Thursday, January 11, 2018

BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017) (4K Utra HD/Blu-ray Review)

BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack 

Label: Warner Bros.

Release Date: January 16th, 2018
Region Code: A

Rating: R
Duration: 164 minutes
Audio: English Dolby Atmos 5.1, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 

Video: 2160p UHD Widescreen (2.40:1), 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1) 
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto

Blade Runner (1982) is hand-down a top-five movie of all time for me, a masterful neo-nourish slice of science fiction that while bombing in the cinema during it's initial run has gone on to be considered a classic of the genre, and the damn thing only gets better with age, it's a yearly watch for me. Whenever the local repertoire cinema shows it my ass is in the seat. When it was first announced that a sequel was in the works some thirty years after the original I was NOT excited by the prospect, but that original director Ridley Scott was involved sort of peeked my interest. He didn't end up directing but a very talented director did, the maple-blooded Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) was tasked with bringing this to life, with a script penned by original Blade Runner screenwriter Hampton Fancher and co-writer Michael Green (Logan), recruiting cinematographer Roger Deakins (Fargo) and a score composed by Hans Zimmer (Dunkirk) and Benjamin Wallfisch (It)... the talent behind the camera is undeniable, and then talent in front of the camera easily matches that - for starters we have Harrison Ford back as Deckard, and Ryan Gosling (Drive) as a newer model LAPD Blade Runner, Agent K. 

The film is set in 2049 - thirty years after the original film - and Agent K is tasked with tracking and retiring older model replicants on who have gone rogue. At the start of the movie he's tracking down one such rogue, Sapper Morton (David Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy), the tag doesn't come easy but he ends up getting his replicant after a brutal, physical, close qaurteres showdown. Afterward while surveying the property he discovers the skeletonized remains of a woman replicant buried beneath a tree, an examination seems to indicate the skeleton belonged to a replicant who died while giving birth to a child, which was previously though not possible. K's commanding officer at the LAPD, Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright, Wonder Woman) orders him to track down the child if it still lives and to kill it, to erase all traces of the possibility that a relicant could procreate through normal sexual means, feeling that the revelation could lead to a new war between humans and the replicants. 

His search for the child leads him to the Wallace Corporation (formerly the Tyrell Corp.) through which he can trace the DNA from the skeleton to that of Rachel (Sean Young, Dune) from the original film, the search inquiry draws the attention of Wallace Corp. CEO, Niander Wallace (Jared Leto, Suicide Squad) who has been looking to mass produce replicants for off-world colonization purposes, the idea of relpicants birthing their own would greatly advance production capabilities. To this end he sets his personal assistant replicant Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) to secretively assist K in his search, hoping the agent will sleuth the whereabouts of the child, enabling Wallace to secure the secret to replicant procreation, which has eluded him.

The movie is a heady mixture of science fiction  themes and the world created nicely expands on the original film with further deterioration of the biosphere, an event that has killed off all non-human animal species, even trees have seemingly gone extinct, now mankind subsists on a diet of protein-rich meal worms. A dirty bomb has seemingly rendered Las Vegas a irradiated wasteland, and an EMP launched by replicants back in 2022 has wiped out all digital records from the past. The smog-shrouded environs of the first film are only more so now, and even the picturesque beach front community of San Diego has been turned into a dirty, apocalyptic scrap yard. There's some nice tech advances, replicant K has a holographic girlfriend named Joi (Ana de Armas, Knock Knock), and I found the exploration of their relationship one of the highlights of the film, this is something also explored in the film Her (2013) but this played better for me, and artificial humans relationship with a holographic A.I., fascinating stuff.

K is plagues by dreams of an orphanage, something he has always assumed were implanted memories, but while tracking the miracle child he discovers certain things that seem to imply he might be the same child he's searching for, it begs the questions whether K is the miracle child. All of this leads to K tracking down Deckard (Ford) in the Vegas wasteland, also seeking the help of Dr. Ana Stelline (Carla Juri), a woman suffering from an immunity disorder who designs replicant memories.

Hopefully I have spoiled to much here with the summary, Blade Runner 2049 takes it's time getting up to speed, sprawling out at a slightly overlong 164 minutes - nearly three hours - but even upon re-watch I was rapt my the impressive visuals and heady themes, this thing is enthralling. Ryan Gosling's signature cold detachment works so well for this particular character, his emotive face and wandering gaze capturing the essence of the character and his struggle to find the truth about himself. When Ford does show up the two have a decent chemistry together onscreen, it works a sequel to a seminal work and it also works as it's own story, which I never thought it would. I give some major kudos to the creative team on this one for crafting such a vibrantly dour future world, this things looks amazing, from the dystopian visuals to the very cool future tech this movie has some serious scope and world building in display. Considering this is a sequel I felt needed not be made I am suitably impressed by what we ended up with, a slice of sci-fi that inspires the mind and thrills the eyes at every turn. 

Audio/Video: Blade Runner 2049 (2017) arrives on 4K UHD and Blu-ray from Warner Bros. framed in 2.40:1 widescreen, looking wonderfully crisp and sharp, the slightly muted palette offers some zesty neon highlights and occasional moments of vivid imagery, it's a very stylized film with eye-popping visuals from cinematographer Roger Deakins (a Coen Bros. regular with many prestigious films to his credit), the 4K reproduces it very nicely, this is a knock-out in 4K.  

Audio options include 5.1 surround mixes in Dolby True HD, DTS-HD MA and Dolby Atmos, and all I can say is WOW! Gorgeous separation and use of the surround, the phenomenal score from  Hans Zimmer (Dunkirk) and co-composer Benjamin Wallfisch (It) is rather overwhelming, we get plenty of that signature Zimmer low-end digital thrum and some much appreciated nods to original Blade Runner's Vangelis score, combined with the opulent visuals this audio track delivers the goods, it has a wide range and is very dynamic. Optional English subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extras we get some good behind the scenes goodies detailing the design and casting of the film, and a series of brief Blade Runner 101 featurettes that give you a peek into the process behind certain aspects of the film. There are also three Animatrix-style prologues to the main feature, beginning with the 22-minute anime Prologues: 2022: Black Out directed by Shinichirô Watanabe (The Animatrix), a cool animated story telling the story of the '22 blackout and how it was achieved. Then we have Prologue: 2036: Nexus Dawn directed by Ridley Scott's son Luke Scott (Morgan), a live-action short starring Jared Leto with his character Niander Wallace demonstrating a new model of the Nexus replicates. A third prologue also directed by Luke Scott features Dave Bautista as his character Sapper Morton during a moment of conflict. Of the three the anime is the most essential, offering some background to the world presented to us in the film, the other two Scott directed live-action shorts are less essential, but cool character pieces. 

Special Features: 
- Designing The World of Blade Runner 2049 (22 min) HD 
- To Be Human: Casting Blade Runner 2049 (17 min) HD
- Prologues: 2036: Nexus Dawn (7 min) HD 
- Prologues: 2048: Nowhere to Run (6 min) HD 
- Prologues: 2022: Black Out (16 min) HD 
- Blade Runner 101: Blade Runners (2 min) HD 
- Blade Runner 101: The Replicant Evolution (2 min) HD 
- Blade Runner 101: The Rise of Wallace Corp (2 min) HD 
- Blade Runner 101: Welcome to 2049 (2 min) HD 
- Blade Runner 101: Joi (2 min) 
- Blade Runner 101: Within the Skies (1 min) HD 

Blade Runner 2049 was one of my favorite films of 2017, glad to see it get a stunning home video presentation with some cool extras. While this is a sequel I don't feel we needed, the original stands on it's own very nicely, against the odds, Villeneuve and his team assembled a stunning sequel, one that stands on it's own separate from the original while perfectly complementing it. I actually enjoyed so much so that at this point I'd be down for another sequel, maybe something on one of the off world colonies, or a prequel so we could see those attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion and the C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate that replicant Roy Batty so poignantly told us about in Blade Runner (1982), but that might be pushing it

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