Ryan Gosling as LAPD Officer “K” and Mackenzie Davis (to his right) as Mariette in Bladerunner 2049. (Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
Hollywood has been awash in uncreative and repetitive sequels designed to distract moviegoers with computer-generated imagery (CGI), quick cuts and their formulaic plots in order to rake in the consumer’s cash. “Blade Runner 2049“ (2017) doesn’t quite break the mold as much as it reshapes it when it comes to the way a sequel can and should be filmed.
Much like Ridley Scott’s original “Blade Runner” (1982), Director Dennis Villeneuve brings this films aesthetics to the forefront by letting Cinematographer Roger Deakins’ stunning visuals linger on screen for the audience to soak in like a fine painting. You won’t find rapid editing cuts or an abundance of CGI in every corner of the screen to give you sensory overload. Editor Joe Walker’s pace is perfectly blended with the haunting score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, allowing Ryan Gosling, as LAPD officer “K”, to be more of a compliment to the incredibly creative visual and audio collaboration than simply the star of the movie.
Similar to the work Gosling did in “Drive” (2011), there actually isn’t an abundance of dialogue for him in this film, which is not to take anything away from his performance, which is vintage Gosling. His strength as an actor is in his ability to convey emotion without having to rely on dialogue to enable his audience to become attached to his character’s journey. “Blade Runner 2049” is a magnificent journey.
Production Designer Dennis Gassner masterfully expands on the Bladerunner universe in futuristic Los Angeles while remaining faithful to the original design of the first Bladerunner film, which is still not showing any signs of being outdated over 30 years later. The visual effects, while stunning, blend seamlessly into the film with just the right amount of pastel colors to highlight the gloomy downtown LA landscape. The color scheme changes when the setting moves to a post apocalyptic Las Vegas, but manages to infuse just the right amount of orange hue to bring life into its dark world.
Ryan Gosling in action as LAPD Officer “K” in Bladerunner 2049 (Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
The supporting cast is stellar and showcases a group of strong female characters. Robin Wright, as Gosling’s superior officer Lt. Joshi, plays to her strong suit as a woman of authority who isn’t easily intimidated. Sylvia Hoeks plays Gosling’s main adversary, Luv, flashing her stone cold demeanor and ruthlessness while also showing her longing to be accepted by her father figure and creator in Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace.
Leto appears to have gone full method again in this film, with reports that he actually temporarily blinded himself during filming in order to get into character. While his role as the Joker in “Suicide Squad” (2016) showed that he can take things a bit too far on set and off with his character preparation, this time around, much like his turn in “Dallas Buyers Club” (2013), Leto shines.
Dave Bautista, playing Sapper Morton, is a hulking presence in the opening scene and is starting to show his versatility as an actor. Ana de Armas plays Gosling’s love interest, Joi, and despite her stunning good looks, creates an emotional attachment between the two characters and with the audience as well that proves she is more than just window dressing.
Harrison Ford doesn’t return to reprise his role of Deckard until later in the story but it’s worth the wait and the film doesn’t push too hard at trying to connect the dots between the two Bladerunner films. There is enough storyline to please fans of the original while also providing just enough information to let this new film stand on its own as well.
The runtime, at almost 3 hours, might push the envelope for younger viewers of the film, while older viewers and die-hard fans of the original will be wishing there was more by the time the end credits roll. “Bladerunner 2049” is a triumph, just shy of a masterpiece, but definitely a work of art.