Blade Runner 2049 – Movie Review
It’s safe to say that the original 1982 Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford and directed by Ridley Scott is probably one of the most influential sci-fi movies of all time. While many of the ideas and themes may have already been covered in sci-fi novels through the ages, none of the aforementioned novels had the same visual design flair that the original Blade Runner did. Said style has been emulated by famous sci-fi around the world, from The Matrix to Ghost in the Shell.
That said, I’ve always been kinda ‘eh’ about the movie itself.
Don’t get me wrong, I do have a lot of respect for the original Blade Runner and for the influence it had on sci-fi as a whole, but the movie itself is a different matter, especially when it came down to the story. I found it slow, kinda confusing at points and, while having some truly great moments, never really lived up to its reputation as a classic.
So, when it was announced the movie was getting a sequel, by acclaimed director Dennis Villeneuvre, and that said sequel was even better than the original, I had to admit I was curious. And needless to say it’s been pretty damn praised, with an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and even talk of potential Oscar nods to come. And as for what I thought about it…?
I found it kinda ‘eh’.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to love about the film. Visually, it’s absolutely gorgeous, with great sweeping shots of futuristic city blocks stacked upon one another. The actors do an excellent job and the story itself has a number of interesting themes and twists and turns that I thought worked really well in subverting your expectations. I can entirely understand why a lot of people ended up loving it so much.
So why didn’t it work so well for me?
Well, for one, the running time was probably too long. It takes a very skilled movie to keep people’s attention for a full 160 minutes without them drifting off and this was not that movie. It doesn’t help that a lot of that run time is made-up of sweeping visual location shots, which is something I’ve never really found all that appealing, even with visually gorgeous futuristic cities. The story itself is very slow-paced which, while working to help create a palpable mood and atmosphere, can sometimes end up making things feel unnecessarily drawn-out and make the relatively interesting plot feel sluggish and unmoving, which can easily frustrate if the atmosphere isn’t working for you.
Admittedly, there’s a decent chance a lot of this may be my own personal foibles. Villeneuvre’s style, while I can appreciate its technical brilliance, has always left me feeling rather cold, even in his previous critically acclaimed features. Something about his muted colour pallet and drawn-out style of storytelling has always left me feeling rather bored. I can never quite get into the atmosphere he creates, but whether that’s a fault of the filmmaker or just plain simple incompatibility is up for debate.
However, it’s entirely possible that, should you be sufficiently drawn into said atmosphere, you might end up enjoying this movie much more than I do. And, like I said at the beginning, there is genuinely plenty to love about this movie.
In particular, I have nothing but praise for the ‘romance’ (?) between our titular Blade Runner, K, and his hologrammatic girlfriend, Joi. Not only does this lead to some of the most visually interesting sequences in the movie, but it also raises interesting questions about the artificial nature of relationships with AIs and possibly the next logical step in media like dating simulators. The fact that many of the overall questions raised are left fairly ambiguous at the film’s conclusion only works to make it even stronger.
Also credit goes to a lot of the actors as well. Ryan Gosling works to make K a mostly silent yet endearing protagonist, especially as bits of his emotional state peek through as the story unfolds more and more mysteries. Harrison Ford isn’t in the movie quite as much as the trailers might suggest, but he pulls in a solid performance regardless and doesn’t simply coast through like he has in some previous movies. Even Jared Leto’s mugging actually kinda works for the type of character he’s playing, although I much prefer his slightly unhinged assassin/secretary.
Overall, there is definitely a lot to like about Blade Runner 2049 and I certainly don’t begrudge anyone else for enjoying it more than I did. It’s most certainly not a breezy, fun work, but neither is it meant to be. It’s a slow-paced contemplative sci-fi dealing with heavy themes, much like its predecessor. But as for whether that style works for you or not? Well, let’s just say it didn’t quite work for me and leave it at that.