Review: 'Blade Runner 2049' deals with eerily relatable modern issues

Marcus Goh
Contributor
Blade Runner 2049 (Sony Pictures Releasing)

Secret ending? No.

Running time: 164 minutes (~2.75 hours)

“Blade Runner 2049” is an American science-fiction film in English that’s a sequel to 1982’s “Blade Runner”, itself based loosely on the novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”.

The film takes place in a futuristic world where artificially created, physically-enhanced humans known as replicants have been integrated into society with regular humans, with new models of these replicants constantly being released in the same fashion as technological products. A replicant-hunter, known as a blade runner (who is also a newer-model replicant himself), stumbles across a horrifying secret that could change the fate of the world, and seeks out a former blade runner in his quest for answers.

“Blade Runner 2049” is directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Hampton Francher, with additional screenplay credits for Michael Green. It stars Ryan Gosling (K), Harrison Ford (Rick Deckard), Ana de Armas (Joi), Sylvia Hoeks (Luv), Robin Wright (Lt Joshi), Mackenzie Davis (Mariette), Carla Juri (Dr Ana Stelline), Lennie James (Mister Cotton), Dave Bautisa (Sapper Morton), Jared Leto (Niander Wallace), and Barkhad Abdi (Doc Badger), with a cameo by Sean Young (Rachael). It is rated NC-16.

Blade Runner 2049 (Sony Pictures Releasing)

Despite “Blade Runner 2049” being physically released 35 years later, story-wise the plot takes place 30 years after the original, which was set in 2019. Although we are, ostensibly, far from seeing synthetic humans being bred to replace the toil and labour required of normal humans, the film touches on some eerily relatable issues of modern society, making it surprisingly relevant and wonderful to watch.

Highlights

Amazing visuals

Despite being a commercial film, “Blade Runner 2049” offers stunning cinematography that is usually only seen in art films. It bears some stylistic similarities with “Tron: Legacy”, but still carves out its own identity through the hauntingly beautiful images that are created with intriguing camera angles, a stimulating colour palette, and imaginative direction.

An engaging plot

The story finds its own footing despite being a sequel — one might have expected it to retread the same ground or rehash the same themes. It builds upon what has been established in “Blade Runner” and rewards viewers who have watched the first film, while still being a standalone story that doesn’t require existing knowledge of the franchise. It combines action with startling revelations and plot twists, making it a worthy tale to tell by itself.

Blade Runner 2049 (Sony Pictures Releasing)

Thought-provoking themes

One of the themes which hit uncomfortably close to home is the theme of artificial companionship. It’s a logical extension of the idea of whether sentience is equivalent to humanity, but depicted in a way that’s relevant to modern society. With the increasing number of alternatives to human companionship, this idea is portrayed in a way that leaves you musing over the issue long after you’ve left the cinema.

Poignant performance by Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling’s turn as K is a relatable and stirring one, turning a relatively common trope into a mini coming-of-age story within the larger narrative of the film. His tight control of emotions and thoughtful expressions show us that much lurks beneath the surface of this replicant, as self-aware as he may be about his manufactured and artificial origins.

Blade Runner 2049 (Sony Pictures Releasing)

Letdowns

Unwieldy length

“Blade Runner 2049” comes up to almost three hours, so it’s advisable to take a toilet break prior to the film for those with smaller bladders. Despite the plot and visuals, the film doesn’t feel like it warrants such a long running time, especially since it telegraphs certain plot twists way ahead of time, while not adequately explaining other reveals properly.

Some ponderous sequences

Several scenes, especially at the beginning, are meant to set the mood and tone of the film. While they may be aesthetically pleasing, they aren’t particularly energetic or interesting, and could have been cut for brevity. Several other scenes with Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) are also particularly lengthy without providing a specific payoff, and add to the awkwardly long runtime.

“Blade Runner 2049” is a magnificent film that delivers on all three counts — story, visuals, and characterisation — while still managing to be a worthy sequel to a film set two generations ago. However, all these come at a price, which is the long running time. Nevertheless, it’s definitely worth watching.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? Yes, unless you disliked the original “Blade Runner”.

Score: 3.8/5

“Blade Runner 2049” opens in cinemas:
– 5 October, 2017 (Singapore)
– 6 October, 2017 (Philippines) 

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter, having written for “Police & Thief”, “Incredible Tales”, “Crimewatch”, and “Point of Entry”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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