Blade Runner 2049’s most enduring legacy, not unlike it’s predecessor, will no doubt be it’s ability to defy interpretation.
Fairly one of the two most anticipated films of 2017, the deftness of the film’s contributions to its own extended lore and the implications that can only be fully reckoned from repeat viewings and the studied reflections it so plaintively invites are matched only by Director Denis Villeneuve’s ability to take the most endearing conundrum of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece and at once explicate it’s ramifications and too leave the unadulterated pleasure of revisiting the original intact.
These innovations exceeded only by Roger Deakins cinematography, a masterclass in visual storytelling deserving of inclusion in every cinephilic textbook, that which is flawed in Blade Runner 2049 detracts only marginally from the refreshingly rewarding sequel.
Taking the place of Deckard (Harrison Ford) in the title role, K (Ryan Gosling) is ideally cast as the stated Replicant tasked with hunting down earlier iterations of his own kind, his presence and that of others furthering the treasured canon of the ‘more human than human’ man-made creations the subject of decades of filmic debate that in 2049, though still barely distinguishable from their flesh and bone counterparts, have seemingly learnt to obey.
Of all the casting decisions Gosling’s inclusion is by far the shrewdest; the actor’s uncanny ability to exude emotion from cold indifference and dispassion from even his most strenuous exertions here finding it’s ideal home as the proclaimed android who, yes, dreams he may just be that little bit more. Sylvia Hoeks is similarly transfixing as the right hand to industrialist Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), having replaced the now defunct Tyrell Corporation; he together with the talented Dave Bautista possessing much-lauded yet regrettably short arcs in what is at times a stretched 164 minute run.
Emerging star Ana de Armas is the only one who comes close to reaching Gosling’s levels of emotional ingenuity as K’s holographic, ever-changing love-interest Joi. Wringing pathos from each one of her fleeting appearances as a revolving cavalcade of K’s fantasies as well as from her more subdued forms, one more graphic sequence, while never quite reaching the heights or levels of introspection better explored in the likes of Her goes to the very heart of what makes this universe tick, begging the question of just how and how far machines can come to resemble or even surpass their creators and that which makes them ever-human.
Ford, when he does turn up, is by comparison an uncommon disappointment; his introduction by way of socking K in the jaw at every chance he gets being better suited to features like Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The iconic actor is here more recognisable for the roles and grizzled persona for which he is even better known than as anything even remotely resembling what is not necessarily Ford’s most famous but nonetheless one of his most celebrated depictions immortalised back in 1982.
Having said this, his presence is inestimable to the film’s value, furthering the imperceptible enigmas which underpin Blade Runner and that which has duly come to characterise so much of the very best of science fiction in the years that followed; an early plot twist here confronting characters with a further evolution of the quandary of just what makes someone human. The additional reappearance of a character from the original in CGI-form, far better utilising the technology evidenced in the likes of Rogue One in a context that greater befits its use, too underlines the crux of the film’s appeal and the devastating question of just what human life portends if the technically proficient can simply recreate it.
The ramifications of the early discovery, while furthering the ethos of the original sleeper-hit, too suggests further compelling treatises compounding the franchise’s earliest intimations; here tying in to the subtle theological underpinnings of the original distinguishing Replicants as modern exemplars of not insignificant religious figures. The sequel, if the varied logical conclusions of the early plot twist’s relationship to Deckard’s heavily debated status are to be followed through on, suggest multifaceted interpretations reflecting a readily discernible pillar of modern and ancient theology, questioning whether humans, or that which has a meta-human or even divine-like presence can exist in static, extra-human or even multiple states.
The ending, to this effect, which (to the credit of the film and the franchise’s enduring impact), along with its various sequences, will inevitably be the focus of intensive debate, if it is to be believed and itself a veridical denouement to 2049’s central mystery, is regrettably quite the letdown. If teasing fascinating inferences as extensions of the film’s already redoubtable premise, how it all surfaces is just that little bit too convenient and coincidental even for the hard-boiled fictions from which Scott and Villeneuve took their inspiration, a central misgiving of a film that is never as carefully plotted as it is visually realised.
A sumptuous delight nonetheless, debate on 2049 may likely rage until and beyond we’re ready to see whether any of its predictions come true.
Blade Runner 2049 is in cinemas now