What makes humans, human? Is it merely skin and bones? Or is it more than just the physicality of the human body? Is there a deeper, more intrinsic element? And if synthetic robots can mimic “human” form, can these “replicants” mirror humans in every possible way—mentally, physically and, most startlingly, emotionally? “Blade Runner 2049” renders its audience stunned and pondering, as the film clearly argues that nothing can rival the human soul—a doctrinal argument evidenced throughout the movie.
As a start, what has made “Blade Runner 2049” partly a mystery to critics and viewers, prior to its release on October 5, 2017, is the fact that, though there had previously been little hype over the sequel, it is now a dominant box office film. Despite falling short of opening weekend forecasts, reviews are nothing but stellar. Confused and in awe over the intangible brilliance of the film, critics have several presumable explanations for the movie’s unexpected success.
Glimpsing into the past, the 60s, 70s and 80s introduced a wave of dystopian-set plots that led to the production of some of the greatest movie series in cinematic history—“Star Trek” and “Star Wars” to name a couple. Yet “Blade Runner,” though now deemed a cult classic and critical success, took quite awhile to generate the following that it has now. And, from there, it took nearly 35 years to produce a sequel; to call the next movie in the series (if it can be considered one) “overdue” is definitely an understatement.
“Blade Runner 2049” is a story of redemption and sacrifice; through pain and suffering, there is nothing that can stop the human soul from wanting to simply be human.
Thus, even though the cult classic retains its sacredness in the hearts of those who watched the original in 1982, reinstalling this initial passion for the next movie remained the greatest hurdle for director Denis Villeneuve. As known with countless cinematic attempts at sequels, the second renditions of classics never manage to, either a) do the originals complete justice, or b) live up to the creative brilliance of the originals. And hasn’t every possible sci-fi dystopian-set film already been seen on the big screen in the 21st century?
So, what could “Blade Runner 2049” possibly do that hasn’t already been done?
Yes, in a way, “Blade Runner 2049” was set up to be a flop: another sequel to a fan favorite that didn’t quite reach somewhat hopeful expectations, but to the marvelous shock of many entertainment and film-going aficionados, “Blade Runner 2049” is quickly becoming a favorite.
Set in Los Angeles in 2049—32 years ahead of present time—through the permanently grey-tinted lens of Los Angeles that resulted from the “blackout,” the film breathes new life into the plot of the original “Blade Runner” movie, picking up where the last movie ended, 30 years prior, and furthering the powerful storyline. Keep in mind, the 1982 release was set during the future year of 2019, two years ahead of present time. In “Blade Runner 2049,” Niander Wallace (played by Jared Leto) discovers a new technology to create the next perfect replicant form that “simply obeys” in order to ensure the succession of the human race. This bioengineered form is calmer and more intellectually complex than the original, and yet, within society, it is hard to decipher who is human and who is a mere replicant.
K—the “new” Harrison Ford played by Ryan Gosling—is a replicant cop, or “blade runner,” who carries out many operations hunting down and retiring (or killing) the original replicant forms—many of whom rebelled for their freedom and have since gone into hiding—in order to protect the current endeavor of creating new replicants. While on a sting, he discovers the remains of an original replicant who was pregnant at the time she passed. This is alarming, as it was believed that replicants could not become pregnant. Equally alarming was the discovery that the child had survived via cesarean section. As a result, K must track down the child and retire it in order to prevent a war between the two species of replicants. As the story unfolds, K wrestles with his newfound emotions; the horrors of human degradation are a central theme throughout the plot. K finds himself struggling with his internal dialogue, wondering why he feels the need to stop the chilling operations of Wallace, the one who is still spearheading the new creation of replicants.
Totaling 2 hours and 43 minutes, “Blade Runner 2049” is not unflawed, as the movie takes quite a bit of time to unfold, eventually leading directly into the chaotic conclusion. But, at the core, profound ideas wave the audience goodbye as the film ends, leaving them to contemplate many often-neglected questions about the existence of life: How does one know if he or she is human or if human memory is merely falsely-implanted recollections?
And, most importantly, at the core, what makes someone human?
“Blade Runner 2049” is unlike any other dystopian movie of the century (and we’ve seen quite a few in recent years); it also diverges from the original “Blade Runner” film in a modern, inviting manner—while not entirely disregarding the original. Even though the narrative takes on a brilliant, new adaptation from the original, the underlying story of “Blade Runner 2049” is one with which everyone is familiar. It’s a story of redemption and sacrifice; through pain and suffering, there is nothing that can stop the human soul from wanting to simply be human. We see this in K’s character, as he begins to feel empathy and, as a result, works to find the good in a tragic situation by helping others. Though Gosling’s character is not a pronounced social-rights advocate, his role propels this topic in a way that prompts everyone to evaluate what characterizes human life.
“Blade Runner 2049” is the current movie to see; not only does it pay homage to the original 1982 “Blade Runner,” but the new rendition builds upon and enhances viewers’ experience of the cult favorite, leaving the door wide open to what may come next for the series.