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Blade Runner 2049: 35 Years From Question to Answer

Ridley Scott’s «Blade Runner» is one of the great classics of Hollywood. Today, the sequel, titled «Blade Runner 2049», hits cinemas. Fans and movie buffs alike are nervous. Is the film worth seeing? Does it destroy the legacy of the 1982 movie? I have answers.

If you’ve followed the development process of «Blade Runner 2049» you will know one thing first and foremost. Or rather, not know. What is the movie acutally about? We know it stars Ryan Gosling and sees Harrison Ford return as Deckard, but that’s about it. The trailers are vague at best and information online is sparse. Even the animated prequel to the sequel doesn’t really tell you all that much.

Turns out that this is deliberate. At the European premiere in Zürich’s Cinema Corso, there was a video message by director Denis Villeneuve, accompanied by a text screen right afterwards. He asks to not only avoid spoilers for the movie but also not tell anyone anything about the plot. The reason: Villeneuve wants to preserve the experience of seeing the film for each viewer and keep the actual watching of the movie as fresh as humanly possible.

Blade Runner 2049 had one of its first European screenings at the Zurich Film Festival

I will honour Villeneuve’s request. In this review, I will not detail the plot or reveal anything about it. I will keep that to the barest minimum possible. As much as needed, as little as possible. Therefore: This review is spoiler free.

The Big Sigh of Relief

After the end credits have rolled to their last second and the lights in the cinema that is currently taken over by the Zurich Film Festival have gone up again, I sigh and say «Wow». It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie quite like this one. And I say this having watched the 1982 movie in preparation for this one over the weekend. I watched the Final Cut, mind you, because that’s the version that follows Ridley Scott’s vision of the movie most closely.

It is that vision that had me worried before I’ve seen «Blade Runner 2049». In «Blade Runner» Ridley Scott had a very distinct vision and has created a rich world that is not only futuristic but also plausible. In 2049, Ridley Scott is no longer attached as director and the movie is helmed by Denis Villeneuve. Would Villeneuve destroy this vision? Not at all. The man who delivered movies such as «Arrival» or «Sicario» makes the fact that it’s no longer Ridley Scott the movie’s greatest strength. «Blade Runner 2049» is most definitely a movie set in the Blade Runner universe and it couldn’t exist anywhere else. Yet it feels completely different and tells a completely original story.

Villeneuve knows exactly where the roots of the movie are and he imitates some scenes from the first part scene by scene. The scene in which Deckard walks into the police station has been redone starring Ryan Gosling. The intro of the 1982 movie is being redone and fit into a new context. Whenever Villeneuve picks up elements, shots or scenes from 2049’s predecessor, he makes sure to give the scenes new context and thus twisting them into something unforeseen and new. They never seem bland or like reheated coffee but they gain new meaning.

In addition to that, the movie has a lot of references to other installments in the rather sparsely populated Blade Runner franchise. The most obvious nod to the past, namely 1997’s Blade Runner video game, is one character that looks an awful lot like Lucy.

Lucy appeared in the 1997 Blade Runner video game

Given the structure and the plot of «Blade Runner 2049», this is not a coincidence. Just like the entire movie, nothing seems out of place or not deliberately put exactly where it is seen in the movie.

Strong Emotions by Aloof Characters

One core element has been left unchanged, though: All the characters in «Blade Runner 2049» present themselves as emotionally cold and distant. Just like Deckard and Rachael (Sean Young) manage to have a duel of words without any inflection in the 1982 movie, Ryan Gosling’s character talks to his beloved in the most aloof way possible. That beloved, by the way, is the only one to display emotions openly. And there’s a good reason for that.

The emotions in this film are, just like in many great Hollywood films, not necessarily found on screen but in the heads of the audience. Even if Ryan Gosling rarely as much as smiles, the audience knows exactly what he’s feeling at any given moment. This way, the emotional punchlines of the movie hit home and the world on screen seems to escape its confines. I am in the middle of it all.

The only thing that doesn’t quite seem to fit is Jared Leto’s character. The writers of the movie appear to have been unsure about what to to do or where to go with the character. His motives are left unclear and we don’t really get to know who he is. All these things are made perfectly clear with every other character, be it by their actions or by virtue of exposition. Just Leto’s character seems lacking. Of course, sooner or later he babbles something that could resemble a motivation, but all that does, is leave a weird taste behind and raised eyebrows. Luckily, all the other characters make up for his lacking, even his taciturn aide.

All in all, Blade Runner stays true and also manages to re-invent itself at the same time. The decision to let someone other than Ridley Scott direct the movie is probably the best decision the producers of «Blade Runner 2049» could have made. Villeneuve understands Blade Runner, just like the actors on screen.

Go watch it. Please. The movie is amazing.

Oh, by the way, to finish this off: Gaff (Edward James Olmos) still knows way more than he lets on. If you’re interested, I’ll happily write down who Gaff is and why he is probably the best character of both movies.

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10 comments

User ELGURU

Blade Runner, ein Kultfilm. Der Monolog vom Replikant Roy Batty youtube.com/watch?v=jvFYgEL... (achtung Spoiler) ist immer noch eines der besten Filmszenen. Definitiv Créme de la créme.

05.10.2017
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User rene.schuler

Ich habe deb 2 Teil gesehen, einfach super. Und der Film geht wirklich nach 30 Jahren weitert.

06.10.2017
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User Outrager

Habe den 2. Teil auch gesehen und war doch etwas enttäuscht. Vielleicht habe ich mich "zu schlecht vorbereitet" oder gar zu viel erwartet. Nun ja, schlussendlich einfach Geschmackssache. Den 1. Teil habe ich wesentlich "besser" in Erinnerung - ist aber doch schon ein Weilchen her...

11.10.2017
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User MakeAppsNotWar

@Outrager Liegt wohl daran dass der erste Film als Meisterwerk gilt und es da schwer mit zu halten ist.
So setzt man sich schnell zu hohe Hoffnung

13.10.2017
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User YvesMundorff

Vermutlich bestes Sequel ever.

10.10.2017
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User techdefined

Ich habe noch das Blade Runner Spiel von Westwood auf Deutsch zuhause. Unglaubliches Spiel das für die Zeit Hammer Grafik und Story bot mit 12 verschiedene Ende. (8 CDs)
Als Fan des ersten Films war ich skeptisch, aber mir hat Blade Runner 2049 bis auf die Musik von Hans Zimmer sehr gefallen. Es kann der Musik von Vangelis 1982 nicht das Wasser reichen. Blade Runner hatte immer einen nostalgischen Ton der irgendwie komplett beim neuen Film verloren gegangen ist.

10.10.2017
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User Dominik Bärlocher

Die Musik ist zwar stimmig für diesen Film, aber Vangelis hat es damals wirklich geschafft, eine ganz neue Welt zu vertonen.

Aber was mir viel mehr aufgefallen ist, jetzt wo ich den Film nochmal gesehen habe: Fandet ihr die Stadt nicht auch etwas leer? Ich meine, in Blade Runner war alles superdicht bewohnt und alles. Kann mit dem Blackout von 2022 zusammenhängen, denke ich.

11.10.2017
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User EMkaEL

für mich war das akustische erlebnis, bestehend aus musik und toneffekten, von 2049 etwas vom besten vom film!

11.10.2017
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User MakeAppsNotWar

Habt ihr den Film in Dolby ATMOS geschaut?
Dadurch wird der Ton extrem pompös, was super passt.
Aber ja, der alte Film hatte etwas bessere Musik

13.10.2017
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User ChI3fJu5TiCe

Als absoluter Hans Zimmer Fan (Sein Konzert in ZH war der Hammer!) finde ich auch, dass die Filmmusik zwar schon sehr stimmig war und auch zum Film passt, er jedoch nie und nimmer sein volles Potential ausgeschöpft hat. Der Track "Sea Wall" ist top!

07.11.2017
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