Blade Runner 2049

blade4Has there ever been a more beautiful vision of a dystopian society than what Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins serve up in Blade Runner 2049?  Even a photo of a dead tree will be captivating to those around you.  Nuclear wastelands, city-sized garbage dumps, and coastal dams will all amaze.  Visually, this is exactly the sequel that Blade Runner deserved.

Story-wise, Blade Runner 2049 is probably the sequel that Blade Runner deserved as well, though that’s not necessarily a compliment.  The story is muddled right from the hard-to-read title cards that try to bring us up to date on what’s happened in that world’s last 30 years.

The facts in the title cards turn out to be quite important to keep up in Blade Runner 2049’s world as we follow an LAPD officer (Ryan Gosling) trying to solve a 30-year-old mystery involving our old friend Deckard (Harrison Ford).  Though it is unfortunate that the title cards are as dense as they are, I would not have wanted the movie to try to retell its background story, as the 163 minute run time is plenty long enough already!

Refreshingly, Blade Runner’s world is not our world.  It is an alternative future, so there is no attempt to revise the original’s timeline (as you may recall, Blade Runner is set in 2019 in a world where robot slaves are fighting space battles and colonizing other planets for humans, so things did not exactly turn out in our world as the first film predicted).  Interestingly, those differences make it easier for the view to focus on the similarities between their world and ours.  Villeneuve has delivered another very thoughtful, deliberate and satisfying sci-fi film, and it’s easy to analogize to our world every time a replicant is treated as disposable property (which happens a lot).  The film also offers a lot to chew on regarding memory and the nature of reality.  Honestly, I’m still digesting it all as a I write, while also trying to sort out a few of the story’s finer points, and this film is one that I’m going to have to watch again to get everything sorted.

It’s remarkable how closely this sequel resembles the first movie,  in style and substance, despite being released 35 years later.  More remarkably, at the same time it is paying tribute to the original, Blade Runner 2049 is telling a fresh story set in this familiar world, and manages to leave the original movie’s largest question unanswered in a surprisingly satisfying way.  So while Blade Runner 2049 is not the best movie of 2017, it is a good movie made great by its technical excellence, which naturally makes it the perfect sequel to Blade Runner.

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32 thoughts on “Blade Runner 2049

  1. Jay

    So glad to hear you mention the visuals so glowingly. Cinematographer Roger Deakins always turns in great work but it’s really neat to see him do something like this where he’s basically creating things as he goes. It almost felt like we were in a video game, where each location was distinct: the giant statues, the snowfall, the glowing neon, the sloshing water, etc, etc.

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  2. Jay

    Also, since you and I discussed the Jared Leto character, and how much of his creepiness was intended and how much was just the Leto effect: I just read that he replaced David Bowie, who Villeneuve had wanted but died before filming started.

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    1. Jay

      Well to be clear, it is #1 at the box office here, but it “only” made $32 million, which is 3 times what #2 made. The original made about $6M in its opening weekend – it has become a classic over time, but movies that are so deeply sci-fi can have a hard time finding their audience, never mind the fact that the original came out THIRTY FIVE years ago, which means that lots of the movie-going audience were born after its release. And both are long, so to rewatch the first and then see the second requires a nearly 6 hour commitment. This one was probably never destined to be a blockbuster.

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      1. The Inner Circle

        Good point and one I shared when I did a review of a older black and white film. A article was written that said that people today only will and have watched films no older the 15 years. Which means a lot of folks who watched Blade Runner 2049 were the same people who watched the first one and you’re not liking to see a younger age get fired up about this movie.
        And a 163 minute run time in this age…..that is always a high risk as well…..

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  3. raistlin0903

    I am going to see it on saturday and my excitement for this one is almost going through the roof. So far I have read only one review that did not like the film, but otherwise everyone has been incredibly positive for it. Looking forward to this. This was a terrific review without going into spoiler territory, which is truly hard for a film such as this one 😀

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    1. Sean Post author

      The original has aged remarkably well, probably because it continues to be an inspiration for so many other films. Jay wondered whether this one will hold up as well – it’s a good question because really, how could it, and yet it’s got such amazing visuals, it just might inspire a whole new generation of filmmakers.

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  4. J.

    I was hoping to catch this one, but timing hasn’t worked out. I’ll be picking up the DVD, and while I appreciate the visual impressiveness will be lost a bit, I still reckon it’ll be a right treat. Cheers for not spoiling it, too!

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  5. Birgit

    I want to see this film and your review just makes me want to see it all the more. I love the first Blade Runner and totally forgot it takes place in 2019…which now, makes me laugh:)

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    1. Sean Post author

      Doesn’t it really seem strange that we are so far in the future now? We’ve basically caught up with Blade Runner, we’ve passed 2001, Back to the Future’s future is in our rear view, and here we are still trying to get by without robots, space travel, and actual hoverboards.

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    1. Sean Post author

      Anyone who pans this movie must hate movies. It’s not perfect by any means but it’s got a lot to offer and I think you have to respect how well-made this movie is, especially that it really feels like the first film without feeling like a ripoff or rehash.

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    1. Sean Post author

      Totally. I have no time right now to look into it, but I wonder, of the movies set in a future that is now in our past, which one got the closest to where we actually are?

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  6. Adam Padilla

    Great review!
    I had the same issues as you with regards to the story. Also I thought the pacing was pretty poor, exuberant moments in the 3 hour run time were few and far between which I thought was disappointing. What did you think of Zimmer’s score?

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    1. Sean Post author

      I thought the score matched up quite well to the original film’s music. Since the original is so iconic, that’s pretty impressive and I think Zimmer’s contribution helped the film feel like a worthy Blade Runner sequel.

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  7. Jeff the Chef

    I think it’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. Everything works: casting, directing, production, writing, acting. Each character is essential to the film, and each of them seems so utterly complete, even though the dialogue is across-the-board pretty sparse. The pacing of the film is unusual, but it allows you to really drink in the rich visuals, and gives you time to ponder and really feel what’s happening. I think the best sci-fi uses the medium as a metaphor to comment on the human condition, and this film met that mark amazingly.

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