I am one of those people who walked out of a screening of the original theatrical release of Blade Runner, back in 1982, knowing I had just witnessed something important without being able to put the finger on what exactly it was that made it so special. There were the visuals, of course. The “neo-noir”, or in this case “neon-noir”, that characterised Ridley Scott’s vision. The philosophical aspect certainly got the mind racing: not so much a study of the meaning of life, but more what it meant to BE alive. We did not realise back then to what extent it was going to influence movie making in particular and culture in general, nor could we have predicted the cult-status it would gain over time. Ten years later I walked out of the “Director’s Cut” release with a much better awareness of the movie’s importance. Over the last two decades I read pretty much anything about Blade Runner I could get my hands on, culminating in “Future Noir”, the “making of” book that left no stone unturned. But the thought that we would one day see a sequel left me somewhat uneasy. There was something about the ambiguity of the ending that I felt would be ruined if we revisited these characters some years down the line.
And yet, here we are, some 35 years later, with “Blade Runner 2049”, a story that takes place 30 years after the events of the original movie. I won’t spoil the story of this sequel. I will just say that if you were a fan of the original, you should see this one. This time Ridley Scott stayed on as Executive Producer, while the directing honours were handed to Denis Villeneuve, of Sicario and Arrival fame. As it turns out, Villeneuve was an inspired choice. Somehow he manages to create an “homage” to the original movie while giving us a story that stands very well on its own. He carefully uses some images, and even musical bits in key moments, to create a clear link between the two stories, something that crazy fans like myself will be sure to spot, but these never come in the way of the storytelling and, for newbies, won’t be a distraction.
Accidentally, Villeneuve seems to want to tick all the key cultural highlights of my 18 year old self: his next project will be a remake of Frank Herbert’s Dune, a book I used to carry around at that age and quote as if it were the Bible itself.
And most importantly, the writers and Villeneuve somehow manage to keep the ambiguity I so cherished in the first movie, about the true nature of some of the key characters, while adding a new dimension to the story of these “people” in search of a soul, or what it means to have one.