Reel Reviews: ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Blade Runner 2049’

By on October 11, 2017

Worth waiting for: a proper sequel

We all have them: movies we are scared to admit we’ve never seen. For me, one of those movies was 1982’s “Blade Runner.” The star-studded, Ridley Scott (“Alien,” “The Martian”) directed sci-fi simply never hit my playlist. Before jumping back in time to the future — the original “Blade Runner” is set in 2019, when cars fly and people still drink Schlitz — I Googled the film to see what all the hype was about. I stumbled onto an apropos interview with Scott, who said he never wanted to create a statement with “Blade Runner;” he simply wanted to tell a story. And he nailed his mark.

“Blade Runner” is a definitive sci-fi work of film set in a future where replicants (synthetic humans) are enslaved and used in off-Earth colonies. Due to their ability to rebel and their development of a human-like nature to survive, replicants have become banned from Earth. When they do make their way to the home world, agents of justice known as blade runners (Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard) search them out and put them into “retirement.”

Heartthrobs Ryan Gosling (left) and Harrison Ford star in “Blade Runner 2049.” Ford reprises his role of Rick Deckard from the original “Blade Runner” in 1982.

I’m so glad I finally took the time to watch “Blade Runner.” The film is important, as it looks at a dystopian future through a real, although fictional, lens. There is a message — political, social, human — running throughout the film, but Scott’s ability to render a story without a brow beating of opinion and deluge of self-importance is beautiful. The film is a work of art, from a mystically stunning score to the actors’ ability to convey emotion with minimal dialogue.

In the end, “Blade Runner” simply stops. When the film is over the viewer is left to his/her own conclusions of future events. It’s the story Scott tells. We interpret it easily with little need for deep conjecture. There is a beginning and an end. Or, is there an end?

Thirty-five years later, French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”) takes up where Scott left off …kind of. The year in the sequel is 2049 and things have changed. Replicants have become perfected, for the most part. Old models still surface now and then, and blade runners (this time played by Ryan Gosling) still track them down for retirement. However, something is a bit amiss, as we learn a replicant miracle has occurred. There is an offspring. How and why is shrouded by false memories and manipulated by the desires of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto, The Joker in “Suicide Squad”), the founder of the Wallace Corporation, the new makers of replicant technology. His ends are left open when the credits scroll for “Blade Runner 2049,” leaving room for a sequel.

The biggest difference between “Blade Runner” and “Blade Runner 2049” is the level of conspiracy. Where “Blade Runner” is a story reminiscent of “A Clockwork Orange,” with a depth of imbedded plot like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and visual beauty like “Apocalypse Now,” “Blade Runner 2049” fetches bits of recently popular futures like the “Maze Runner” or “The Hunger Games” franchises — except on a more adult playing field.

“Blade Runner 2049” provides original film fans with subtle reminiscences, but ultimately creates a broader world, and storyline, of the future. The movie satisfies the wants of original fans, especially by creating a visually stunning and audibly intoxicating film. Like the first installment, “Blade Runner 2049” starts and stops on its own power (despite its obvious setup for a third film). It is, by far, one of the best title reprises to grace the big screen.

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