Blade Runner 2049: a review

This is a movie I knew I would see at the theatre as soon as I encountered the first trailer. Was I a fan of the original 1982 film? Or was I just a Harrison Ford fan in general? Neither, really. But my beloved husband has held the original Blade Runner (1982) as an important film of his youth and was eager to see the next chapter. I really like the sequel’s director, Denis Villeneuve, not just because he is French Canadian, but because of his recent films Arrival and Sicario. So there we were in an IMAX theatre on opening weekend.

I saw the original Blade Runner at my husband’s behest for the first time on DVD when it was re-released as a final cut version in 2007. At that time, I thought it was visually stunning, ahead of its time in its special effects, but the story was just ok. Having re-watched it a few days ago, in anticipation of this sequel, my opinion of the original has remained unchanged. Rather than reviewing that film, I will direct you to Roger Ebert here. It is as if he read my mind. A brief summary of that film for those unfamiliar follows: It was set in a dystopian 2019 and Harrison Ford was the titular character. He was a cop who hunted “replicants” or human-like androids. They were developed for purposes of slave labour and sent to other planets.  But some developed aggressive self-preservation behaviours and illegally returned to earth, in an attempt to pass as humans.

I enjoyed this sequel more than the original film. To talk about specific plot points risks spoiler territory. Suffice it to say that Blade Runner 2049 takes place 30 years after the original film and builds upon the same themes (personal identity, free will, slavery, what it means to be alive, love). The result is a much more compelling and mysterious story with characters that seem more developed. I admired the cinematography immensely. It was a stunning homage to the visuals brought forth in Ridley Scott’s original film. The acting by Ryan Gosling in the titular role was appropriately subtle and Ford was more animated than I had seen him in a long time.

You don’t have to watch the original Blade Runner to enjoy this film. However, Blade Runner 2049 is a richer experience the more familiar you are with its world and characters. This is a great film for anyone who likes science fiction, existentialism, mysteries or just wants some  cool action sequences and flying cars. This is a long film (2hours 43min) but it didn’t seem so at the time. But pace you liquid consumption carefully because I agreed with the Runpee app which warned us that there very few opportunities to pop out to the loo. This film was well served by the biggest screen possible and I did not regret the extra expense of IMAX on this occasion. Pre-assigned seating was an added bonus!

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