The Blade Runner series has become a cultural icon for Cyberpunk cinema, playing a significant role in the overall modernization of science fiction films. The director Denis Villeneuve has been to Budapest since then, mainly for the remake of the movie Dune.
The industry however hasn’t been kind to Blade Runner films, with both the original Blade Runner (1982) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017) making barely enough box office revenue compared to their budgets. However, this has given the series a cult status of the highest rated cyberpunk films ever created. So how does Blade Runner 2049 fit into modern cinema standards? Truth is that it doesn’t, which is exactly what makes it such a phenomenal movie. Let’s discuss more in depth.
Right off the bat, the most entrancing thing about Blade Runner 2049 is the way it feels. Its atmospheric sound design, splendorous sound track, incredible set design, locations and cinematography are what make it such a pleasant viewing experience. It feels good to look at, every single shot in this film is wallpaper worthy. This is in parts due to the fabulous set design at Origo Studios in Hungary’s beautiful city of Budapest. The set and world design feels futuristic, yet in touch with the current world of the capital.
While the world feels futuristic, the streets feel contemporary and that is the part of its immaculate set design that fits directly into the themes of the film. The movie features one main theme, the difference between Humans and Replicants. While there is a different reasoning for everyone on which side they wish to support, there is no side to choose from here. If you can’t tell the difference between the two, why does it matter? This is the theme that Denis Villeneuve chose to convey, and boy did he succeed. The film’s ambition in scope and scale is UNMATCHED in modern cinema.
This brings us to Blade Runner 2049’s actual weight, the incredible story telling
Blade Runner 2049 takes place 30 years after the events of the original Blade Runner film. Following K, as he struggles between being a Replicant and a Blade Runner, swallowing his rage and depression from the constant discrimination he faces for being a non-human. He puts his faith in JOI, a trusty holographic companion. The story evolves from being the tale of a Replicant caught in a loop of killing his own kind, to figuring out that he ‘might’ be the key to rescuing the entirety of his species from going extinct. Leaving everything behind, K sets out to find his true purpose in life along with JOI.
The synopsis that I have written above does the story no justice, it cannot. There is simply so much going on within the film that it is absolutely impossible to convey in words. Villenueve’s mastery in writing, prevalent more here than anything he’s done before (except Incendies) is massive. His control of K’s character (beautifully portrayed by Ryan Gosling) and his relationship with JOI (played by the exotic Ana De Armas) is something else entirely. Not to discredit the other cast and characters such as Robin Wright’s Lt. Joshi and Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace, but the core cast of Gosling and De Armas is something other-worldly almost, which fits perfectly in the dystopian world of 2049 Los Angeles.
Roger Deakins’ cinematography absolutely shines here; this man has a penchant for creating shots that are highly technical and incredibly beautiful at the same time. When you think of a technical shot, usually you think of frames which inhibit certain filmmaking rules, whereas in 2049 the technicality depends on multiple aspects of shot compositions. It isn’t just the angle, or the lens’ width, but the atmospheric set design and lighting. There is a shot which comprises entirely of a room that reflects the waves of water that surrounds it. In order to do this, set designers hand crafted the set and gave Deakins full control of it. Deakins, Villenueve and the local film professionals’ trio made this film something special, something which will be remembered till the next big thing in the cyberpunk genre of modern science fiction. There isn’t any aspect of the film that I can call objectively bad, whether it be the story, direction or art design; Blade Runner 2049 has it all covered.
Villeneuve, the cult film maker
Villeneuve has been awfully quiet since the release of the film, so has Warner Bros. However; the trailer for his next outing ‘DUNE’ has raised a ton of hope amongst his fan base. Villeneuve once again is working with the extremely talented Hungarian set designers, and if anything that we’ve heard from the star cast of Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Fergusson, Jason Momoa and Oscar Isaac is true, DUNE (2021) will be a film that defines a generation.
As for Blade Runner 2049, the film is a master piece, through and through. There are no faults here, as you go through the slow burn yet HUGE pay off that is Blade Runner 2049, you will quickly realize this. Villeneuve and Deakins have together created a film that is so vivid in its conveyer of emotions, and so visually pleasing that your eyes cannot look away. Villeneuve’s mastery of these characters that he has designed are so impressive that it will go down in history books as the primary film you should watch which will INSPIRE you to become a filmmaker.