Ridley Scott’s science fiction classic has confounded audiences since its 1982 release and has produced reactions over the years that range from admiration to frustration. Philip K. Dick’s vision of replicants trying to extend their lives in a dystopian Los Angeles was unlike anything in cinemas prior and continues to be a template for writers and directors. When Scott announced that a sequel of Blade Runner was in consideration, the announcement was met with a similar level of mixed reactions that ranged from obvious enthusiasm to skeptical consternation. Can the director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) live up to the inevitable artistic expectation and comparison with Blade Runner 2049?
Officer K (Ryan Gosling) serves as a blade runner for the LAPD in 2049, a role that requires that he must find, identify and ‘retire’ older models of replicants. While on an assignment amongst the farms surrounding the city, he uncovers clues that lead him on a journey that could unlock his past and could potentially open the door to a new future for replicants and humanity. Upon further investigation, he uncovers a web of deceit and corruption that leads him to cross paths with Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) who is one of the most powerful men in the world as the head of the replicant creating Wallace Corporation. Along with law enforcement, the sociopathic entrepreneur proves to have a vested interest in K’s discoveries. In an attempt to stay ahead of Wallace’s contemporaries and the LAPD, the investigator must try to find the answers to his questions from the man who has been in hiding for over 30 years, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).
The two questions that most will ask about Blade Runner 2049 are if viewing the original is necessary before experiencing the sequel and more importantly if Villeneuve’s creation comparable to Scott’s original? The first question can only be answered with another question, how could anyone not have seen Blade Runner? It should be on anyone’s must-see list of classic films and it is essential to see before embarking on the 163-minute journey that comes with seeing the sequel. The second query will take more time to answer.
Similar to the first outing in the rain-soaked streets of Los Angeles, this storyline is a combination of visionary brilliance, intense frustration and something that is unique to itself. Denis Villeneuve would only do this film with the blessing of Ridley Scott and he received euphoric support from the original creator. The younger director’s visionary choice to partner with cinematographer Roger Deakins (Sicario) was a first step in putting his own claim on this treasure. The visual smorgasbord that is on offer throughout the blade runner’s search for answers helped to make the marathon screening worth every minute. These visuals complemented the numerous twists of the well-crafted screenplay that will satisfy many of the queries fans have had for years, but will open a fresh batch of speculations for the future of this franchise. Plot holes do exist and the script is not perfect, but it does move dangerously close to receiving an excellent mark. The content will be perplexing for some but proves to be an exceptional follow-up to the first instalment of the canon.
The superior artistic elements were supported by the strength of a marvellous cast and show that the Canadian director has an eye for every detail. Each actor has a point and fills the role they represent on screen. Gosling continues to show that his brooding and understated style of acting was the right choice for his character. Demonstrating that he was able to convey the depth of emotion with minimal deviations in his demeanour. Jared Leto, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks and Carla Juri were all strong choices for their part in this potential cinematic gem, but it was Robin Wright’s LAPD Lieutenant Joshi that was the standout amongst this talented troupe. She manages to steal each scene and provides a dangerous beauty to the film. Her performance tops off a bevvy of magnificent acting achievements by all involved.
To answer the second question, this film builds on the strengths of its predecessor but evolves into something more. It is hard not to compare the two, but what should be on the ‘must do’ for audiences is to view the first film. Then go and experience Blade Runner 2049 and realise that this is like viewing bookends of cinematic brilliance.
- Have you seen the original Blade Runner, and do you think that making a sequel was a good idea? What are some of the pros and cons of continuing the story? How does 2049 stack up against the original film?
- How would you describe your experience of Blade Runner 2049? Did the film draw you in, or did you find it slow? Which scenes were the most exciting or emotional for you?
- What did you think of the film’s plot? Was it the right choice to bring Deckard (Harrison Ford) back into the story? Did you anticipate the plot’s twists and turns?
- What did you make of the dystopian future imagined by the film? Which of our own current cultural crises or anxieties are reflected there? Do you think this is a plausible vision of the future, and why or why not?
- How did you react to K’s relationship with Joi? Do you think it reflects any truths about relationships in our own digital age? In what ways does our own society treat women as wish-fulfilment for men?
- What did you think of the film’s representation of women in general? Is Blade Runner 2049 a misogynistic film, or a critical portrayal of a dystopia where misogyny rules?
- How does the film explore ideas around oppression and exploitation? Which real-life groups might the replicants symbolise? How might we find ourselves ignoring or justifying the exploitation of others?
- The ability to procreate and the willingness to die for a cause are suggested by the film as things which make us human. Do you agree, and why or why not? What – if anything – ultimately makes human beings distinct from animals or from artificial intelligence?
- Could you identify with K’s longing to hear that he was ‘special’? How might his existential questions reflect our own? Did you feel the film ultimately held out hope for the possibility of real ‘love’ and ‘joy’, and why or why not?
Due to the mature content in this film, it is for adult audiences only.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
Where does mankind find its identity? It is a theme throughout cinema in 2017 and one that has plagued philosophers, theologians and university professors for centuries. Denis Villeneuve continues the discussion on the identity of humanity in this second chapter of Blade Runner. In this fictional world, replicants are a creation of man and were meant to become even better than humans. The problem with these humanoid creations is they merely desire to be human.
Keeping in mind that this is a work of fiction and replicants do not exist (Yet). It does not minimise the fact that people continue to question what it means to be human. One reference that can answer this question is the Bible. It states that we are made in the image of God, which means that God has a particular position for us in this world. This answer merely begins to provide an answer to this existential query, why not dig in more? It is interesting that the study of humanity could bring one closer to know God.
1. What does the Bible say about being human? (Genesis 2 & 3)
2. Can we ever find justice? (Proverbs 21:15, Romans 12:19)
3. What is the value of family? (John 15:12-17, Ephesians 3:14-15)