Why would you make a sequel to one of the greatest movies ever made? How can you expect anything but cries of derision from your audience at an impossible-to-match cinematic experience? Well, Gaff’s trilby off to everyone involved in this project as they have created the perfect replicant to stand alongside 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner.
Chief praise has to go to Ryan Gosling, who gives a performance to rival anything in his already impressive body of work. He carries the film for the most part but his replicant shoulders – no mystery about the lead character this time – are broad enough to take the strain.
Audiences could by now have seen this story one times too many, with Battlestar Galactica’s Cylons and Westworld’s bots tapping the ‘what is life?’ conundrum very successfully, while Ghost in the Shell showed that Hollywood can fail to capture such big ideas. Yet Blade Runner 2049 pushes reality to breaking point (in a way that Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams has largely failed to achieve so far). Gosling’s ‘K’ – a shortening of his serial number and surely a nod to Dick – lives a synthetic life in every way, returning home to his virtual girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas) each night. In most films of this nature, she’d be reduced to a narrative tool, and while that’s occasionally true she makes up one half of the tear-inducing love story at the heart of the movie.
As you might expect, the film is also incredibly well made from a technical point of view. These days that’s a compliment in itself, as so many films end up looking like a £100m design brief in search of a movie. From a birth that reminded us of Disney’s Bambi and the thick ash-like snow recalling a nuclear winter to the enormous rain-sodden shanty cities and the artistic human forms scattered throughout, it’s a pleasure to step back into this grimy, sleazy landscape. We’re not looking forward to San Diego Comic-Con 2049, though!
Blade Runner 2049 is sometimes chatty, sometimes slow, as it drips with layers of ponderings on the nature of existence. And it’s all better for it. Who says they don’t make sequels as good as they original?
Release: 5 February 2018
Format: DVD, Blu-ray, 4K UHD
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto