Even though the idea of sequels to classic films is a hot button topic for the vast majority of us, there’s something inherently exciting when one of the best “new” directors decides to take a crack at a sequel no one thought we’d want. Throw the soon to be Oscar-winning Roger Deakins to aid in the visuals of the hard-sci-fi of 2049 then you have one of the most outstanding modern works in science-fiction cinema since the last Blade Runner. Written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, we’re thrust into a world that fueled by the nostalgia of the original film while also reminding us this is a Denis Villeneuve movie. Denis immediately thrusts us into a technology trenched California of the dystopian future which show us his trademark of aerial view visuals that immerse the audience as intimately as he can and the show goes on from there.
As most movies are that present a complex narrative, I had to mull over what I was I just saw. On one hand, it’s a hard sci-fi drama that presents itself with grand scale, visual splendor, and deep look into humanity through a not so distant future. On the other hand, this is a hardboiled crime drama, a noir even, that becomes a mystery tied up with a beautiful allegory. I’m not talking allegories like mother! either. While still visceral in nature, 2049 isn’t preachy and it isn’t as on the nose as you think it is. Sure, spans of dialogue by a blind Jared Leto make for some powerful and revealing scenes, but as I was told by a friend way smarter than me, we should be watching that anime they released online prior to the film’s release. (See right below)
They go all in with the quality collaborators to make this movie as well. Beyond the stellar cast that included Gosling as LAPD officer K, a blind Jared Leto as our industrialist mad man of the future, and the likes of Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Ana de Armes (a standout in my opinion), and of course Harrison Ford. Through they’re nuanced performances, we are immersed in a world where simple human qualities are far less organic to view in a future such as this. The movie’s settings are constantly being showered with rain and with that, there’s a washing away of what makes Earth what we see it as now. The grim, pessimistic nature of futuristic California is cynical, brooding, but also secretly hopeful, and it’s best presented through our protagonist and his case which then becomes his mission.
There’s something to be said about the minimal – though effective – violence that is shown throughout the film and how it’s so matter of fact when visible on screen. It gives the vulnerability to the idea of a fragile life whether artificial or organic. It doesn’t decide on going with the action heavy sequel like most modern sequels choose to do, but instead focuses on the philosophical nature of… nature. Of people specifically. It’s theory shown through shots and visuals while being aggressively hummed to sleep by a boisterous, bombastic composition devised by Hans Zimmer himself. Instead of quiet yoga for certain scenes, we get pilates or weight training. Something that stimulates and pushes the senses of our being to their brink a lot of the time as the scenes don’t break away from the insanity both we and the characters may be facing. To say it’s effective would be an understatement.
Some of the most awkward – at first sight – scenes for me involved Ryan Gosling’s K and Ana de Armas Joi (War Dogs, Hands of Stone) in what were definitive moments for me as a viewer. It proves that there isn’t much Deakins, Villeneuve, and the special effects team can’t do when it comes to creating intimate though sometimes uncomfortable scenes of passion for these two. It was a beautiful side story that could have been its own movie in its own right, but also managed to prove to us the main themes of the film entirely. That’s what makes this movie great. Every scene counts for something and leads to something far greater. By the end, the film will have moved you, provoked your thought processes, and quickly made you go into the deepest caverns of your mind in hopes of finally unlocking something you already knew was there.
I expect this to be strong favorite for a lot of the technical awards come Oscar-season, but I’m not convinced this is going to be the favorite to win the big one like the buzz has you believing. This is a dense, lengthy film with some familiar faces, but it does not have that quippy dialogue, science-fiction like pizazz to it, nor the fun music like a Guardians of the Galaxy does. It’s a return to noir with a science fiction backdrop, a not so distant future that just so happens to look gorgeous thanks to the eye of the great Roger Deakins, but make no mistake, Blade Runner 2049 will go down as one of the best within the next few years. A cult classic soon to be just like the original.