Few things will incite a groan from true movie fans than an unnecessary sequel to an old classic. We all most recently experienced this with the upcoming release of ‘Top Gun: Maverick” but this is certainly not the first, and unfortunately not the last time we’ll feel this way. However, among all the duds, there are still plenty of late sequels that do a good job of revamping their cinematic universe. Some of the best examples of this being any Pixar sequel, their tardiness due to how long they take to make. The prime example for most movie goers would be ‘Mad Max: Fury Road,’ George Miller’s fourth installment to his classic 80’s franchise. While that could be the seminal action release of the decade, ‘Blade Runner 2049’ leapfrogs Miller’s film as the potentially the best late sequel yet.
Ridley Scott’s original ‘Blade Runner’ is an all time revered sci-fi noir classic and fan favorite. The world that Scott constructed left fans thirsting for more of it while maintaining respect that it should not be franchised. The announcement of Denis Villeneuve’s sequel certainly had audiences skeptical at first but from the moment it begins, there is no reason for doubt.
Scott’s original film is best noted for its cinematography, philosophical themes, iconic characters, and mesmerizing world building. Villeneuve, a true fan of the original, lovingly expanded on all of these factors when designing and filming his sequel. The main ingredient that gave audiences hope was the employment of Roger Deakins as the film’s cinematographer. Deakins is simply the best of the best and this could be finest work to date; every single frame is magnificent and atmospheric, entrancing the audience into the story.
While not many characters are instant classics like Roy Batty from the original, they’re still excellently developed. Jared Leto’s villain boasts very little screen time but is in it a perfect amount to avoid distracting from other aspects in the movie while still making his mark on the story. To add new flavor, Villeneuve makes Ryan Gosling’s protagonist a replicant (robot in ‘Blade Runner’ world). While the first film leaves us questioning the humanity of Harrison Ford’s lead, Deckard, Villeneuve wants the audience to go in with a fresh mindset and experience a new story. When he expertly weaves Deckard into the film, he never does anything to answer the questions left from the first one, maintaining the individual majesty that Scott worked so hard to build. In fact, this film is very capable of standing by itself, it is just significantly better when considering its relation to its predecessor.
While the answers to the original film’s questions have always been the focus of fans, the true love for ‘Blade Runner’ is found in its world building. Scott showed only a sliver of the 2019 LA and it is just as astounding to this day as it was when it came out. Villeneuve uses the scope to epic proportions to explore this world even further. The story not only explores the city of 2019 LA even further, but expands the world to show what lies on the outside. While both films wrestle with the concepts of how far humanity’s inventions can take us, ‘2049’ also explores just how far back we can set the world.
In short, few sequels have ever been made with such care as this one. Villeneuve pours his love for the original into every moment and it is constantly apparent. The cinematography is nonstop jaw-dropping, the themes are intellectual and engaging, the characters are excellent vehicles to convey the attitude of the world, and the world itself only gets more fascinating. ‘Blade Runner 2049’ is absolutely immune to the ever-spreading disease of sequel-itis.