Updated: Mar 6
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Ryan Gosling is the stone-faced blade runner Agent KD6.3-7.
“BLADE RUNNER 2049”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD copy; 2017; R for some violence, some sexuality, nudity and profanity; streaming via Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes
Best extra: “Designing the World of Blade Runner 2049”
DIRECTOR Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Sicario”) was a skeptic. So was everyone else, even though fans had wanted a sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece, “Blade Runner,” for years.
“What was always wanted was a story that flowed naturally out of the first movie,” Harrison Ford says in one of the bonus extras. Ford played Rick Deckard, the blade runner in the original film.
Despite misgivings, 50-year-old French Canadian Villeneuve decided to helm “Blade Runner 2049.” The results delivered a collaborative vision of the future between him and cinematographer Roger Deakins (“Sicario” “Prisoners,” “Skyfall”). Ryan Gosling stars as Agent KD6.3-7, a stone-faced blade runner who goes by K. He locates the weathered Deckard, who’s been missing 30 years.
“Everyone on the crew deeply loved the first film. We felt the pressure and responsibility to honor Ridley’s work, but at the same time to make our own movie,” Villeneuve says.
Screenwriter Hampton Fancher, who wrote the original script set in a rain-soaked, dystopian 2019, partnered with Michael Green (“Logan”) to write the sequel. The new landscape mirrors icy Montreal winters.
Earth’s sunless environment looks even more toxic. Animals are extinct and humans are living off protein-worms. The wealthy have abandoned Earth for a grander life off-world, while mankind suffers through long periods of darkness since 2022 when all machines stopped. When the lights came back on, the world had changed dramatically.
Villeneuve asked two director friends to produce three prologues; they’re available as bonus features on the Blu-ray. Japanese anime director Shinichiô Watanabe created “2022: Black Out,” a 15-minute apocalyptic short, while Luke Scott (Ridley Scott’s son) made “2036: Nexus Dawn” and “2048: Nowhere to Run.” Both were filmed on the “2049” soundstages in Budapest with actors Jared Leto as god-like inventor Niander Wallace and Dave Bautista as Sapper Morton, who also appear in the film.
Wallace has purchased the bankrupt Tyrell Corp that developed the original replicants. He has since created a new breed; it’s more advanced, completely compliant, and harder to distinguish from humans. “We make angels in the service of civilization,” Wallace says. Leto considers his character part, “genius, madman and Machiavellian. He’s just trying to save humanity.”
The excellent supporting cast includes Robin Wright as chilly LAPD Lieutenant Joshi, who K calls “Madam.” She sends Agent K to investigate Sapper Morton, a rogue Nexus 8 replicate that oversees a worm farm. After a violent fight, K’s drone discovers a chest buried beneath a dead tree. Contents hint that replicants once reproduced, a mystery K must solve. Ana de Armas plays K’s bright-eyed hologram girlfriend Joi, a replicant longing for a soul.
Every scene and frame has been masterfully conceived in 4K resolution, from the editing process to the FX rendering, extracted from the original 3.4K digital camera files. Visuals are extraordinarily life-like from close-ups to wide shots. For example, Dr. Ana Stelline (Carla Juri), a memory designer, has created a lush holographic forest of vividly green trees and plants for herself; it shocks the eye compared to the ruined Earth of gray-blues, greens, and deep-deep blacks. A reddish/orange radioactive haze covers the abandoned metropolis of Las Vegas as Agent K searches for Deckard. Clarity and detail are unparalleled throughout.
Villeneuve has the highest respect for his British cinematographer – this is their third collaboration. “Roger was part of the birth of the cinematic language for ‘2049.’ I felt in a great way it was as much his movie as it was mine,” he says. Along with production designer Dennis Gassner, they spent months conceiving the world’s look before the cameras began rolling.
Deakins is clearly a master of light and composition. The craftsman is bound to receive his 14th Oscar nomination for cinematography for “Blade Runner 2049.” Oddly, he’s never won.
The 4K and Blu-ray are both encoded with the expansive Dolby Atmos soundtrack, projecting an intense bass response that resonates from subwoofers, possibly like no other track before. Electronic tones and rhythms from composers Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch maintain a somber mood, while paying respects to Vangelis’ original avant-garde score. The effects track is also active from speaker to speaker, while giving the dialogue track a clean, upfront sound.
The default audio is a strong, immersive Dolby True HD 7.1 track for 4K and Blu-ray. Bonus features, which also include the multi-part “Designing the World of ‘Blade Runner 2049,’” featuring director, cast and crew interviews; “To Be Human: Casting ‘Blade Runner 2049,’” which covers lead and incidental characters; and “Blade Runner 101,” a collection of six featurettes that showcase design aspects, are found on the Blu-ray disc. They entertain and inform, adding to the “Blade Runner 2049” experience.
From start to finish the 4K presentation from Warner Brothers is a visual knockout, a great compliment to the original “Blade Runner,” also released on 4K.
- Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer