The term cult film is very loosely bandied about these days, but Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi movie Blade Runner was unarguably one. Based on the late Philip K Dick’s post-apocalyptic story featuring detective Rick Deckard, it was a trendsetter in many ways, though not a big commercial blockbuster in its time.
Thirty-five years later comes a sequel, Blade Runner 2049 directed by Denis Villeneuve, that does it parent proud. And for pure nostalgia, star of the original film, Harrison Ford, appears in this one, grizzled, somewhat worse for the wear, but still able to hold a scene with younger buck Ryan Gosling.
A blend of mainstream moviemaking, imagination, ideas and art, Blade Runner 2049 would be the envy of many a filmmaker, who tried to make a sequel of a classic and failed to please fans.
Villeneuve is respectful towards the Scott film, but adds his own elements of grandeur and thoughtfulness that makes his film a worthy successor, even though at 164 minutes, it is a bit bloated.
In the 1984 film, the future was 2019 and we are almost there and things are not as bad as Scott and his production designer imagined; the new film is set in dystopian 2049, when California is more toxic and barely habitable. The air is polluted, environmental damage over the years has skewed things so that is raining and snowing in California making it look bleakly scary.
The grim LAPD Officer “K” (Gosling) is on the hunt for old, retired Nexus 8 replicants, which have been replaced by the more controllable Nexus 9 series. In that world, Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) is the rich and powerful one, the blind man behind Nexus 9.
Deckard vanished in the first film and is still missing. K’s boss (Robin Wright) believes Deckard is the key to something that could “break the world” and she is right. When K and she finally meet, the screen practically sizzles.
The film is visually so dazzling (great work by the production designer Dennis Gassner and DOP Roger Deakins), that the uneven pace, plot complications and brutal violence so not bother all that much. The question of what it means to be human is even more relevant today when technical advances in robotics and artificial intelligence have reached where old sci-fi dreamers were afraid to go.
- DEEPA GAHLOT