It’s rare in 2017 that sequels or reboots to beloved old movies or TV shows are any good (I’m staring at you, “The Mummy,” “Alien: Covenant” and “Baywatch”). I’m glad to say, though, that “Blade Runner 2049” is not just great. The film is a modern classic; a beautiful, philosophical gem that surpasses even all of Ridley Scott’s cuts of the original “Blade Runner.”
What made the 1982 film a classic wasn’t the awe of its content—a police officer (called a blade runner) tasked to kill replicants (artificial humans deemed illegal to exist) in a dystopian 2019 Los Angeles—but the brilliance in how its content was filmed. The cinematography surrounding Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” borrowed elements from the neo-noir genre through the film’s use of light and shadows, combining it with spectacular sci-fi settings that brought about the popular resurgence of tech-noir (or future noir) in the ‘80s.
The same is applied in “2049,” but executed surprisingly better. Director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins present a 2049 Los Angeles so alive, the city itself is essentially a character within the film. And, while the same is true for the original “Blade Runner” to some extent, the Los Angeles in “2049” will have you craving a three-month vacation to said city, just to experience the virtual billboards that gaze at you from the sky. Time and technology have definitely helped Villeneuve and Deakins create the most beautiful film of 2017; from its colors, to its interior and exterior designs, to what’s supposed to be seen and unseen, “Blade Runner 2049” is a visual paradise.
But what makes “Blade Runner 2049” an amazing film isn’t just its cinematography. Unlike its predecessor, the film’s content is also a major contributor. The film is a philosophical mind blower worth a 10-page college essay. “Blade Runner 2049” starts with Agent K (Ryan Gosling) on a mission to kill (or “retire” as the films calls it) a replicant called Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista). After completing his mission, K discovers an artifact that changes the course of the film. Through this discovery, K is tasked on another mission that causes him to experience an existential crisis; a crisis that eventually leads him to the whereabouts of former blade runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).
“Blade Runner 2049” deals with one central overarching philosophical theme: what it means to be human. Replicants are artificially-created enhanced humanoid beings, physically indistinguishable from real humans. They were used as slaves in the original “Blade Runner” and in “2049,” older models called Nexus-8s are hunted down by the LAPD, due to their potential to develop human emotions. “2049” wants us to perceive and accept replicants as human beings, as they absolutely should be, and it is after one critical revelation in the film that the homogeneity between replicants and humans is undeniably real.
Replicants are just one component of the film’s query on what constitutes being human, as there’s another form of artificial intelligence in “Blade Runner 2049” that forms part of the question. The character Joi (played by Cuban actress Ana de Armas) is an A.I. program that exists within a central computer mainframe; essentially, she is a soul without a body. Joi is like a super advanced version of Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, serving the needs of Agent K. But she extends beyond that; it isn’t long before K and Joi fall in love with each other, like Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson’s characters in the movie ”Her.” Joi is arguably the best character in the film and her chemistry with Agent K is one we’ve rarely seen in 2017.
Indeed, there are so many great characters and performances in “Blade Runner 2049,” but the most memorable is Sylvia Hoeks’s phenomenal rendition of the evil replicant Luv. The Dutch actress is a force of nature in each scene she is in; be prepared to see her in many more blockbuster films in coming years. As the evil assistant of the main antagonist of the film, replicant creator Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), Luv is like the Darth Vader to Niander’s Palpatine; she is more intimidating than the big boss himself. There are times where you think she’s actually going to kill Agent K. Unfortunately, this is where “Blade Runner 2049” makes its first and only miss.
There is one particular moment in the film where Luv clearly has the upper hand against K, but for reasons “2049” fails to present, Luv doesn’t kill K and leaves him behind to live another day. Everything that happens after, where K eventually succeeds in his adventure and the film ends on a happy note, is due to Luv’s inclination to suddenly be out of character, allowing the plot of the film to advance. I wouldn’t constitute that small detail to lazy scriptwriting, as screenwriters Hampton Fancher and Michael Green did a fantastic job, but it’s ridiculous character decisions like that, rooted in the screenplay, that gives a film like “Blade Runner: 2049” a nine out of ten instead of a perfect score.
In a time of bad sequels and reboots, “Blade Runner 2049” has surpassed all expectations. Fans of Ridley Scott’s original “Blade Runner” and general moviegoers alike will truly appreciate the timeless masterpiece that is Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner” sequel. If film historians consider the original “Blade Runner” a turning point in the history of cinema, then “Blade Runner 2049” is the near epitome of modern cinematic perfection and an instant classic.
Carlos Rosario Gonzalez is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.