Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049, the Original was more Original.

Based upon the Philip K. Dick science fiction novel ‘Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep?’ the first ‘Blade Runner’ movie was one of those films that under performed at the box office back in 1982. Even at the time however the film had a large number of genuine admirers both for the originality of the novel’s plot and director Ridley Scott’s gritty vision in filming it. Today Blade Runner has achieved much better reviews and a growing number of fans.

Original Blade Runner Poster (Credit: Warner Brothers)

For those who don’t know or remember the original movie, in the post-apocalyptic year 2019 humans are busy developing “the outer worlds” and are using ‘replicants’, human appearing androids as a slave labour force. Some of these replicants have escaped and come to Earth where they are hunted down and eliminated by ‘Blade Runners’ like Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford in both the original and the sequel. The original film ends with Deckard and a replicant named Rachel leaving together as lovers. The entire film, and the novel before it were a comment on what it really means to be human. Blade Runner was just one of those movies some people loved because it was so different, while others just didn’t understand it for the exact same reason.

So it was inevitable that sooner or later someone would get around to making a sequel and we now have Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve with executive producer Ridley Scott. The fact that Ridley Scott had a major role in the sequel ensured that ‘Blade Runner 2049’ has much the same gritty feel as the original.

Blade Runner 2049 Poster (Credit: Columbia Pictures)

Without giving too much away the sequel’s plot concerns the hunt for a child that the human Deckard and the replicant Rachel had after the end of the original. It’s the job of the new Blade Runner ‘K’ played by Ryan Gosling, to hunt down this impossible child. By the way ‘K’ is himself a replicant!

That’s one problem I had with “Blade Runner 2049′. In the original film replicants were eliminated just for being on Earth but now there are replicants everywhere, replicants are even hunting other replicants. As an explanation we’re informed that most replicants are a newer, obedient model. I might have accepted that explanation if at the end of the movie we weren’t introduced to a waiting rebel army of ‘obedient’ replicants. In other words the movie changed its own rules in the middle of the story and that’s never a good thing in science fiction.

The bigger problem however is simply a lack of anything really new. If the original Blade Runner was so original that many people couldn’t accept it, the new Blade Runner 2049 certainly doesn’t have that problem. In fact Blade Runner 2049 just a rather obvious take off on the first film.

So much for the bad parts, this film does have a few good things in it as well. As I already mentioned the new Blade Runner maintains much of the same feeling, the same atmosphere as the original but with improved special effects. The effects themselves are very good being a nice mixture of real sets and CGI images. (I think some films just use too much CGI and end up looking like a cartoon.) The two images below allow a comparison of the design of the two films.

Los Angeles in the Original Blade Runner (Credit: Warner Brothers)
Los Angeles in Blade Runner 2049 (Credit: Columbia Pictures)

My favourite part of the film however was that of K’s computer generated girlfriend Joi, and not just because the actress playing the role, Ana deArmas was quite pretty. To me the technology of Joi, both hardware and software were the most original part of the film. When we first meet Joi her image is being generated by a projector in K’s apartment. The projector runs along a railing mounted on the ceiling allowing Joi to move around but only inside the apartment.

K brings Joi a present, a handheld projector that enables her to go outside, even with him on his missions. In terms of hardware that made me wonder how a handheld projector could generate a stable image, especially when K kept putting it in his pocket. More interesting however was the idea of a computer program, however sophisticated, developing a truly individual personality, and Joi had as much personality as any character in the film.

What I would have liked to have seen would have been a couple more computer generated people like Joi. Since these image people would all be developed from the same program could they really be individuals, really be different from one another? Exploring that idea could have been original!

On the whole Blade Runner 2049 wasn’t a bad movie, but with all the money and effort that went into it, it could have been better.