Blade Runner 2049 is showing until 16 November. Review by Nigel Watson
[Warning – mild spoilers]
The world of 2049 is an extraordinary place. It’s like an alien planet with vast areas of industrialised farming, rusting monuments to former industrial marvels and the city of Los Angeles a crowded metropolis where the streets are full of people, noise and obtrusive advertising signs and holograms.
Officer K (Rylan Gosling) is a detective working in the Los Angeles Police Department tasked with tracking down renegade replicants – he is what they call a blade runner. These are artificially created humanoids, who were so hard to capture and terminate in the first Bladerunner movie set in 2019.
The Wallace Company now produces obedient Nexus-9 replicants who have open-ended lifespans and implanted human memories. The older replicants of the Tyrell Corporation era are the target for ‘retiring’ by the likes of Officer K, who himself is a Nexus-9 replicant.
In his small apartment, K escapes from the tensions and violence of the city, and co-habits it with a virtual reality woman, Joi (Ana de Armas). She appears as a projected hologram who can, through an enhanced function, move around and experience the real world. She is a virtual equivalent of a replicant.
The core of the film, is Joe’s search for a child born from the ‘miraculous’ union between two replicants. His quest takes him from the Dickensian plight of child labourers putting together electronic components to the headquarters of megalomaniac Nianader Wallace (Jared Leto), to rediscovering the liar of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).
Wallace is much in the mode of the techno-industrialist autocrat Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel), who creates a robot based on his late wife, to disrupt the rebellion of the workers, in Fritz Lang’s silent science fiction classic, Metropolis (1927). The urban nightmare of its mega-city of the future, has gone on to be the template for such films as Alphaville (1965), Soylent Green (1973), Brazil (1985) and the neo-noir of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner in 1982.
Director, Denis Villeneuve, continues in the Metropolis tradition by bringing us a grandiose and breath-taking vision of a Dystopian world where the lines between humanity, artificial intelligence and virtual reality are blurred beyond all recognition. He shows vast geometric structures of infinite beauty and horror, contrasted with the fleeting glimpses of natural beauty and the possibility of love in a tortured existence where splashes of violence can occur at any moment.
The gorgeous visuals of this exotic world, mixed with the brooding soundtrack, reflects the trauma and turmoil of Officer K’s own mind as he attempts to solve the puzzle of who and where the child of the replicants is, and the forces that seek to threaten his very survival.
This is a brilliantly executed sequel to Blade Runner that stands on its own feet as a work of outstanding, high-concept, blockbuster science fiction that is worth more than one viewing to enjoy it to the full.