Blade Runner was a seismic slice of neo-noir which enthralled audiences, transformed film-making and redefined the sci-fi genre. Its 2049 sequel is set to do the same, says Des Sampson.
When director Ridley Scott unleashed Blade Runner in 1982, his dystopian tale of a post-apocalyptic future, with bleak predictions for the fate of humanity, was one of the most insightful, influential and iconic films of its time. Now, 35 years later, its themes are more prescient than ever, while its profound impact on film-making and filmgoers still resonate.
It's a point not lost on Ryan Gosling, who stars as LAPD Officer K, in the sequel Blade Runner 2049.
"Obviously, it's a hugely important, groundbreaking film," he says. "When I first saw it [the original], I was just 14 - it had been out 10 years then - and I was already aware it was an important film. But it wasn't until I watched it that I realised just how influential it had been on everything that I had grown up watching and listening to.
"More than that, it was one of the first films I had seen where it wasn't clear how I was supposed to feel when it was over," he recalls. "It just asked a lot of questions and it didn't answer very many of them. That was an eye-opener for me."
Fast forward three decades and Blade Runner 2049 continues where the original left off, albeit with the world in an even more precarious position, as huge climatic change, overpopulation, dehumanising technology and growing disenfranchisement paint an even bleaker future than the past.
"Yeah, the world has become a much more brutal place. Life has become more isolated and, in some ways, people aren't living - they're just trying to survive," reveals Gosling. "In that world, there's a harshness and cruelty to life, which my character experiences the full brunt of.
Despite its dark, disturbing themes - the antithesis of his role in La La Land - Gosling insists that there was no thought of turning down the opportunity to star in such a feverishly anticipated sequel, especially as a fan of the first film.
"I've never done science fiction before this, even though I've always wanted to. But I'm glad I waited until now because this is a wonderful way to start out in this genre," he says. "When I heard that Ridley Scott was going to continue the story, as a fan I was excited to know that I would learn more about those characters and their world because they'd stuck with me all this time.
"Then when I heard that Denis Villeneuve, who I've admired for a long time, was going to direct it, well that just made me really want to be a part of it," says Gosling. "His vision and dedication are infectious."
Another reason for Gosling's desire to be a part of Blade Runner 2049 was the chance to act alongside his childhood hero, Harrison Ford, who'd starred in the original Blade Runner as the replicant-hunting officer Rick Deckard. When the moment arrived, he wasn't disappointed.
"I was a fan of Harrison's before this, like all of us, but now I'm an even bigger fan because you couldn't ask for a better actor to work with," he says. "He elevated all of our work to another level and it was such a great experience.
"His arrival on set, the first day, was unforgettable," recounts Gosling. "The light was so low and there was this mist swirling around everywhere, so everyone was just silhouettes. We'd heard Harrison was on set that day, so we were all keeping our eyes open for him when suddenly, out of the mist, he just appeared, larger than life. You couldn't have staged it any better."
Likewise, you couldn't have staged Blade Runner 2049 any better than Villeneuve and his crew have, with their visualisation of Los Angeles, in 2049, a disquieting and dystopian one. To make it more realistic, they decided to film the sequel entirely on location, in Budapest, incorporating real street scenes and huge, hand-built sound stages rather than use special effects, blue-screen or CGI to paint their futuristic vision.
"They created this universe for us, so we never had to imagine anything: it was a real, functioning world, which we lived in and shot in, as you would if you were in a real place," explains Gosling. "I can't remember seeing a single green screen. Having that level of detail and dedication to craft was so inspiring. It made it a real pleasure to be involved.
"Actually, in some ways, the whole experience was a little too overwhelming," he says. "It was difficult to just walk on set, to work, and not be completely blown away by it all. One of the hardest parts of the job, for me, was just trying to stay calm and not 'fan' out, because it was a hugely impressive situation to be in. That attention to detail is not what I'm used to and I don't know if I'll ever experience anything like this again."
It is a truly impressive visual and visceral experience. It's also a beguiling one, with Blade Runner 2049, like its predecessor, having its own set of intrigues and uncertainties, which leaves Gosling's character questioning who he is and what's real or replicant.
"He discovers a mystery, which not only makes him question what he thought he knew about his reality but also makes him question his own identity," he explains. "He also feels that Agent Decker [Harrison Ford] is possibly the only person who can answer those questions."
The result is another extraordinary, futuristic vision which not only pays homage to the original - without being a "replicant" of it - but could even eclipse it with its vision, scope and scale. It's also a film, like the original, that posits more questions than it answers.
"I think the original felt very relevant when it came out and it's maintained its relevance ever since. Its importance has just been highlighted by time," says Gosling. "Will this do the same? I don't know. But I think what's exciting about science fiction - and this film - is that it can project a realistic vision of the worst case scenario, in the hopes of avoiding it. I hope that's what happens; I hope that what it predicts doesn't come true. But who knows?"
Who: Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford
What: Blade Runner 2049
When: In cinemas next Thursday
DID YOU KNOW...
When filming the original Kingsman: The Secret Service film a technical error saw the set flooded with water, leaving cast and crew struggling to escape the deluge. The scene was included in the final cut, with director Matthew Vaughn saying: "Those actors weren't acting, they were absolutely terrified."