In recent years, cinematic universes have become the norm with comic books and 80s science fiction leading the pact. “Blade Runner 2049,” a sequel to the Ridley Scott original from 1982, is the newest addition to the "Blade Runner" universe.
And while the film honors the original, director Denis Villeneuve certainly adds his own touch, freeing it from its revered shadow. The opening shot of barren agricultural landscapes and geometrically shaped solar farms are breathtaking. Villeneuve’s masterful cinematography shows its face throughout.
He and cinematographer Roger Deakins pay particular attention to lighting and color contrasts. Soft unnatural hues often cover the frame like an opaque cloud. His overall neo-noir film style fits perfectly into the melancholic post-modern atmosphere of the film.
Dynamic lighting accompanies many scenes. The movement of the light gives the film a sense of motion and progress. At times, the lighting flows like a piece of music, complementing the scene much the same way a score would. From a purely visual standpoint, the film is certainly aesthetically pleasing.
Hans Zimmer’s accompanying film score diverges from the original toward an emptier atmospheric essence. The original “Blade Runner” was composed by Vangelis. His work resembled dark, electronic music, relying heavily on synthesizers and classical structure.
Zimmer, on the other hand, opts for a far more desolate, alienating tone. One could describe some of the scores as lifeless and mechanical, and it matches perfectly with the philosophy of the film.
An aerial view of Los Angeles introduces the audience to the over-populated nature of the future. The air is foggy with pollution; the skies are filled with flying cars; buildings are virtually atop one another; advertisements have morphed to include giant humanoid holograms.
The environment has become so barren that the cities are absent of natural life. Only a single tree is found in the film, and it, too, is sapless and dead.
To the viewer, this reality can seem frighteningly bleak. Few desire a world where capitalism has become so efficient and encompassing that corporations organize society, and human labor is unwanted.
But in this universe, it’s on behalf of survival.
And although adverts are seen throughout the large city — an indication that the modern consumptive lifestyle persists into the future — few genuine companies seem willing to purchase a spot in the film. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that companies were reluctant to attach their brand to the capitalist dystopia the film creates.
Additionally, the introduction of replicants — synthetic, bio-robotic humans manufactured by Niander Wallace — has blurred the line between real and imitation. Human identity has essentially been stripped away from this world, and the human experience is no longer beyond computer code.
In this way, Villeneuve and the screenplay writers Hampton Fancher and Michael Green mastered the embodiment of post-modernism.
If you enjoy future dystopian realities combined with intrapersonal, existential questions about what it means to be human, this film is for you. Even if this genre isn’t your favorite, I still strongly encourage giving this film a chance.
This modern exploration of technological progression exceeding human ability juxtaposed with the exclusively human experience of love, emotions and memories is a tale for the ages. “Blade Runner 2049” is certainly one of the best films of this ongoing decade.