Replicating a Classic: Review of Blade Runner 2049
It's always scary when you're doing a sequel to a film, because you don't want to just repeat the first film in a different location like most sequels. You want to do something totally different, and something that actually expands the world of the main character.
-Efren RamirezRead, brainyquote.com
I was not thrilled with the original Blade Runner film because it deviated too far from the original Philip K. Dick novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" by reducing the novel to a simple futuristic neo-noir. However, I kept coming back to the film over the years and became a fan. And I'm not alone.
The original film failed at the box-office and was pulled after five weeks, but the film's influence and popularity have boomed since then. The film not only spawned an entirely new genre, but it affected the imagination of scientists, writers, politicians and artists the world over.
So how does the sequel stack up? And don't worry, I won't post any spoilers in this review.
Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what's left of society into chaos. K's discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.
What Blade Runner 2049 Gets Right
Director Denis Villeneuve does a wonderful job of recreating and extending the original look of the film. The film is drenched in vivid color. Achingly beautiful scenes are often set at a scale that produces a sense of awe in viewers. You absolutely must see this film in a theater purely for its visual poetry. The spectacle alone is worth the admission price.
The performances from lead to supporting actors (with one exception) are very good.
Ryan Gosling does a fine job as Officer K (note the Kafka reference?) and his face fills the screen with many close-ups. His understated and deeply felt performance anchors the film in much the way Harrison Ford's performance did in the original. And while he's underused in the sequel, Harrison is excellent: wary and wounded and alone. All of this shows on his grizzled face. I wish he'd had a more active role in the film.
My favorite scenes in the film involve K and his off-the-rack AI girlfriend. This is a new idea in the Blade Runner universe: a replicant in love with an AI. The scenes with Ana de Armas and Gosling are touching and real. They bring a needed respite from the slow, somber pace of the rest of the film.
The script of Blade Runner 2049 by Hampton Dancer (who worked on the original film) and Michael Green, extends the ideas posed in the original: the lack of empathy in humans for replicants, the role that memory plays in making us human and the ways technology can be used to further human desire.
Blade Runner 2049 takes our contemporary concerns about artificial intelligence, virtual worlds and political power and integrates these topics into the world created in the original film. One is left thinking about the problem of empathy and humanness at the end of the film and after.
What Blade Runner 2049 Gets Wrong
The biggest problem with the sequel is its length and pacing. The 2 hours, 44 minutes running time is just too long.
The length works against the story by making the rhythm of many scenes the same. Actors in the film pause before their lines and during their lines. Director Villeneuve's indulgence of the actors' need to pause really kills what could have been many dynamic and exciting scenes. When actors in the film pause all the time, the effect of a pause or silence in a scene is lost.
Blade Runner 2049 follows the trend of light action films that add profound ideas in order to give a patina of art to the story. Ironically, this type of film became popular because of the original Blade Runner.
Lack of good internal logic in the film also spoils some scenes. It depends upon viewers not thinking too much about scenes. To provide examples of bad internal logic would spoil the film. However, can anyone tell me how K gets so many police cars despite the fact he's been arrested and is, presumably, under surveillance? And if Nexus 8 replicants are built by our new villain, Wallace, to obey why does K disobey orders over and over again?
Jared Leto's mad scientist character is a bad mad doctor cliche. Probably written to contrast his lack of empathy and awful sadism with K, who is sensitive and caring. And Leto's performance misses any of the sense of fun and aliveness that Joe Turkel brought to his portrait of the villain Dr. Eldon Tyrell.
The same can be said of the LAPD commanders role (played by a badly miscast Robin Wright). The character lacks any real individual traits, something that is in such abundance in the original Blade Runner casting. Remember M. Emmit Walsh's performance as Deckard's superior?
The Hans Zimmer score is uninspired and overbearing in many scenes. One grows tired of the big drum beat resonating followed by simmering synth cords. A more imaginative and contemporary score (like Ridley Scott used in the original film) would have enlivened the entire film.
Finally, I was disappointed in the repeated fetishizing of women in the film. Naked women appear throughout, often for no reason, it seems. Although a certain amount of fetishizing of women is in the original, I had hoped the sequel would avoid it.
If anything, Blade Runner 2049's portrayal of women is even worse.
In the end, just like with the first Blade Runner film, this world sinks into you. And what you take home when you leave the film is you've been in this astonishing world.
-Kenneth Turan, NPR
The task of crafting a sequel to one of the most popular and iconic science fiction films of all time is fraught with difficulty; deviate from the original too much and you alienate legions of fans, spend too much time recreating the original film and you alienate new audiences who are looking for new ideas that reflect contemporary culture technology. Blade Runner 2049 tries too hard to be an important film and the effort mars the result and occasionally the film seems pretentious.
But, Blade Runner 2049 is still a good film. Despite the films near three hour running time it is entertaining and provocative; staying true to the theme of the original film (and novel) of "What does it mean to be human?"
And for that, I'm grateful.
Go see this film in the theater. Don't wait for DVD/Blu-ray or Netflix. Visuals are so impressive, you can lose yourself in the world despite the length. And READ THE NOVEL as it's one of Philip K. Dick's best.
Note: Villeneuve commissioned three short "prequels" to Blade Runner 2049 and each one of them are excellent. I highly encourage you to seek these out before you see Blade Runner 2049. Each short film depicts a key moment in the interval between the original film and the new one (a 30-year span)
From Oscar-nominated director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) comes Alcon Entertainment's science fiction thriller Blade Runner 2049, the much-anticipated sequel to the acclaimed sci-fi film Blade Runner.
Three decades after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what's left of society into chaos. K's discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard, a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.
The film stars Oscar nominees Ryan Gosling (La La Land) as K, and Harrison Ford (the Star Wars films, Witness), reprising the role of Rick Deckard. The main international cast also includes Ana de Armas (War Dogs), Sylvia Hoeks (Renegades), Robin Wright (Wonder Woman), Mackenzie Davis (The Martian), Carla Juri (Brimstone), and Lennie James (The Walking Dead), with Dave Bautista (the Guardians of the Galaxy films) and Oscar winner Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club).
Blade Runner 2049 was produced by Oscar nominees Andrew A. Kosove & Broderick Johnson (The Blind Side) and three time Emmy winner Bud Yorkin & Cynthia Sikes Yorkin. Multiple Oscar nominee Ridley Scott (The Martian, Gladiator), who directed the first Blade Runner, is an executive producer. Bill Carraro served as executive producer and unit production manager.
Link to film website: https://www.warnerbros.com/blade-runner-2049
Ricky Grove is the managing editor at Renderosity.com where he produces the weekly "News of the Week" and "Gallery of the Week" video programs. When he's not editing video or watching anime, Ricky works at the best bookstore in Los Angeles: The Iliad Bookshop. He has a life-long love of reading, movies and animation. He lives with his partner, writer Lisa Morton, and 2 eccentric cats in Southern California. You can discover more about Ricky here, at his website, www.rgrove.com, and by following him on his Facebook Page.