Blade Runner 2049

blade runner 2049 movie posterBlade Runner 2049 (2017), Rated R
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Harrison Ford
Rating: four and a half stars

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I had the opportunity to see Blade Runner 2049 this weekend and, despite a few minor quibbles I won’t go into for the sake of spoilers, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a worthy sequel to the original Blade Runner, which so completely enthralled me 35 years ago.

Before I talk about Blade Runner 2049, I’ll speak briefly to the original. If you want to start an Internet argument, the question “which version of Blade Runner is the best?” is a good beginning. Within the replies, you’ll no doubt detect the theme that the theatrical release sucked and isn’t worth watching.

I think this opinion is flawed. The only reason there are more versions of the original and, ultimately, Blade Runner 2049, is because of the cult status achieved by the original theatrical release. The theatrical release came out in 1982. The Director’s Cut was in 1992, ten years later. Do you think that would have happened if the original film hadn’t garnered such an enduring and passionate fan base? And then, a full 15 years later, we get The Final Cut.

So, deride the theatrical release all you want, but it’s the egg that hatched all the rest, including Blade Runner 2049.

With that rant out of the way, if you want to see Blade Runner 2049 and haven’t seen any of the others, here’s my recommended watch order:

  • Blade Runner theatrical release
  • Blade Runner The Final Cut
  • Blade Runner 2049

Watching the films in that order will give you the full experience, as well as exposing you to the evolving vision of Blade Runner and the world Ridley Scott created. Blade Runner 2049 is a direct descendant of The Final Cut, a true sequel, picking up some 30 years later. Like its source material, BR2049 digs deep into what it means to be “human”

There are also three prequel shorts that are worth watching and go a long way toward setting up the BR2049 world.

In BR2049, Ryan Gosling plays “K”, a model Nexus-9 Replicant, a Los Angeles police officer who performs the same job as Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard character in the original movie: hunting down and “retiring” runaway replicants (artificially created biological androids). His most recent assignment has him facing off against Sapper (Dave Bautista), a Nexus 8 model that has been on the run for some 30 years. In the course of that encounter, K discovers evidence of additional replicants, one of which could be an anomaly that could threaten the current social order, that being humans on top, and replicants an underclass without rights.

K’s evidence ends up in the hands of the Wallace corporation, run by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto). Wallace wants what K is after, seeing it as an opportunity to take his corporation, and himself, to even greater heights. He dispatches his pet replicant (and sociopath) Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) after K. It’s no secret that K’s investigation leads him Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who’s been in hiding for the last 30 years, but in discovering Deckard, K also reveals him.

There’s also a great appearance by Robin Wright as Lieutenant Joshi, K’s superior. She knows what he’s after and what’s at stake if Wallace gets to it first. She is sympathetic to K’s replicant status while at the same time harboring no empathy for him, like she feels sorry for him, but wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger if that’s what was needed.

The film itself is as visually evocative as the original. A world that is different yet at the same time a gritty and familiar extrapolation of our current world, supposing we keep on our current course as far as climate change anyway.

Unlike the many of the movies clogging the theaters these days, BR2049 is a film that demands attention and evokes thought and reflection. It’s examines many of the same issues as the first: What does it mean to be “human”? What role do memories play in our personality and our decisions? What is free will? What is “real” when it comes to living, feeling, and thinking beings, be they biological or digital?

The idea of thought and memory guiding our decisions is especially interesting. The idea of true awareness versus the fact that all experience is filtered and interpreted through lenses we aren’t even aware of. But what if you could be aware of them and their influence in a way that allowed you to decide what influence they had?

That’s some deep stuff that some folks might not want to grapple with.

If you’re one of those, then BR2049 will most likely fall flat for you. If you’re the type who ponders those sorts of questions, or someone who has seen and enjoyed the first film, this is a must see.

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