Dense doesn’t even begin to describe this astonishing sci-fi sequel – a near three hour dystopian meditation on everything from Artificial Intelligence, love, existentialism, gender, slavery, whose greatest marvel is ever having been made in the first place. Getting into the meat of analysing it is a formidable prospect; there’s barely a scene that hasn’t been agonised over, a shot that isn’t drowning with detail.
From the opening shots of Ryan Gosling’s “K” flying across the brutalised wastelands of a future LA, 2049 frequently imparts on us such jawdropping vistas – interludes between storytelling that do as much for its world-building as the latter, whilst also representing a high watermark for photo-realism in visual effects. Combined with its cavernous, industrial score, these interludes completely overwhelm. Gosling’s performance is commendable, and his chemistry with Harrison Ford (reprising his role as Deckard) sparkles, but it is Sylvia Hoeks’ “Luv” who steals the show. Her every movement falls into an uncanny valley, human, yet somehow not. Every facial expression suggesting a multitude of barely contained emotions, lust, desire, rage.
Even for these strengths, there would have been many Blade Runner fans who were terrified at the prospect a sequel could trample over a cult film so beloved. So such is the delight that this not only avoids desecrating the original, but seamlessly weaves its threads into new shapes, provoking new questions and revealing concealed meaning in something born more than 30 years ago.
More than anything, it is the sheer wealth of detail that beguiles the most. This is a film rich in substance, as harsh as it is poetic. Nothing has been realised by accident – like the replicants with which it is concerned, everything is by design. Though its emphasis on tone over action will put some off, Blade Runner 2049 is a must see for fans of intelligent science fiction. This is an epic, deeply impressive work.