When a sequel to Blade Runner was announced some 30-odd years after the original, the feelings conjured were akin to those of a pisshead ordering a 4am kebab. On one hand, there was an unfathomable amount of excitement because of that one glorious lamb doner enjoyed all those years ago. But on the other hand, such things are rarely as good as memory serves and are often rehashed, reheated and dubiously out of date.
As luck would have it, Ridley Scott was only the Kitchen Manager, sorry, Executive Producer for the long awaited return to the replicant republic. Instead, gourmet chef Denis Villeneuve came to the pass, having previously delivered a range of delights. (Sorry, Bake Off’s on in the next room).
Set 30 years after the titular Deckard (Harrison Ford) retired runaway replicant Roy Batty and ran away with the romantically-involved replicant Rachel, we find Agent K (Ryan Gosling) on the hunt for models both old and new. After successfully retiring a Nexus 6 series skin-job, an accidental discovery garners interest from both the LAPD and the Tyrell Corporation in new clothes, the Wallace Corporation.
How Agent K kept his mind on the job in hand instead of rubber-necking is a miracle, as the world he inhabits evokes nothing short of an ocular orgasm. Cinematographer and Oscar-winner-in-waiting Roger Deakins presents a world which is at once none-more-black than the original, whilst also as vibrantly palatable as Mad Max: Fury Road. Feeling more Science Fact than Science Fiction, the world of Blade Runner 2049 is convincing, realised and tangible.
As for criticisms of the film’s length? It’s long, but never laborious. Villeneuve invites you along for the ride but offers no fast travel option here. There’s no montage to speed through K’s investigation, no FF to speed up scanning the horizon, and no shortcut to a solution. Like Ridley Scott’s original, there are plenty of grey areas left to keep the theorists interested alongside enough answers to make sure the newbies are sufficiently sated.
Most importantly, Blade Runner 2049 creates moments which won’t be lost like tears in rain: K’s eye-catching and emotional attack of the 80 ft woman is already advertising IMAX everywhere and there’s a virtual threesome, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Whoopi Goldberg, Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze went at it in Ghost. The call-backs to the original are nicely nuanced too; satellite missile targeting systems and drone scanners hark back to Deckard’s photograph scanning which lead him to Zhora. But any more would be saying too much.
Finally, this writer’s first words on leaving the screening? “Hans f***king Zimmer!” Along with Benjamin Wallfisch, he has created a score which rivals Vangelis’ original as much as pays it homage. It’s a character in its own right: part cold and calculating machine, part human heart beat, it marks Zimmer as the man. As if there were ever any doubt.
For a sequel to equal, nay, surpass the original is a feat in itself. That the original being bettered is Blade Runner is astounding. More than just a standard upgrade to an old favourite, Villenueve’s movie is more Blade Runner than Blade Runner.
DIRECTOR/WRITER: Denis Villeneuve/Hampton Fancher and Michael Green
STARS: Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas
RUNTIME: 2hr 44min