Blade Runner 2049 is among a long line of sequels, reboots, and television shows making use of the one thing audiences can’t resist: 80s nostalgia.
The film, directed by Denis Villeneuve, continues the story of 1982’s Blade Runner, a science-fiction crime drama about Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), an ex-cop forced by his old boss to hunt down and kill four “replicants,” rogue androids originally constructed for slave labor.
Set 30 years after its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 follows K (Ryan Gosling), one of a new model of androids charged with eliminating rogues. Harrison Ford reprises his role as Deckard, making his appearance well into the nearly three-hour movie.
This late appearance is a big part of what this movie does so well. While undeniably built on the legacy of the original, 2049 does not ape off of it. Instead, Villeneuve’s sequel is comfortable doing its own thing. Though characters from the 1982 film are important to the plot, they are not its focus. From the beginning, it is clear that this movie wishes to tell its own story, expanding on the world that director Ridley Scott brought to life 35 years ago.
What 2049 does take from the original, it does well. The original Blade Runner had a gloomy, gorgeous, sci-fi film-noir visual style and brilliant special effects that still look amazing by today’s standards; Villeneuve captures this.
Hanz Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch composed a brilliant score for the film, reminiscent of the droning, spacey ambience of the original. It enhances the movie’s melancholy and foreboding, accompanying the long, focused shots that run throughout.
But of course, as a film released in 2017, Blade Runner 2049 utilizes computer-generated effects. The results of this are mixed; while Ridley Scott made use of matte-paintings and miniatures to realize his futuristic, dystopian vision of Los Angeles, Villeneuve does it all on a computer. The effects look decent, but it is doubtful they will have the same staying power.
Time does not seem to have had an effect on Ford’s performance, however. After so many years, it would be easy for the performance to come off as tired and phoned-in, but Ford does the exact opposite. He seems to be at home in his role, bearing all the emotional weight required and seamlessly recapturing the character of Rick Deckard.
Gosling is great as well, capturing the stoicism of an android while still demonstrating emotion where needed. Ana de Armas, who plays K’s partner, Joi, pulls off the same balancing act, creating a sympathetic figure whose presence adds tremendous weight to the story at large.
Though the movie’s run time may be too long for some, those who can get past this will find a unique movie that combines science fiction with the ambitions of an art film. Blade Runner 2049 is a worthy sequel that expertly straddles the line between tribute and innovation.