Blade Runner 2049

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A sequel better than the original?

Name five movie sequels that are better than their predecessors?

Struggling to find an answer to this?

How about three movie sequels better than the originals?

In truth, it’s very difficult to answer this question. Why? Well if a film is commissioned to have a second, third, fourth or in The Fast and The Furious franchises case eight (and counting!), it relies heavily on the original film being a major success.

What makes a movie a major success? Any number of factors play a part but I will offer a few:

  1. Original and well written script
  2. Excellent casting
  3. A director with a clear vision
  4. Memorable soundtrack/music score
  5. Right timing (whether it is due to pop-culture or subject matter)
  6. All of the above working in tandem

When I heard Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) was taking on the unenviable task of directing the follow-up to Ridley Scott’s neo noir sci-fi thriller Blade Runner (1982), I had two questions.

  1. Will it ruin the original?
  2. When can I see it?

Blade Runner advanced

To say the original Blade Runner was genre-defining is an understatement. Every sci-fi film produced since 1982 has in some form adapted an idea developed in the original film as a way of paying homage to Ridley Scott’s masterpiece (flying cars, robots as humans). This inevitably adds significant pressure and a weight of expectation to any follow-up feature. What would Blade Runner 2049 bring?

We are introduced to “K” played by Ryan Gosling in the opening sequence of the film. The tech is familiar though more advanced, the setting is familiar though more abandoned and the story of new blade runner unfolds.

Casting Gosling as the lead role for Blade Runner 2049 certainly seems to pay off as the actor takes the mantle left by Harrison Ford and runs with it to great affect. Audiences by now will be very familiar with Gosling’s performances and how he often subtlety underplays his co-stars with expressive acting rather than relying on key dialogue to drive a film. Half Nelson (Fleck, 2006), Lars and the Real Girl (Gillespie, 2007) and Drive (Winding Refn, 2011) all demonstrate this but here we see a true progression in this style. K is an unrelenting blade runner, forgiving but fierce, inquisitive but focused, a true detective without detective flaws but he does flaws, human flaws.

Blade Runner 2049

Ryan Gosling stars in Blade Runner 2049 | Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

What I liked most about the original Blade Runner was the films exploration of the human condition. We travelled into a future world where Harrison Ford (Deckard) falls in love with the so-called enemy (Rachael played by Sean Young) whilst having to seek and destroy the enemy (Roy Batty played by Rutger Hauer). Questions around morality and reproduction are asked throughout and answered in a poetic monologue delivered by Hauer in the final sequence.

What Blade Runner 2049 does better than the original is explore the same notion but on a much deeper level. In 2049, it is no longer just a question of morality and reproduction that surface. The film explores growth, emotionality, mortality, rebirth to name a few. You really get a sense that “K” is on a discovery to find himself as well as identifying whether he is human or replicant or both.

Vangelis meets Zimmer (and Wallfisch)

The swooping synth driven soundtrack is what is synonymous with Blade Runner. It’s wonderfully crafted by Vangelis to inspire the futuristic backdrop of the film and provide an eerie, isolated feeling to each scene. How would the sequel compare? Well, completely comparable. Hans Zimmer has taken everything that is good from Vangelis’ score and amplified it to the extreme. The synth was so loud that the cinema speakers were having a tough time keeping up. Usually, I would say something like this is a bad a thing for a movie but it’s absolutely perfect for Blade Runner 2049 and really adds to the mystery of the futuristic world.

Blade Runner 2049: The final verdict

Stellar performances, directing and music really pave the way for Blade Runner 2049 to be considered a modern classic. The supporting cast is very strong (Robin Wright Penn, Harrison Ford) and the story holds together very well, if not better than the original. Time will tell if this futuristic follow-up is measurable against the original. It may not be genre-defining but it is sequel-defining and deserves a place in the sci-fi movie hall of fame. Let’s hope critics and the movie-going public feel the same about this film in the year 2049.

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