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Blade Runner vs Blade Runner 2049

llustration: Genessa Gutzait · The Sentry

Cyberpunk 1001: Blade Runner
Opinion by guest contributor Max Maioli

Few films are more synonymous with their genre than Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982). By taking the familiar tropes of 40s and 50s film noir, mixing them with Philip K. Dick’s philosophical genius, and adding in some of the most stunning visual effects of all time along with a soundtrack overflowing with 80s synthesized goodness, Blade Runner manages to infect the minds of an entire generation of writers, artists, and filmmakers.

Blade Runner wasn’t an easy-going summer movie when it was released in June of 1982. It challenged the audience to study the film, to ask questions, and to find the truth of what it means to be human. It presents androids with complex emotions, trying to make sense of the world around them in the face of rapidly approaching doom. The audience sees through the eyes of Deckard, a retired hardboiled detective whose hand is forced into hunting down rogue androids. By the end of the film, the audience is invited to ask whether Deckard is even  “human” and if that matters. 

Blade Runner set a benchmark for dark futuristic visual design, becoming the go-to source material for all things cyberpunk and tech-noir. Ghost in the Shell (1995), the Bubblegum Crisis series,  Johnny Mnemonic (1995), The Fifth Element (1997), and The Matrix (1999), just to name a few, incorporate the iconic visual style set down by Director Ridley Scott. Even William Gibson had to rewrite more than half of his seminal cyberpunk novel, Neuromancer, after seeing Blade Runner in theaters.

The film also garners the number six spot on the American Film Institute’s list of Top 10 Science Fiction Films. 

Did Blade Runner 2049 (2017) progress on the ideas that the original laid down and present them with dialogue and a narrative that’s more appealing to modern audiences? Absolutely. Will it end up being the influential powerhouse that Blade Runner has proven itself to be? Of course not.

 

Dystopia evolved: Blade Runner 2049
Opinion by guest contributor J. Q. Salazar

Blade Runner 2049 (2017) is a master-class effort in every aspect of filmmaking and a prime example of an unnecessary sequel evolving its source material to the nth degree. While there are a multitude of nuanced directorial choices and deceptively planted homages to get lost in, this film’s effectiveness lies in the authentic humanity of its broad strokes.

Where Blade Runner (1982) is about how one lonely human detective (Deckard) discovers that an android’s feelings are just as valid as his own, 2049 is about how one lonely android detective (K) is forced to smother a conspiracy while grappling with love and life in a world that constantly reinforces the fact that he has no soul.

While both films are essentially two sides of the same coin, Blade Runner’s dialogue and sentimentality feel too muted in retrospect. It’s hard not to feel as though viewers are grasping at strings with the emotional bridges the film forces audiences to connect in order to feel the profundity of its message.

With respect to the era and technology of the time, the original is very much a hypnotizing mood piece that requires audiences to let its broader aesthetics of bluesy noir and dystopian nightmare visuals wash over them. 2049, on the other hand, is a distinctly carved narrative experience where one can almost study the ways in which K exhibits every major emotion over the course of the film.

Blade Runner 2049 updates its world in vastly unique ways, like the effects of global warming 30 years later or the complete saturation of washed-up analog technology. It also includes a thundering blitzkrieg of a soundtrack that plays like someone shoved Vangelis into a meat-grinder and fired it out of a car exhaust.

At two hours and 45 minutes, the film is an epic expanse that trails K’s odyssey and existence before delivering a polished gut-punch finale that raises even bigger questions. If the original asked, “What is it to be human?” then Blade Runner 2049 asks, “What is it to exist?”

 
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