Blade Runner 2049 - Review
Denis Villeneuve is one of the best visionary filmmakers working today. His film Arrival was one of the best cinematic achievements of the 21st century and earned him a lifetime fan. When he was announced to do the sequel to one of the most stunningly beautiful films of the 80's, I was very excited. So, Blade Runner 2049 has arrived. Continue reading to see how it stacks up.
There was no doubt in my mind that this would be a visually beautiful film. Even if there was no story, and the characters were stale, it would be just so much fun to look at. Luckily, the characters are intriguing and it has a satisfying narrative that enhances and expands the Blade Runner world that Ridley Scott had created.
The best thing about the marketing is that it could sell the film just off of the title and the visuals. Which means they didn't have to spoil plot points to get people into seats. It was for the best too, there are several huge surprises throughout the entire film and the twists and turns are better left for you to figure it out for yourself.
In the theater I was in, you could tell when each person figured something out, all within about 15 minutes of each other, but the reactions were awesome to hear, it added to the experience when you heard a gasp or an "ohhhh" or any variation of the eureka moment that happens.
I liked this film better than the original Blade Runner which is rare for me to say about a sequel. However this isn't an action packed sequel. It is slow like the first one. There isn't a ton of action. Slow burns work great when there is a payoff. There is certainly payoff here, but it isn't as concrete and absolute as say Arrival, it is more subtle and abstract. But it still works. All of the characters you come to care about get satisfying story arcs.
Harrison Ford returns, as he did for Star Wars, to a franchise he was a part of in the 80's. It evolves and expands his character, but he also didn't overshadow Ryan Gosling, who gives an amazing performance and handles this burgeoning franchise that is resting on his shoulders amazingly well. Robin Wright is a wonderful edition to the cast too, hot off of the success of Wonder Woman, she gets to do a bit more here. I hope her renaissance is long and prosperous!
The commentary on the debate between the rights of humans vs the rights of replicants is an allegory for how LGBTQA+ and people of color have fought (and are still fighting). Real life will always bleed into art, and sci-fi has been the best genre to comment on real life issues since The Twilight Zone. It was done really well, and enhanced the argument that was presented in the first Blade Runner.
Villeneuve was absolutely the right choice to bring this franchise into modern day. With the way the movie landscape is now, I wouldn't be surprised if we got more sequels, prequels, spinoffs etc. But I will only be interested if Villeneuve returns as well. His eye for scale and visuals, and his meticulous crafting of each frame elevates this movie to something else entirely. Not to mention that bringing legendary Cinematographer Roger Deakins aboard was a stroke of genius.
The score helps as well, the music is used a bit like Dunkirk though less on the nose. It hypes up the moments and makes you feel immersed even more so. I saw this in a standard theater, I assume the experience would have been heightened by seeing it in IMAX or Dolby Atmos.
The movie is nearly 3 hours long and there are a lot of long slow takes that just show off the world, but if you want a sensory treat for your eyes and your ears this is definitely worth seeing on the biggest screen possible. If you are invested in the world of Blade Runner the story will be satisfying as well. The only downside, if you could call it that, is that it doesn't really stand on its own. Knowing the first movie is essential, and if you don't, there could be many moments that you don't understand.
So go rent the original and then go see one of the most stunningly visual movies of all time.
Blade Runner 2049 is now in theaters