As anyone who reads this blog would know, I’m a massive Philip K. Dick fan. Recently there has been a huge flood of films and television programs adapting some of the greatest of Dick’s short stories and novels. Of course, this is nothing new. Hollywood has been mining his work for years.
Blade Runner is indeed one of the greatest science fiction films of all time, so when I heard that they were making a sequel I was a little worried. Was this sequel necessary? I loved the ambiguity of the original, the question as to whether or not Detective Deckard was a replicant or not. Those kinds of plot details still haunt me.
The newest installment, directed by Denis Villeneuve, is comparative in scope and vision as Ridley Scott’s original offering, but it is in some ways not as thought-provoking. Sure, visually it looks like the original, but it is simply a continuation of the story, a following of a thread of “what ifs”.
One of the strengths of the film is definitely the writing. The monologues of the blind and aloof Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) are meandering and strange. He explores the human condition with a dreamlike performance much like the monologues of Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) in the original. Many of the roles have been reversed in this film. Our hero (Ryan Gosling) is a replicant tasked with being a Blade Runner, a hunter of rogue replicants. He has a holographic girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas) who spends the film trying to show her love for him even if it is only a programmed lie. She is very much like Rachel (Sean Young) in the original, a woman who needs to be comforted and rescued.
The script elevates even further once Deckard (Harrison Ford) enters the story. His entrance is not trite or unimaginative. He is living out his days in a sad and broken place which reflects the desperate nature of his circumstance. In the end the plot twist is a bit contrived in my opinion, but it works nonetheless. It is a surprise for some, but I unfortunately saw it coming like a hover-car with blinking lights. The red herring isn’t strong enough for me, and when they reveal the character who is the at the center of the plot twist early on I understood where the film was going.
All in all it is a visually stunning film, and the story is strong enough to be worth sitting in a theater for 2 hours and 45 minutes. It has many parallels to the original without being campy or heavy-handed, and it is still exploring the thematic message of what makes us human. Do we have a soul? If we are a construct, then are we as human as someone born of flesh?
My recommendation is to see it. It is a good example of analogy, thematic structure and terrific storytelling.