Ridley Scott’s final cut of Blade Runner stirred furthermore the divisive question as to whether Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard was a replicant or not. In Denis Villeneuve’s sequel, the identity of the replicants is established with ease. A synthetic script sadly diminishes the spectacular elements of this science-fiction blockbuster.
The face has changed but the mystery and intrigue posed is still there in blade runner, K (Ryan Gosling), who in similar fashion, pursues Weyland’s creations and retires them, much to their reluctance. However, these slaves have been being hunted down for many years now, and things have changed gravely. Secrets have been buried, and are now being dug up by Gosling’s cool and collected officer of the law. A string of concealed truths lead K to the location of Deckard, who may be able to help our inquisitive protagonist discover who he is, and more about a society that has become further problematic in its moral escalation.
The triumph of Blade Runner 2049 is in its visuals. The imagery that is masterfully captured by the ever-brilliant Roger Deakins is often breathtaking and impeccably realised. The colour palettes are extraordinary and help drive forward the idea that we are witnessing a future that has come too far in terms of technological advancement, and taken mammoth steps backwards into moral decline. Just like the original, a harmoniously depraved balance between dystopian and tech-noir visuals is achieved to raise questions of a future that perfectly blends science-fiction imagery with surrealist elements of a society on the brink of civil collapse. The potency of select images scattered around the narrative are astounding; a dog overlooking flying cars from an abandoned decrepit building soaked in an orange, desert glow – stunning. Yet, these are images spliced into a narrative that sadly feels convoluted, confused and unworthy of the gorgeous simplicity of original.
The film is much longer than Ridley Scott’s 1982 original; at a whopping two hours and forty-three minutes, it at times feels like an overblown and overly long sequel that, arguably, adds nothing supplementary to the original, and certainly nothing to improve upon it. As the narrative thickens, it becomes tiring and for long periods of time it feels as though many scenes possess nothing to enrich or drive the characters motivations forward. It is a shame, because Ryan Gosling shines in the lead role. The exposition, in which K is sent to terminate Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), a replicant farmer who until now has evaded a bleak fate, is marvellously conceptualised. The chiaroscuro lighting that cloaks the two figures in mystery feels fitting for a film that wishes to proceed Scott’s subversive detective noir. Their grappling provides thrills that are not matched until the films climactic scene. Not to say that there are no thrills throughout, but these thrills are provided, for the majority, by images, not sequences. The occasional vision of fascinating tech-noir fantasy is drowned out by plot development that feels unwarranted and unnecessary. Approaching the last act, it feels rational to question whether you have been given enough reason to care about the fates of any of the individuals and their actions – despite the great effort the cast have evidently gone through to provide outlooks into an idiosyncratic world. These efforts all seem to be let down by a rather boring and tedious story and poor script; this would not be too much of an issue alongside other appealing elements, but the duration of the film is way too long to endure such missteps.
Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s score is sublime, and helps support some of the films more exhilarating images. Sadly, there is just not enough here to transfix audiences for such a period of time. Great costuming, acting and visuals are things to boast, but when they are apart of something that feels hollow in its construction of events, they begin to wane, and the power they possessed in the films gripping first act lessens until Blade Runner 2049 takes one last, exasperated gasp for air – a breath taken too late.