Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

A review by Frank Ochieng

Hail to the Science Fiction gods as they came to their senses and granted upon the eagerly movie-going masses the long-awaited arrival of a stunning and opulent Blade Runner sequel. Perhaps we should praise the understated genius and visionary mastermind Ridley Scott for his 1982 directorial accomplishment in serving up what appeared to be an underappreciated and overlooked SF thriller in its heyday over three decades ago only for it to emerge now as one of the greatest Science Fiction futuristic capers worthy of its cult classic following?

Maybe the long overdue kudos are reserved for the diehard nostalgic Blade Runner bunch whose committed and fanatical fandom was the key catalyst for this undeniably brilliant, brainy, dazzling and polished presentation to resurface and give new vitalizing breath and striking energy to the Science Fiction genre in conception? Could it be possible that Hollywood simply saw opportunistic and healthy box office receipts to restart another pop cultural juggernaut from yesteryear’s cinematic scene?

Is there a returning Harrison Ford fixation/fetish blossoming courtesy of his past blockbuster film resume that boasts the obvious inclusion of prominent SF/adventure fantasy biggies such as both the Star Wars phenomenon and the Indiana Jones installments with Blade Runner now taking up the matinee mantle?

Regardless of the film-making forces at hand or the key reasoning for this 164 minute visually arresting odyssey updated and packaged for bombastic Blade Runner enthusiasts and dedicated SF connoisseurs the proof is in the proverbial pudding as Blade Runner 2049 has made its auspicious presence known and succeeds thrillingly as an indelible wonderment in imagination, intrigue and intelligence.

Breathtakingly rich and vibrant in its overlong execution, Blade Runner 2049 is a lustrous escapist epic that resonates with snappy pop, thought-provoking tendencies and atmospheric grittiness that soundly resonates. And yes…the participation of the aforementioned and omnipresent Ford reprising his role from 35 years ago is indeed the appealing and motivating factor to re-enter the anxiety-driven world of intrusive replicants, societal annihilation and the guessing game of humanity infiltration.

It seems that the intense workmanlike charm and structured suspense in the rebooted Blade Runner 2049 has not missed a single beat as it colorfully brings its brand of contemplative tension and underlying humorous texture to this sumptuous spectacle. Importantly, the film’s philosophical edginess and saturated cynicism stays true to Scott’s unflinching vision of introspection about the valued properties of life and who are the chief architects of such a unique gift of existence. Consequently, speechless Science Fiction audiences once again are transfixed by the mesmerizing yet old adage about the rivaling ‘have’s and ‘have nots’ especially so vital in the gloomy squalor and doomsday darkness that Scott created so fervently in his vintage edition that set the stage for renegade blade runners in a power struggle with defiant, roguish replicants disastrously flirting with the sacred boundaries of humankind.

Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (‘Arrival’, ‘Sicario’, ‘Prisoners’) has stepped into some pretty mighty cinematic shoes in dusting of the mothballs of Blade Runner’s haunting and hedonistic past in an accomplished effort to bring forth a percolating potboiler of a challenging and imaginative hue to its succulent successor in 2049 with surging, exquisite aplomb. Screenwriters Michael Green (‘Alien: Covenant’, ‘Logan’) and Hampton Fancher (‘Blade Runner’, ‘The Minus Man’) manage to brilliantly convey the dystopian disillusionment as the caustic yet compelling commentary concerning the decline of humanity and how it is feverishly on the brink of non-existence. The fuzzy lines are crossed for the calculating chaos and corruptible wheels that are turning so aimlessly and shockingly. The sins of sinners, good, bad or indifferent, gloriously are stemmed in moodiness and mystery. Additionally, notably iconic cinematographer Roger Deakins (‘Fargo’) cultivates a dank, hazy-coated landscape where shadowy imagery compliments the dour suspicions of determined man versus durable machine co-existing in a hostile futuristic fantasy world of techno-dismal dimensions. Also, kudos are reserved for Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch for their soaring, energetic score that undercuts the tension and turmoil.

In a nutshell, Ryan Goslin (Oscar-nominated for 2016’s ‘La La Land’) is a young blade runner known as ‘K’ whose mission is to track down veteran Rick Deckard (the returning Harrison Ford…also a former Oscar nominee) in the aftermath of a major uncovered secretive revelation that requires the missing senior badge-flashing blade runner’s undivided attention. The problem remains, however, is that Deckard has been out of circulation for three decades and so the search is on for K to hunt down the long-absent Deckard.

Indeed, Officer K’s critical and contemplative police work is, to mildly put it, seek out the about-to-expire, unpredictable and resistant replicants and eradicate them when necessary. The replicants, mechanical menaces with artificial intelligence that are living among the humans incognito, are the main focus of the LAPD and K enthusiastically is immersed in the manhunt for the hidden techno-tyrants with militant mindsets that could strike at any moment among the walking flesh. K strives to put them out of their mechanical misery as his sworn duty to serve and protect but he is handcuffed (no pun intended) by the political politeness and procedural proprieties as pushed by his boss Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright). Basically, K is under surveillance based on his fragile mental state and Joshi is the one to contain this gritty-minded cop’s wandering psyche.

Thankfully, there is undeniable texture and intensity that fortifies Blade Runner 2049 due to the layered and complex story that effectively taps into the robust realm of man’s possible mercy call at the dominant feet of advanced and sophisticated technology. This observational sentiment certainly rings true in contemporary times as selective human beings feel lost, intimidated, overwhelmed and need to surrender to the mounting shifty pressures of an exposed society seemingly ruled by sinning opportunists on both sides of the shady aisle, mechanisms rendered equally with blood and bolts.

Refreshingly, Blade Runner 2049 is devoutly cerebral in passion and old school perception. Oddly, Villeneuve’s mixture of science fictional roots and thought-provoking dramatic art house probing works while adding a realistic and somber milieu of existential foreshadowing. Gosling is gloriously geared as the hound dog-faced law enforcer too close for comfort on the fringe of film noir-style burnout as he gets embroiled deep into an abyss of head-scratching discoveries. Ford does not miss a single beat as the gravel-faced, handsome-aged Deckard saddled in adventurous mode despite the matured years since his early 80s heyday in the mundane, ground-breaking Blade Runner blueprint from yesterday. Oscar winner Jared Leto (‘Dallas Buyers Club’) joyously lets it all hang out as the wickedly off-kilter character Niander Wallace. The feminine inclusion of Wright’s top policing babysitter Joshi and Ana de Armas as K’s love interest, Joi, are welcomed personalities. Ex-wrestler/actor Dave Bautista (hot off the ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ film series) is a larger-than-life specimen as always in proven popcorn blockbusters.

Convincingly well-structured, profound, purposeful and without a prosaic bone in its bountiful body Blade Runner 2049 is stunningly sumptuous Science Fiction theater for the thinking man and for the progressive machinery master-blasters as well.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Warner Bros. Pictures

2 hrs. 44 mins.

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Mackenzie Davis, Lennie James, Dave Bautista and Carla Juri

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Written by: Michael Green and Hampton Fancher

MPAA Rating: R

Genre: Science Fiction/Action & Adventure/Fantasy/Drama

Critic’s Rating: ***1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng (2017