If Hollywood remake culture is bad, why is Blade Runner 2049 so good?

James Hill /
Oct 11, 2017 / Film & TV

How to begin.

Undoubtedly, one of the most anticipated sequels – to one of the most powerfully creative films – of all time deserves a review of equal splendour; of equal majesty and power. This film simply takes everything that made the first film such a triumph of design, cinematography and story and accentuates every curve, every rain drop into a minute exploration of the human soul. The story begins by focusing on the silent yet compelling presence of Ryan Gosling’s Officer K. Not since rick Deckard himself have we been greeted with such reserve, such poise. You forget that this is Ryan Gosling, you invest fully in the idea of a machine struggling with its own sentience.

The year is 2049, 35 years after the events of the first film in a dystopian America that is lit by harsh neon and stews in the filth of its own excess. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), the original blade runner, has gone missing and while old replicants still exist, the new generation, created and harnessed by a chilling Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) are now well integrated into modern society. Not only are we tantalised by Deckard’s presence (or lack of), we can see that Gosling’s character is modelled after Deckard’s unflappable exterior and furrowing brow. The plot thrums along at its own pace, never for a second are you allowed to be exasperated at the leviathan pace of this epic, the chiaroscuro cinematography worked so wonderfully in the last film reaches 2001 levels of self-indulgence.

I cannot possibly give anything away. It is a film of absolute secrecy and must be maintained before viewing. With regards to the director, Denis Villeneuve is a worthy successor to Ridley Scott, the director of the original film. Villeneuve’s signature style is to turn the basic premise into high-brow, high concept art. Simply watch this year’s astounding Arrival to see what I mean. In fact, Scott serves as an executive producer for this existentialist experience. And an experience it is. There is no stone left unturned in its mammoth 160-minute length yet I never felt bored, I never felt lulled. This film sets its own pace and we, the viewer, must adapt to it.

In terms of the general sense one gets a sense of atmosphere, a feeling of exploration of human identity, slavery and the notion of unease which infuses this craggy and welded together metropolis of human emotion. There are resonant links with 2013’s standout Her, directed by Spike Jonze, on the nature of artificial intelligence and how we as humans interact with them. Plaudits must be given to cinematographer Roger Deakins, whom despite being nominated 13 times for an Academy Award, has never won. This should be the film that cements his long-awaited accolades.

Overall, this film is so elegiac, so transcendental that to even begin discussing its minute turns and twists would take a doctoral thesis to explain. Simply revel in the decrepitude of its vast industrial landscapes, the endless junkyard of Las Vegas and San Diego, the dissonant strings of Hans Zimmer rising like waves. Equally, a fine compliment to Vangelis, the soundtrack never veers into open homage but rather borrows elements and codas from the original anthemic soundtrack. This is a film for all ages, a film of meditation, a piece of art that is so pure it risks becoming like water, and disappearing like tears in the rain.

If Hollywood remake culture is so bad, then how come Blade Runner 2049 is so good?

Words by James Hill

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