It may seem crazy to claim that a film which won two Oscars, and was nominated for a further three, is in any way underrated or underappreciated, but the stats don’t lie – not enough people have seen this movie. That is, Blade Runner 2049 grossed just $259 million worldwide, its domestic cume of $92 million falling well short of the $150m cost of production.
To put this into context, this makes the Blade Runner sequel only the 36th biggest film of 2017 worldwide, placing below the likes of The Mummy, The Great Wall and even, somehow, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage – a movie with an audience score of just 37% on Rotten Tomatoes. As such, while Blade Runner 2049 is majorly appreciated by more hardcore film fans, there are still far too many people who have slept on it. With the film’s recent addition to Netflix, I now feel it’s time for these people to wake up and appreciate this masterpiece.
It is almost indisputable that Blade Runner 2049 features some of the most magnificent cinematography of all time. The fact that DP Roger Deakins won an Academy Award for this movie is hardly surprising, having crafted one of the most visually stunning productions in cinematic history. There is a clear reason why numerous shots from the movie, such as one in which Agent K (Ryan Gosling) navigates through an eerie yet vibrant post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, have featured as many film fanatics’ screensavers since its release – this is a work of art.
Deakins combines with director Denis Villeneuve to create a world that builds upon the groundbreaking work of its predecessor, but still feels fresh and unique in itself. The original film’s dystopian take on Los Angeles is explored further, with Villeneueve expertly constructing a setting that is equal parts frantic and fascinating. The lore of the city is expanded upon, with the introduction of additional, intriguing artificial intelligence, in the form of Ana De Armas’ Joi, helping to further interrogate the enchanting world in which these characters live.
Villenueve also broadens the film’s focus beyond Los Angeles to starkly different, yet equally outstanding, surroundings. Most notably is the aforementioned Vegas, which is developed as a truly immersive, mysterious setting that provides some of the most gorgeous and mesmerising scenes throughout the film. The set design is fantastic, helping to create the perfect backdrop for a number of tense moments. Villeneueve utilises this to full effect with his exceptional direction, with one particular scene – in which Agent K and Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) have a stand-off in an abandoned casino, as a hologram of Frank Sinatra slowly sings “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” – providing one of my favourite big screen moments of all time.
The film’s storytelling is genius, with scriptwriters Hampton Fancher and co. expertly crafting a narrative that honours and incorporates elements from the original movie, without straying away from its focus on the main protagonist, Agent K. I mean, sure, the story doesn’t really warrant its excessively long 2h44 run-time, but the writing team still manages to ensure that the film remains interesting from start to finish – creating an exciting and intricate blend of drama and emotion that makes this an enthralling adventure.
The dramatic narrative of this film is spellbinding, with each twist and turn helping to keep the audience engrossed in this expertly crafted story of identity and belonging (or lack thereof). The exploration of Agent K’s place in this world is captivating; the constant struggle between his job and identity is fascinating, with the character’s inner turmoil at having to act against his own kind and the intriguing, unpredictable search for his origins leading to a deep and thought-provoking interrogation of what it means to belong.
And the romantic, emotional elements of the film hit home with full force. As previously mentioned, the newly-introduced relationship between Agent K and Joi is alluring, with the examination of what is real between the two – considering both of the characters are, ultimately, artificial – leading to some deeply compelling, and quite frankly heartbreaking, moments. The continuation of older romantic elements, namely the intoxicating relationship between Deckard and Rachael (Sean Young), is also equal parts delightful and soul-destroying. 35 years on, the audience finally gets to see what happened to one of the most memorable couples on the big screen, and it’s truly something.
The performance of the entire cast is also remarkable, making it a shame that not a single actor received major nods for their contribution. Sylvia Hoeks provides an intimidating and, at times, terrifying display as the movie’s main protagonist, Luv. Ana De Armas is delightful as Joi, supplying emotional weight and effortless charm in a relatively difficult role to execute. Ryan Gosling puts in yet another terrific display as Agent K, his ability to display a full range of emotions while saying very little making him worthy of far greater credit than he received. And Harrison Ford is Harrison Ford (enough said).
So, with the film’s recent release on Netflix, this is the perfect time for more people to watch and, more importantly, appreciate the filmmaking masterpiece that is Blade Runner 2049. With some fantastic performances, a gripping storyline and some of the most gorgeous cinematography in film history, there is plenty to enjoy. Place yourselves in front of a (preferably very big and very high quality) screen and enjoy. You won’t regret it.