Blade Runner 2049 has been rated R for Violence, some Sexuality, Nudity and Language.
Sitting in a theatre for an extended period to watch a film, no matter which it is, is becoming something of a miracle for me. Whether I’m excited for it or not, it just doesn’t seem to influence me buying the ticket, setting the time aside and going. Blade Runner 2049 started as that kind of movie – I was more aware of its lengthy runtime than I was its source material, more aware of the cost of the ticket than I was that Harrison Ford or Ryan Gosling starred in it. I was also aware of the praise being given to it and of a particular term – ‘The Perfect Sequel’. Happy as critics were to label 2049 as such, I don’t know if I could say the same. What I can tell you is that this movie is, in every sense, a must watch – Blade Runner 2049 an example of what a film can truly be when free of its obligations.
Yet let us not throw away the term of ‘Perfect Sequel’ too quickly, as I agree that on its face, once could see Blade Runner as such. One main reason for its labelling is that 2049 doesn’t attach itself to its official predecessor, the Final Cut of the original Blade Runner. Another is that 2049 does not franchise Blade Runner – over the course of its 2 hour, 40 minute runtime, 2049 tells its own, unique story. This is correct – there are no deliberate omissions of closure to help anticipation for another film. However, to say that 2049 lacks attachment to its predecessor is an understatement – frankly, 2049 acknowledges the age of its source material and almost expects you to have never watched the first film. In fact, 2049 is perhaps best viewed without a refresher of the original. What it does with that material works best when seen from the perspective of Ryan Gosling’s character, K. 2049‘s inciting action, a chance discovery of a secret long-buried, sets the Blade Runner on a journey to unravel a mystery of identity and a collision course with original Blade Runner protagonist Rick Deckard. Deckard’s inclusion in the film, along with any mention of prior events, are used as pieces of the puzzle as opposed to things you should’ve known prior to watching 2049. You’ll learn what you need to from them and move on.
In watching the performances of the film’s main cast, it struck me that every character in some way felt important. 2049 is, much like its stance on the original material, not content to weigh itself down in traditional methods. Its runtime certainly lends itself to this – every character has ample time to sell their performances and be fleshed out. You come for Ryan Gosling’s K, you stay for Sylvia Hoeks’ Luv – a powerhouse in her own right, much like Harrison Ford and Jared Leto are. Considering Ryan Gosling’s ability as a silent actor and the brief screen time of Ford and Leto, it’s clear 2049 wanted to play as much with audience’s expectations of actors as possible – the result is tasteful and not necessarily disrespectful, although I would’ve loved for Leto’s character, Niander Wallace, to have been given more time to keep doing his thing.
Lending itself to the stellar performances is the visual treasure trove and cinematography. Everything in 2049, from sweeping cityscapes to intimate imagery can only be described as worthy of pause. More than once, or twice, or a dozen times even, 2049 tells a story and sells you a lifestyle on its imagery alone. The protein farm of Sapper Morton; the downpour of an overcrowded and despondent Los Angeles; the vibrant yet lifeless Las Vegas – each place speaks to a facet of this world never explicitly stated. It never needed to – director Denis Villeneuve shows incredible skill with the camera throughout, almost never using the same trick twice to keep the film as much about the film as possible.
Blade Runner 2049 is perhaps not the Perfect Sequel it is lauded as. 2049 doesn’t want to be held back by such terms. It would be accurate to call it the Perfect Successor to Blade Runner – it’s stood on its own two feet, unconcerned with merely elevating the original or placing the franchise on some pedestal for the future. It’s an investment for the present – no long-term contract required.