It must have been a tough pitch, a sequel to Bladerunner, that would address the issues in the original, and try to improve on what is largely considered to be one of the best sci-fi movies of all time. I imagine that the key would be finding the right director, the right screen writer and getting Harrison back on board. Incredibly, the stars aligned and somehow they have pulled this off. Everything about this film shows an inherent love for the original, the sets, the costumes, the direction, the script, the cinematography, everything just worked, and that could only occur if the entire production were all on the same page. Quite a feat in the current climate for film studios.
Director Denis Villenueve allows the mood, tone and style of the first outing to permeate the second. The pace and length of this film will put many people off, but rather than opt for a throw everything at it approach, Villenueve lets everything smoulder and bubble, the action set pieces are almost subdued, there are no epic Marvel style battle scenes here, instead we get intelligent and engaging jeopardy that is more believable, if such a thing is possible in a sci-fi film.
The trouble though will be in the audience reaction and willingness to commit. Perhaps it’s been too long since Bladerunner first hit the screens, perhaps those that love the original will be scared to go in case of massive disappointment, maybe a bleak view of the future is just not what the public want just now. The opening weekend has been financially bleak, and there has been backlash from those that feel the female roles were sexist and there was a lack of diversity in the production. However, has there been a release this year that has looked so good? It’s worth the price of admission just to see what they put on the screen, and as far as this reviewer is concerned, this film is destined to be a classic – remember if you can, that the first Bladerunner was a commercial failure as a film. It was released in 1982 to an audience that was expecting a re-run of Star Wars, and it crashed and burned. Only on it’s video release did it find a market, and received the critical acclaim it deserved. I imagine that 2049 will do things in reverse, find huge acclaim from the critics, and the audience for it will grow as time goes on.
It also seems appropriate to mention the soundtrack. Vangelis, who scored the first film, created an environment of sound that has become an iconic piece of work in itself. If you have never listened to the original soundtrack, I suggest you check it out, then go back and watch 2049 again, and wonder at how effectively Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch manage to reinterpret the score for the new film. I hate to include a spoiler here, but in the closing scenes, we are treated to music from the original score, it nearly broke my heart. It will be a movie moment that will stay with me forever.