In a dystopian world engulfed by colours and immersed with sound, Blade Runner 2049 guides you through the ruins of a post apocalyptic earth. Taking you on a journey of self discovery and sacrifice, the narrative becomes lost amid the wreckage it wades through. Forgetting how to develop the antagonist and maintain tension, it creates feelings of apathy.

Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel to the cult classic, Blade Runner. A sci-fi noir released in 1982. Blade runner 2049 contends with similar themes as director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sciario) tries to encompass the same solitary atmosphere and stylistic approach as the original. In an artificial world, what is real? Continuing from the original, Agent K (Ryan Gosling) is on the hunt for replicants in a dystopian world, a hunt that brings in Deckard (Harrison Ford), the protagonist of the original, into the plot.

2049, the earth is recovering from the nuclear war that destroyed organic animal life on earth and left only humans. fleeing the wastes and flocking to the metropolises, mankind lives a coddled existence. With tower blocks that rise into the sky, humanoid workers(replicants), holographic mistresses and artificially created animals, this new world relies on it’s technology to compensate for it’s complete destruction.

Hunting the replicants

Set 30 years ahead of the original, Agent K  an advanced replicant is tasked with killing rogue, early model replicants. The film jumps straight into it, with the opening scenes being a silently Agent K entering a farm to find a suspect. After a brutal struggle, Agent K kills the suspect (who is indeed a replicant) but is left pondering the case.

He stumbles upon evidence that shows of a replicant childbirth. an unheard of anomaly. Tasked with tracking the child, the film sees Agent K leaving no stone un-turned as he follows every lead from the ghettos of the metropolis to the far corners of deserted cities. Beginning with a tale of a blade runner, it eventually evolves into a journey of discovery. A discovery, that not only Agent K is interested in. Pursuing him in his quest for answers is Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) a replicant working on behalf of the artificial creating Wallace company. The Wallace Company hopes to use the replicant childbirth to bring in a new age of AI.

A shaky story

The movie is a considerably long one. Telling its story over 164 minutes, The aloof Agent K trudges around the intriguing locations of this new, artifical world in his quest for answers. But the journey soon becomes a forced march as the movie convolutes itself with a fleeting use of the antagonist and a collection of disposable characters. leaving you emotionally detached from a big part of the main plot.

Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) is given the role of the main antagonist who is chasing Agent K. And although a menacing character within her own right, her role as antagonist is underdeveloped. She appears too infrequently in the film to ever really build a sense of chase or tension. Appearing every-time the plot thickens, she’s used solely as a narrative tool in order to progress the story. The result is a sort of cheap horror scare where when she’s onscreen there is tension, but when absent, you forget she was ever there.

Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) © Warner Bros. (all rights reserved)

Bogged down by ambition

As the original Blade Runner created a huge setting, this movie constantly juggles between what it was and what it wants to be. It wants to reveal the epic lore set out in the original, but fails to make a balance between exploration and story telling. Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy were smash hits that kept the viewers on the edge of the seat; and they were 3 hours long. But Jackson knew what to cut. That’s why he released extended editions for those who really wanted to know the ins and outs.

And this is what Blade Runner 2049 fails to do. Showing too much but progressing the story too little,  you’re left with a thriller without the tension. The original Blade Runner was criticised for shortening the length of it’s theatrical release, Blade Runner 2049 should receive the same treatment but for not cutting enough.

Wallace Corp. Where Replicants are made © Warner Bros. (all rights reserved)

Saving the plot

Ryan Gosling’s performance as Agent K was a well suited one. Aloof, he trudges through his journey with a convincing internal struggle that raises questions and creates the needed tension that the antagonist fails to deliver. His love affair with his holographic girlfriend, Joi (Ana De Armas) is shallow, but is sad when ended. And although the plot fails to deliver tension, the beautiful cinematography and atmospheric soundtrack immerses you enough to engage with the protagonist. Breaking traditions, the protagonist leads us in one direction, but then draggs us down another, making you realise that sometimes, you’re not the main purpose of your own story.

Text: Kristian McCann

Photos: © Warner Bros. (all rights reserved)