Sometimes it takes a while for a groundbreaking movie to be truly appreciated. When Blade Runner arrived in theaters in 1982, it was not a huge success. The film starred Harrison Ford, who was following up his iconic roles in the first two Star Wars films and Raiders of the Lost Ark. When Blade Runner was released, the marketing campaign, and the fact that the film featured Ford, led audiences to expect a futuristic action film with a sense of humor. Instead they got a noir-tinged thriller about a man hunting down rogue androids (called replicants) and questioning his own humanity in the process. That summer, movies like ET – The Extraterrestrial and Rocky III were dominating the box office. Blade Runner, an adaptation of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was a darker-themed, thoughtful examination of what it means to be human in the face of an increasingly cold and dehumanized world.
|One of the amazing vistas of Blade Runner 2049|
The film, directed by Ridley Scott, was one of the most striking, beautifully realized and realistic depictions of a future world ever put on film, but audiences stayed away. Then a funny thing happened; Blade Runner became a cult movie. Stories of its legendarily difficult production began to circulate, and multiple cuts and versions of the film were screened in theaters and released on home video. A loyal fan base began to emerge, and fanzines and Internet sites devoted to the film were produced, citing it as a movie that was ahead of its time. Many filmmakers lauded the movie, and cited it as an influence, which can be seen in films, TV series, music videos, and even video games. The film’s reputation grew in stature; it’s now regarded as a classic. Fans (and even the cast and crew) still debate some of the themes and central questions of the film.
Rumors of a sequel circulated for years. Finally, Denis Villeneuve (who helmed 2016’s excellent first contact tale, Arrival) was tapped to direct, with Ridley Scott acting as an executive producer, and Hampton Fancher, one of the writers of the original, also on board. Harrison Ford agreed to reprise his role as “blade runner” Rick Deckard. The new film, titled Blade Runner 2049, recently opened in theaters and it’s a visually stunning, carefully crafted tale that deserves to be seen. (Mild spoilers will follow, so skip ahead a paragraph or two if you don’t want to know any plot details) Thirty years after the end of Blade Runner, a new breed of replicants (artificial humans) designed to obey and not rebel against their masters, have been integrated into society. But there are still few older models around, and a blade runner named K (played by Ryan Gosling) has been assigned to hunt them down and “retire” (kill) them. The twist here is that K is a replicant, which is established early on, in a neat spin on the long-running "Is Deckard a replicant?" debate regarding Ford's character.
|Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049|
K’s mission becomes more difficult when he discovers the remains of a replicant named Rachael, who may have died while giving birth to a child. This startling revelation leads him on a path to seek the truth about his own past. The investigation leads him to seek out Deckard, a former blade runner who disappeared years ago, and may have known Rachael. Meanwhile, Niander Wallace, the designer of the current breed of replicants, wants to locate the child, as does an underground group of rebel replicants. K’s boss, Lt. Joshi, warns him not to pursue this inquiry, or push things too far, but K won’t be deterred; the answers to his questions may change the world forever. Will K find Deckard, learn the child’s identity, and the truth about his own origins?
Blade Runner 2049 is a magnificently executed extension of the world created by Ridley Scott and his crew in the original film. It’s just as intricately detailed and thoughtfully designed. Villeneuve and his collaborators have done a remarkable job with the look of the film; you will truly become immersed in this world. The plot examines and expands upon some of the same questions and themes that were brought to light in Blade Runner, but it never feels like a retread. The cast is excellent, with Gosling, Robin Wright (as Joshi) and Jared Leto (as Wallace) all turning in effective performances. Ford is wonderful as the world-weary Deckard, who’s had to make some tremendous sacrifices to keep the people he cares about safe. There are also a couple of cameos from other cast members from the first film, and some visual and musical nods to it as well. I've tried not to give too much away so you can experience it for yourself on your first viewing. The film should definitely be experienced on the big screen at least once.
What’s most interesting about the film is that after a weak opening weekend, it’s being called a “box-office failure” by the entertainment press. I believe they made the same mistake in advertising this film as they did with the original. While there weren’t many spoilers upfront, it was sold as a big budget action film, or at least that was the general perception. In this age of “event” trailer releases, tweets, and online spoilers, that was probably a bad move. This is the sequel to a beloved, much discussed and debated about film that is still a cult movie at heart. Neither film was created to compete with the large-scale action fare that general audiences love. The filmmakers did set themselves an almost impossible task; following up an acknowledged classic with a film that is sure to be pored over and examined by an almost obsessive group of fans. But they have succeeded admirably. Blade Runner 2049 is a thoughtful science-fiction film that asks some big questions, and doesn’t tie everything up in a neat little bow. It’s worth checking out. Here’s a link to the film’s trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCcx85zbxz4.