With its hush-hush, minimal marketing campaign, I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I sat down in the theater to watch Blade Runner 2049. Though the original Blade Runner came out in 1982, thirteen years before I was even born, Ridley Scott’s timeless film had become a favorite of mine and, of course, is a staple of the science-fiction film community – so I couldn’t help but wonder how this second iteration of the Blade Runner story would hold up to it’s predecessor.
I am happy to say that my doubts were immediately brushed away from the top of the opening scene – and what followed was two hours and forty-four minutes of sensory sci-fi bliss.
We’re plunged into the story of Officer K (Ryan Gosling), who is a new blade runner for the Los Angeles Police Department. Officer K lives in a tiny apartment with his virtual girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas), a holographic AI who begs the question of whether or not artificial intelligence can truly love. After each of his replicant ‘retiring’ missions, Officer K is subjected to a word-association type practice largely reminiscent of the original Blade Runner’s replicant-identifying process. The real heart of the story, however, begins when Officer K – a previously unmoved and unrelenting killer – begins to question who he really is. When he uncovers a long-buried secret that has the potential to overthrow what’s left of society, he’s led on a quest to find none other than Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who has been missing for thirty years.
Though the story does span quite the runtime – a detail that many critics of the film have pointed out – it’s not difficult to get totally lost in the visually stimulating world that director Dennis Villeneuve (Arrival, Prisoners) has brought to life. The movement of the story had me invested in each and every moment, and was only bolstered by the stand out performances of Gosling and Ford. While we’re so used to fast-paced blockbusters, Blade Runner 2049 provides a far more meticulous pacing designed to present such existential thoughts as the definition of a soul, or what it means to be born. Where there might have otherwise been a lull that left me asking, “okay, where is this going?” I truly felt as though each scene moved together so solidly that I didn’t have the time to question how long I’d been watching. In a way, the film casts a sort of trance that invites you into its world and asks you to really think about what you’re seeing.
So much of what makes Blade Runner 2049 so incredible is the careful attention that Villeneuve gave to the details of the first Blade Runner. Paying great homage to the original film, Blade Runner 2049 finds an advanced, visually stunning way to marry a neo-noir aesthetic and the technological wonders of our not-to-distant future. This is only compounded on with the hauntingly ethereal score from Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. From moments of intense action to near silence, the score lends even more depth to Blade Runner 2049’s world, coloring each moment with music that, quite literally, reverberates within you.
Of course, I do believe that the best way to experience Blade Runner 2049 is to see it on the largest screen possible, and with a solid sound system that’ll really bring out that score. I’d also recommend a second, third, fourth watch to really start identifying all of the incredible things that Villeneuve uses to create such a visceral, beautiful science-fiction world – one that I think will be a lasting classic.