upon it — surprisingly making a film that eclipses it.

Los Angeles has changed tremendously in the 30 years since Blade Runner. All the androids originally manufactured by the Tyrell Corporation have ultimately been destroyed, besides a few that have got their initial four-year lifespan extended. Detective K (Ryan Gosling) is a newly manufactured replicant detective, a new production of robots overseen by philosophical megalomaniac Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) — the new Tyrell, if you will. The new form of replicants obey and don’t go rogue like the previous Tyrell Nexus models. He spends his days “retiring” old replicants and living with his AI girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas). K discovers something on a mission that not only could change the divide amongst the humans and androids but will challenge his sensibility as an obedient, subordinate slave.

It’s tough to describe BR2049 without revealing too much or trying to sell the film to someone that hasn’t seen / wasn’t a fan of the original. It fills a niche market as Blade Runner is the type of film that toes the line of cult classic and actual classic. It’s not as well known as other sci-fi classics and this results in a $150 million budgeted sequel detailing the philosophy of what “being human” even means in a predominately android city.

BR2049 isn’t a reboot of a franchise or a sequel to jump-start a series. It’s an entire beast all in itself. A beast that soars high as one of the most visually beautiful films ever committed to film. Roger Deakins shoots the absolute hell out of this movie. Audiences wanted to live in the world of Pandora after watching Avatar and I want to watch all the footage shot for this film on an endless loop on the biggest screen possible. Unbelievable use of shadows and lights in the scenes at Wallace’s headquarters.

Trying to draw a flaw from the film is nothing more than nitpicking or wanting something out of a film that would never give you what you initially wanted. It’s one of the most complete cinematic experiences of the 21st century. You have one of the greatest directors working that still hasn’t tipped and continues putting out excellent films yearly, delivering a hundred-million-dollar art house film.

There’s no real reason Blade Runner 2049 exists. We didn’t need a follow-up to the original. Yet it’s here and it’s a masterpiece that I hope will influence the genre and film for the foreseeable future. Denis Villeneuve somehow pulled off the impossible and deserves endless praise. It’s an optical swimming pool exploring the systematic divide of futuristic existentialism with skewed race relations and an eventual uprising. A philosophical pontification of what it means to be “human.” Is “being human” the ways in which we define ourselves or what we use to define others as being or not being human.

None of the characters land on the answers. All are as universally hopeless as the next. The androids trying to be “more human than human” by falling victim to the same lures of greed and power that humans hold over them. The wall separating zeros and ones from human DNA isn’t sturdy enough to hold those that want to see how the other side lives.

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Kevin Tudor

Born and raised in the mean streets of Yukon, Oklahoma, Kevin is currently majoring in...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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