D.C.’s Take: “Blade Runner 2049”

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  If you were alive in the summer of 1982, you probably remember some claims that that summer changed the sci-fi genre for years to come. One film to do just that was none other than “Blade Runner,” which has since been hailed as an all-time classic. Fast-forward to 35 years later; nobody would’ve thought a sequel would finally come to existence: entitled “Blade Runner 2049”. In a world populated not only by people, but by android look-alikes called replicants, Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a new blade runner for the Los Angeles police department, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. His discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who’s been missing for 30 years. It took me a long time to finally watch the original 1982 film, directed by Ridley Scott and based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Before going into the sequel, I felt it was the right thing to do to watch the Final Cut version (recommended) of the film, and I can see why it’s had such a popular following over the years. When I heard about this sequel, the thought that came to my head was, “Will this really grab people’s attention after 35 years?” And it sure looks like it. But as someone who never watched the first film, I wasn’t exactly dying to see what happens next in the “Blade Runner” universe. Any sequel that comes out a decade or even two after the first movie can range from great (“Mad Max: Fury Road”), okay (“Tron: Legacy”) to downright awful (“Independence Day: Resurgence”). “Blade Runner 2049” falls under the good category, but not great, as we return to this universe in a very intriguing way. French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve truly is the sole reason that this sequel had the potential to be epic. He said the first “Blade Runner” is one of his favorite movies of all time, and that he wanted to do this project so that nobody would screw it up. This is why he’s one of the best directors working today: his direction is magnificent and complex. With each of his previous films, such as “Prisoners,” “Sicario” and “Arrival” (his first experience with the sci-fi genre), he was the perfect person to capture the sense of this movie. He does a great job with establishing that the film stands on its own, not relying too much on its predecessor. This was one of the best-directed films of the year if I say so myself. Gosling proves, once again, that he’s becoming a more respectable talent; his performance as K was outstanding. There was just something about his character that made me give him a little sympathy. Ford’s reprising his role as Deckard is honestly one of the best performances of his career. Though it takes a long time until he appears onscreen, he delivers a convincing performance. Still, if I had to compare between his return as Han Solo in “The Force Awakens” or this, it would be the former without a doubt. However, if there's someone who could outshine both leads, that title goes to Sylvia Hoeks’ Luv, a female replicant assistant to Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace. I didn’t know what to expect from her, but as the villain, she was by far one of the film’s highlights. She’s basically this movie’s version of Roy Batty. By far, the greatest thing about the entire movie was the visually stunning cinematography by Roger Deakins, quite possibly my favorite director of photography. Every single shot is like falling in love with someone at first sight. These are the types of shots that you would frame as a picture and mount it on a wall; it’s that gorgeous. This might be his best work yet, blending CGI and practical effects for a more realistic look that is profoundly shown in the scope of this world. This man has been nominated for an Oscar 13 times. Will this be the year he finally wins? I hope so; if not, I wouldn’t be surprised if riots started appearing. The sound design is also incredible, with Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s influential score that’s on the same path as Vangelis’ score from the original. I won’t go in-depth with the story for spoiler reasons, but I will say that “Blade Runner 2049” has the same futuristic neo-noir feeling as the first that fans will get attached to. It delves into something new, and answers the questions we wanted to be solved; such as who’s human and who’s a replicant in their society. Even when it’s hard to understand and gets confusing trying to figure out what’s happening, it’s all still a solid credit to the script to make it as interesting as possible. Personally, my main problem with the film, and why I don’t consider it a great movie at this point is the pacing. That’s something I go into every Villeneuve film knowing, since his films are usually slow burns and I think many others would agree. Even before walking into this, I knew this wasn’t going to be an action-heavy film, just judging from the trailers. And I was right. There are moments where it gets slightly boring, stemming from its 163-minute runtime. It really didn’t need to be that long; they could’ve cut off about 30 minutes and it might be just about perfect. Many people won’t understand this on the first viewing. Just like the original, it requires multiple views to fully understand and (hopefully) appreciate the film’s storytelling. That’s something I hope changes when the time comes to re-visit it again. Is “Blade Runner 2049” overhyped? Not too much; everybody who’s seen it loved it and is already calling it one of the best sequels ever made. This is a movie that needs to be processed in your mind before calling it a “masterpiece”. In the end, “Blade Runner 2049” is a mind-blowing sequel that will please many fans as it’s perfectly enjoyable with its technical achievement and thought-provoking plot. If I was a huge fan of the first film, maybe I would’ve loved it, but this is still a good piece of science fiction. Blade Runner 2049” stands on its own as a sci-fi sequel that fans will fall for with its beautiful direction and spectacle. B
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