by Kohan Eybergen
Despite the fact that the first Blade Runner film was released 35 years ago, Blade Runner 2049 successfully follows the original in both quality and tone. In a world filled with crappy sequels and reboots that try to capitalize on a successful movie’s popularity, Blade Runner 2049 is refreshing. Not only is it a fantastic follow up to the 1982 Ridley Scott original, but it also maintains its own plot and introduces new well-developed characters.
The plot of the film follows the Blade Runner and replicant Agent K (played by Ryan Gosling) as he is tasked with carrying on the duty of retiring rogue, outdated replicants in the year 2049. Replicants are essentially human clones who are manufactured to be used as slaves and can be programmed to have certain personality traits. After killing one on a farm, Agent K finds a number of clues that lead to the discovery of a skeleton. Upon studying the replicant skeleton, the LAPD, whom Agent K works for, realizes that this late replicant had given birth prior to her demise–a feat that was previously thought to be impossible, as replicants are not meant to reproduce. Agent K is then ordered to track down the unknown child that was born to the late replicant woman.
Throughout the film, the audience is subjected to deep questions about humanity, such as what it means to be human and whether or not a manufactured human can have a soul. The character Agent K struggles with these same queries as he becomes more and more unstable and emotionally invested in his search for the child (who would be about his age).
However, Agent K and the LAPD are not the only ones trying to locate this miracle child; the Wallace Corporation, the company that creates the new replicants, are also on the hunt for the child in order to study it so they can figure out how a replicant could be capable of reproduction. The clues then lead Agent K to the long disappeared ex-Blade Runner, Agent Deckard (played by Harrison Ford), who was the main character of the 1982 original film.
This sequel does an excellent job in maintaining the same feel as the original; it is equally as dark and intense as the first one and carries on the same philosophical themes. This is largely due to the similar style in which it is filmed, especially the grim lighting. Similar to the original, nothing in the film is handed to the audience on a silver platter; everything is meant to be speculated, which effectively grasps the viewers’ interest, and nothing is overly predictable like a lot films tend to be. The visual effects are also just as stunning as the original, with futuristic holographic advertisements flashing from the buildings, some of which parallel ones in its predecessor. However, it surpasses the original Blade Runner as far as plot is concerned. While the original is much more action-driven, Blade Runner 2049 is driven largely by the plot and the character development of Agent K, while the action scenes are dispersed sparingly throughout the film. The plot leads strongly in one direction towards a conclusion, only to be dispelled by a well-executed plot twist at the end that is not predictable in the slightest.
Another area where this film is strong is the acting. Gosling’s acting is fantastic in this film. He does an exceptional job of portraying an “emotionless” replicant at the beginning, while shifting to a much more unstable and recognizably human character throughout the film without it ever seeming insincere or rushed. Harrison Ford, who is obviously an extremely experienced actor, also delivers a superb performance of his old character Rick Deckard, despite not playing the role in over thirty years.
Perhaps where this film wins the most, however, is that it successfully establishes its own plot without relying wholly on the same characters as the original (Deckard is only in the movie for about thirty minutes), yet it is a plot that still makes complete sense following the first film. It doesn’t forcefully try to imitate the feel of the 1982 Blade Runner either, yet it captures the same tone authentically, while still maintaining its own distinct style and texture.
Overall, Blade Runner 2049 is a highly enjoyable film with beautiful cinematography and excellent characters. I would highly recommend it, especially to fans of the first film. I look forward to owning it and watching it many, many more times. In my opinion, it’s at least a 9/10 score, and might even be better than the original, a feat that is nearly impossible for a sequel to accomplish.