WARNING: This discussion will contain MAJOR spoilers for the film, so if you haven’t seen it yet, STOP NOW!!
When they announced that a sequel to Blade Runner was really coming, I was NOT a fan of the idea, I admit it. To me, it was one of those films that couldn’t have a sequel without ruining the concept. So even though the previews looked good, I still approached this film with a high degree of skepticism. There was a long checklist of things this film HAD to do in order for me to walk out of the theater happy. And now that I’ve finally seen Blade Runner 2049, I have to say, it didn’t just fulfill that list…it SURPASSED it.
I truly didn’t believe that the look, feel and SOUND of the the original Blade Runner could ever be duplicated and I was dead wrong. From the very beginning, I felt a connection back to the original film that only grew stronger as the story continued. And what a story! 30 years after the original film, there are more replicants than ever, but now they all obey (according to Niander Wallace, who has taken over the defunct Tyrell Corporation). Agent K (Ryan Gosling) is one of these replicants who now works as a blade runner, hunting down the last of the Nexus 8 models. His world is turned upside down though when he discovers evidence that one of the Nexus 8 replicants died in childbirth. According to everything known about replicants…this shouldn’t be even remotely possible. As Madame (Robin Wright) points out, if there’s truly no difference between replicant and human, there will either be a war, or an outright slaughter. She orders K to find the child and ‘retire’ it.
Right away my gut instinct said that the dead replicant was Rachael, I’m not sure why but it made perfect sense in my head. Then, when K traveled to Wallace headquarters (with a great look at the old Tyrell pyramid building) and Luv played an old ‘crystal’ recording of Rachael being given the Voigt-Kampff test by Deckard (using audio from the original film), that was the moment I fell in love with the film (not to mention the fact that they confirmed to anyone who has seen the original film that this was Rachael and that she DID have a child by Deckard). I was not expecting such an explicit tie-in to the original film, in fact, I wasn’t expecting ANY type of tie-in.
The search for the child continues, and as the story goes on, all the evidence seems to point to the notion that K is actually this missing child. K has strong memories of hiding a toy wooden horse as a child; when he later finds this same horse, it seems to confirm that his memory was real, and not implanted. I was totally okay with this idea, until a wrench was thrown into the works. After encountering Deckard, and unwittingly leading Luv (who is also Wallace’s enforcer) straight to him, K is rescued by an underground resistance movement made up of replicants, who believe that they are equal to humans, and the existence of Rachael’s child proves it. K meets Freysa, who helped deliver that child and confirms…it was a healthy baby girl. Despite all the evidence, K can’t be that child, even though he clearly wants to be. I actually felt a glimmer of disappointment for a moment, but it didn’t last. In hindsight, it would’ve been too simple for K to be the missing child, too obvious as it were. And if you’re in the world of Blade Runner, nothing is THAT simple. Actually, once it was confirmed Rachael had a girl, for a little while I thought it might be Luv. After all, if you look closely at her, she does resemble Racheal a bit. But then I remembered she’s definitely a replicant, so it couldn’t be her either.
Then came the scene that made my jaw smack the floor. Deckard is brought before Wallace (who is played in a semi-creepy way by Jared Leto) who wants to know where the child is, or at the very least where the replicants who helped him and Rachael are. Wallace has prepared a special reward if Deckard helps him, a very special reward indeed. To my great shock, out of the shadows steps….Rachael. An exact duplicate of how she looked 30 years ago, gait, mannerisms and all. It shocked me in great part because Sean Young, who played Rachael in the original film had loudly and frequently said that she was not involved in this film in ANY way!! Now it turns out that this was a massive piece of misdirection, as Young WAS involved in directing her body double in how to act as Rachael. The character was resurrected in the same way as Princess Leia in Rogue One, only the results now are…perfect, absolutely perfect.
The identity of Deckard and Rachael’s daughter came as a bit of a shock, but it also made perfect sense. It turns out that the missing child is actually one of the best ‘memory designers’ in the world. She’s lived most of her life in a sterile chamber because of a ‘genetic disorder.’ It’s brilliant: what better way to hide the child of a replicant and a human in plain sight by fudging the records and making it appear that she has a compromised immune system and therefore must live apart from human contact? The story ends with Deckard coming in to the room where she’s working, clearly overwhelmed to see his child for the very first time. And K? He finally succumbs to the wounds he received in his final confrontation with Luv, but he is visibly at peace as well. At the moment he lays back in the snow, you can hear the iconic “Tears in Rain” theme from the original Blade Runner.
And speaking of the music, I had my doubts considering Vangelis isn’t involved but WOW! Musically it felt very much like the original film, with long synth tones and other motifs. At times the music felt like a sound cloud (which is a good thing), building and pulsating around the action (a good example is the end of the fight between Luv and K, when the dying Luv is looking up through the water).
More thoughts on Blade Runner 2049:
-I LOVE the look of Los Angeles, it has that same gritty, futuristic yet falling apart feel of the original. And seeing the former Tyrell pyramid got a little giggle out of me (I was wondering if we would see that building again). Also the abandoned Las Vegas looked amazing as well.
-I found it fascinating that K had a holographic girlfriend (Joi). Even though she’s programmed to “say everything you want to hear”, you get the sense that her love for K is real. Also the scene where she “syncs” with a call girl to give K a night with a “real woman” was…fascinating, to say the very least.
-There are two ways the story can go from here. First, this could be the end and I would be perfectly happy with that. All my questions regarding the end of the original film have been answered to my satisfaction, we know that Deckard has found his daughter, the story could be over. But then again, there are hooks that could lead into another film, as we’ve also been told that a revolution is coming from the enslaved replicants. A sequel could cover this as well as the ongoing adventure of Deckard with his daughter.
My final words on the film are: Blade Runner 2049 is an amazing film, a masterpiece. Don’t let any doubts about this being a sequel to Blade Runner hold you back from going to see it. This is easily the best film I’ve seen this year.
For more of my reviews on film, see here
Blade Runner (1982): A misunderstood gem
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