Just like the clarification of Deckard’s origins, the need to return to the world of Blade Runner was cut right down the middle. Its tech-noir landscapes worked as the foundations found in a number of and notable futuristic films that were looking to the early entry of Ridley Scott’s career to imitate but not replicate its tech-savvy originality. So, when even the great Denis Vileneuve was offered the job of bringing back the old Blade Runner and standing him next to his successor, fears were permitted that the original would be tarnished just like so many other beloved classics. Thankfully (and as Alien: Covenant proved), letting someone else take over from Sir Ridley was one of the best choices to make, as the Sicario and Arrival director has delivered one of the best sequels in recent memory.
Opening with a previously unused scene from the original film, we’re introduced to K (Gosling), a different humanoid hunter whose shake down of a wanted skin job leads him to uncover a secret long since buried, one that has ties to our previous whisky-chugging, noodle-munching detective and the world he left behind. From there K learns more of the Blade Runner that ran and his motive for doing so; something that the new Tyrell Corp. competitor is keen to learn more about, and that its CEO, Niander Wallace (Leto) is desperate to abuse.
Details can stop right there, as besides the stunning visuals, great performances and every other flawless element to 2049, one of the films strongest elements is the engrossing story penned by the original films scribe Hampton Fancher, and Michael Green. Adhering to, but not bound by the masterful adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s work that was brought to life almost four decades earlier, the two have structured a neon-lit love letter to Scott’s original that Vileneuve has masterfully created, continuing to prove why he’s one of the greatest modern filmmakers of our time. Just like the original, there’s a detective noir feel that appears every time K pops his fur-lined collar and wanders into the secretive smog that covers this murky metropolis. For him it’s the same rundown city he’s forced to inhabit; for fans, it’s one long intake of air that will swell your chest with pride that they actually got it right.
Every beat is one of love and adoration for the original, and executed perfectly, starting with its central character. Gosling is more of the worn down hero that Ford was, but he still carries a weight on his shoulders that’s a very familiar load. Battling with his own self as to what he is and why, he wanders through this world searching for answers and you’re desperate for him to get them if it means finding some peace. Heartfelt and haunted by questions he can only ask under hushed breath or to his holographic other half Joi, he earns the initial of the author that made this world he fits so perfectly in. More importantly, when the all-important time comes to stand beside his predecessor, it’s a truly joyous occasion.
For fans that feared we’d have another Crystal Skull or phoned-in Force Awakens gig, you can thankfully relax. This might be the best we’ve seen Harrison Ford in in recent years. Stepping out of the shadows and forced to bring up the past, seeing this worn down warrior reopen old wounds is a heartbreaking experience that he fights through with every word uttered. If he really is returning to every major old role he’s ever had, he’s going to struggle to top this one. It’s flawless and probably one of the highlights of the entire film.
Besides that, there’s the undeniably Oscar bait-worthy lens cast on this iconic and irreplaceable world by Roger Deakins, who has been wronged for never getting one of those shiny golden men up to this point. It’s a blessing to see this world through his eyes and what a wonderful one it is, too. Standing as an exception to some of the cinematic pleasures we’ve had this year, Blade Runner 2049 might very well need to be seen on a cinema screen, but hanging a single frame of it on your wall wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. Like the rest of this masterpiece it should be viewed in awe and begging further questions than is Deckard one of them, or not? The real question is; why can’t every film be this good?