Director Denis Villeneuve made a valiant attempt at following-up Ridley Scott’s iconic Blade Runner with 2017’s Blade Runner 2049. Ryan Gosling is K, a Blade Runner whose investigation leads him to Harrison Ford’s in-exile Deckard. The film holds some good visuals and a few good moments, but it’s about 40 minutes too long.
Villeneuve’s film looks and sounds great, and Roger Deacons’ cinematography is perfectly complimented by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer’s score (the best bits come from Vangelis’ original soundtrack). BUT, the film just doesn’t have the game changing wow factor of Scott’s 1982 film. We still get Spinners, huge billboards and the faces of Oriental ladies peering out into the neon night sky (now with added nudity) amongst a plethora of Atari adverts, but there’s nothing new on display here. Even Gosling’s walk through a graveyard of abandoned giant statues of sultry ladies feels like a left over from the opening of the 1995 James Bond adventure Goldeneye. The claustrophobic world that Scott created has been opened up to show us that not only does it rain in the future – but we also get snow! But don’t worry, the desert is still dry as a bone.
Blade Runner 2049 was always going to have to work hard to please fans and although the talent in front of, and behind the camera is still evident, the film comes across as rote. Yes, some reviewers are gushing over the film, though I imagine they’ll feel a sense of the Emperor’s New Clothes once the dust has settled. This is like a fan-fiction expansion of the original (gee, let’s see what the rest of California looks like in the future) and while it’s great to have a well-produced, serious science fiction movie, this doesn’t live up to the majesty of the original. There’s nothing as powerful as Rutger Hauer’s ‘Tears In The Rain’ speech or as awe-inspiring as the opening city skyline. The characters don’t display the depth which made that film an emotional quandary, and instead this comes down to a regular goodies vs baddies scenario. The world of Blade Runner was much more than that, but I guess you can’t get that sort of moral ambiguity when a $150 million budget is on the line.
Blade Runner 2049 under-performed on its release in 2017, grossing $92 million at the US box office and $259 million globally.