In Review

Blade Runner 2049: everything you need to know

Is the long-awaited sequel to the sci-fi classic a masterpiece - or a ‘soulless' replicant?

Blade Runner got mixed reviews when it was released 35 years ago yet is now regarded as a sci-fi masterpiece.

So will the highly anticipated follow-up to the Ridley Scott original, Blade Runner 2049, released in the UK today, prove to be another classic?

Here’s what you need to know.

The movie

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling alongside Harrison Ford, who reprises his role as Deckard in the original film.

The script is co-written by Hampton Fancher, who penned the original Blade Runner script - based on Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - and Logan writer Michael Green.

The film is set in 2049 in a dystopian Los Angeles, where bioengineered humanoid replicants have become integrated into society. One such android, K (Gosling), works as a "blade runner" for the Los Angeles Police Department, hunting down and “retiring” older rogue model replicants.

During his investigations he discovers a secret with huge implications for society, prompting him to track down former blade runner Deckard, who went missing 30 years earlier.

The Reaction

In The Daily Telegraph, Robbie Collin calls Blade Runner 2049 “one of the most spectacular, provocative, profound and spiritually staggering blockbusters of our time”.

According to Collin, this is no “wham-bam slab of save-the-world sci-fi”, but rather a slow-burning future-noir mystery “about a missing child, and the existential crisis the case triggers in its investigating agent”.

The cinematography is “head-spinning”, Gosling is “magnetically inscrutable” as K, and Ford’s Deckard is “extraordinary”, the critic adds.

The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern says that the big question for those who love the original has been whether the new film “would be a kind of replicant, a soulless simulacra” of the original.

Fortunately, says Morgenstern, Villeneuve has renewed Scott’s classic with “soulful beauty”, while returning hero Ford is “a revelation”.

Dan Jolin in Empire agrees, saying the new film is as “bold as the original” and “even more beautiful (especially if you see it in Imax)”. This sequel is “visually immaculate, swirling with themes as heart-rending as they are mind-twisting”, he adds, and “without doubt” one of 2017’s best films.

Will it be a hit?

The original Blade Runner projected a drab, dark vision of the future that didn’t go down well when it was initially released, in 1982. Back then, critics and audiences generally preferred the shinier, happier visions of Flash Gordon, ET and the Star Wars films, says Brian Raftery in Wired. Now, the sequel promises “an even darker vision” of the future, “amping up the dystopic futurism-funk”, he says.

The Los Angeles of 2049 features the Sepulveda Pass, a huge wall that keeps the rising oceans at bay, says Raftery, which “feels a little too close to our current reality”.

Yet as that once far-off dystopia seems to draw ever nearer, he adds, that “very closeness” could help 2049 succeed where Blade Runner first failed.

Will there be more sequels?

Ben Child in The Guardian believes it’s a definite possibility. One reason Blade Runner 2049 seemed like a good idea was because "the first movie left so many plot threads open-ended", says the critic.

The “equally nebulous sequel” works as a standalone film, Child says, yet leaves us wanting to find out more about this “eternally dusky California and its grimly eccentric inhabitants”.

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