Blade Runner 2049 Review
Check out our review of the sequel to Blade Runner!
Review Of Blade Runner 2049
The original Blade Runner is a masterpiece of film-making. It inspired countless other films in the science-fiction genre and makes an impression on every person who sees it. However, when it was released in 1982, it was not well-received, grossing only $6 million on opening weekend, and getting mostly negative reviews from critics. Over the years, though, it found a cult following and has come to be hailed as one of the best and most influential films ever made. So, when Warner Bros. announced a sequel some thirty-five years later, most were dumbfounded. There have been many long-awaited sequels, but never one for a film which did so poorly upon it's initial release. Thankfully, this was an attempt to bring a beloved on-screen world back with a meaningful story and characters which is where the movie succeeds. Unfortunately, it was also meant to begin a franchise which is where the movie fails. Here's my review of Blade Runner 2049.
This story is a mystery of epic proportions, but is also a very personal journey of discovery, and the movie manages to balance the two quite well which is a feat in and of itself. As we learn more about LAPD Officer K we find out more about this world, how it's changed over the past thirty-plus years, and where it's going. Intriguing from the beginning scene (which is actually the same opening the original film was supposed to have before it was scrapped), the film never lost my attention and managed to keep things moving even though it isn't fast-paced like most action films today. Writer of the first Blade Runner, Hampton Fancher, is on board for this movie, and director Denis Villeneuve is a huge fan of Ridley Scott's original work which clearly shows throughout the film, both on screen and in the script, giving it a strong sense of continuity and a similar tone. This is (like the original) undoubtedly a techno-future-noir-cyberpunk-adventure in which you are never sure who's a good guy and who's a bad guy. However, while the first film was mostly straightforward while remaining deceptively complex, this sequel is so complicated it requires the viewer's full attention which isn't necessarily always a bad thing as I hope we get more movies that ask us big questions like this one does. It just could've been handled a bit better.
Here we have such a well-developed story with real meaning behind it and important themes which weigh heavy even after you exit the theater. This is the thinking man's sci-fi film, much like the original, even if it isn't executed quite as well. The problem isn't necessarily with the story, but instead with certain plot elements which could have been completely cut to make for a better, more focused movie. They included these side stories and characters only to set up future films which is disappointing because without them this would have been a wonderful stand-alone sequel. The story is so dense that they need the nearly three hour run-time, and while I didn't think certain scenes should have been included, none of them are poorly written or acted. They simply stick out among the otherwise brilliant through-line of the story. I appreciate the length of the film, however, because it allows the story to breathe and take it's time without rushing, letting things play out naturally on screen. So, while it certainly should have been about 30 minutes shorter, I applaud the studio for allowing the director's vision (assuming he wanted every scene in this theatrical release) to be shown in theaters.
Every single performance in this film is astonishing. There are so many great actors here doing some of their best work on screen. First of all, Ryan Gosling carries the film with ease playing his role of K flawlessly; Robin Wright is cold and calculating as LAPD chief Joshi; Ana de Armas does a brilliant job in the most difficult role as Joi; Jared Leto shines as the eccentric Niander Wallace; Sylvia Hoeks stands out as the dangerous and deadly Luv; Dave Bautista is wonderful as the weathered Sapper Morton; and when Harrison Ford shows up he's giving audiences his best acting in years bringing emotion to every beautiful moment he's onscreen again as Rick Deckard. Every line of dialogue has meaning and flows naturally, too, from this awesome script by Fancher and Michael Green. They give the story and characters plausibility with motivations that make sense and valid reactions. Director Villeneuve also handles each of the characters with poise bringing out the best in his cast.
A master of cinematography, Roger Deakins proves again why he's the best in the business with some of the most gorgeous shots I've ever seen on film. The way he places and moves the camera is brilliant. His use of lighting in this movie is perhaps the best use of the tool in the history of movie-making. It's simply amazing to behold what he's done with the look of the movie as every shot and lighting cue helps tell the story. Production design, set design, costumes, and visual effects artists really outdid themselves here, too, with some of the greatest achievements in VFX coming from this incredible team. They captured the aesthetic of the Blade Runner world perfectly and aged it up for 2049. Last, but certainly not least, Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch had a huge challenge in composing the musical score for the film. They were clearly inspired by the first film's legendary composer Vangelis, but did not try to copy what he did, instead using more modern technology to craft a heavy and emotional score.
If you're a fan of sci-fi, enjoy the art of film-making, or want to see a challenging and engaging film, then I recommend Blade Runner 2049. It's an adult adventure with themes about humanity and our nature asking important questions about what makes us who we are. The film looks amazing, sounds fantastic, and features an intriguing and emotional story with great acting performances and phenomenal writing. It's slightly disappointing that they tried to do too much with it, and I would've preferred that they kept the story focused in on our main characters a bit more. However, Blade Runner 2049 is worth seeing if you have any interest in it, and is a must-see for any fan of the original Blade Runner. If you have not seen the 1982 film, I highly recommend watching it before you see this new movie. I give Blade Runner 2049 an 8 out of 10.