Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Overview:

The follow up to the cult classic sensation that was the original Blade Runner. Time has passed and a new generation of replicants that are programmed to obey are now being used. Some of these hunt down and retire the older generation models.

Review:

I’m actually going to preface this by pointing out I actually thought this was a pretty good  movie (far better than I expected when a Blade Runner sequel was announced – and far better than many other science fiction films). The reason this preface is necessary is I’m going to pretty much tear it apart for a bit and it might seem like I’m completely against this film.

Unless you have been living completely offline it is more or less impossible to have missed the hype around the return of Blade Runner to the big screen. It has been a long, long time, as evidence by Harrison Ford’s revival of Deckard, but time has passed even in the movie universe so the real question becomes, whether lightning can strike twice for the franchise?

It seems really unfair but this movie is going to be judged against its predecessor. To put it in context, the SAO movie was not a good movie by any objective standard but for fans of SAO it hit the spot nicely and got them excited for the upcoming new series. If I were to compare Blade Runner 2049 to SAO Ordinal Scale there wouldn’t be any contest. Blade Runner is the far superior movie. And yet, I left the cinema with a wrinkle in my brow and counting off points and counterpoints on my fingers and really wondered if I had enjoyed what I had just watched. I said on Twitter my feelings were mixed and even after thinking and rethinking I’m still feeling that I genuinely don’t know about this movie.

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What it comes down to is that Blade Runner 2049 has all the aesthetic sense of Blade Runner but for me failed to raise any issue or idea of note. I don’t finish the movie questioning the nature of my existence or of anything. I finish the movie wondering if Jared Leto’s character actually served any purpose and just how many wall references (both verbal and visual) I’d just been hit with. Because everything in this movie is a blunt weapon with no subtlety in either delivery or meaning and that makes this movie an entirely different beast to the original where any line of dialogue could be taken several ways and the final speech by the antagonist to Deckard could have you lost in thought for hours.

To give a concrete example there’s a holographic girl who plays the lead replicant’s girlfriend and at one point in the movie they decide they have to erase her from the home system and she’s going to be fully portable. However, as K/Joe points out, doing so means if the portable stick gets broken she’ll be gone for good. To which she responds “Just like a real girl.” This is only one of many Pinocchio references mind you and basically less than two scenes later the stick gets shattered (for no narrative purpose other than to prove that bat-shit crazy replicant is in fact crazy and evil) and then hologram girl is never mentioned again or given another instant of thought. Now, possibly her ‘death’ could have been a character catalyst for the protagonist of the story. It could have been a touching moment to have the audience reflect on the ephemeral nature of life or whether hologram girl counts as being alive. Instead, she’s a computer who blips and is gone and forgotten leaving us to wonder if maybe in a director’s cut somewhere she actually served a purpose other than screen time and a sex scene that was vaguely disturbing given it involved two replicants and a hologram.

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The music is also incredibly dense and continuous. Points for the soundtrack reflecting the original film and managing to be oppressive and create a fairly continuous feeling of dread, but essentially your ears will be assailed with atonal drones and whines meanwhile every mechanical object will clunk, groan and bang and the end result is your teeth will clench and you will wonder if you remember what silence sounds like. And then you will get silence. One single scene comes along where all the music stops and we hear almost nothing and the absence is incredibly powerful because of the assault you’ve previously experienced. Once that scene is done, you’ll return to the continuous music and sound and you will miss the silence all the more. It is actually hard to say whether this is a positive point for the movie or not. It is incredibly affective. The immersion this soundtrack creates in the experience of the film is nothing short of brilliant. However, it is also an incredibly uncomfortable experience and afterwards it takes a fair while for your ears to recover from the experience.

From a visual point of view they got what made Blade Runner what it was. Things have changed but time has passed and the changes are really logical (reinforced by the short films released to show the progression of events between the films). It looks every bit as gorgeous and as immersive as the first film (okay, more so because special effects have come a long way) and it also captured the visual feel of the first film which was kind of necessary for this sequel to have any kind of success.

But…

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Like a fan fiction work, this film peppers itself with scenes and moments that add nothing to this narrative and exist either as links to the work it is emulating or to show an understanding of the world which is great but not an understanding of pacing or story telling. The opening shot of the eye is a clear throw back to the first film (as is the water element in the final fight) and yet neither really serve a place in this film. The eye is particularly problematic given it was such an iconic and necessary symbol and idea in the first film and the opening sequence grew out from this shot whereas in this film we see the eye then some power stations and we just kind of move on and never again care about close ups of pupils given in this film they don’t use the same test or technology so the eye and all that it represented (windows to the soul and all) serves no purpose. Likewise the scene of the machines dumping rubbish in the wasteland. Great, the world is filled in and there’s a lot of details, but this adds unnecessary time to an already overly long film and contributes nothing to the movie. It is like the additional scenes in the original Star Wars movies. More there because they can rather than there for any purpose.

I haven’t really gotten into the characters and the story and that is because they work. They fit the world, the story is a fair enough continuation of the world and its events (even if Deckard’s inclusion was more one of pandering to fans than actually necessary for the narrative). What it isn’t, is something exceptional with characters who you will remember well after the film. Sure Deckard comes back but this isn’t the Deckard of the first film who left such a strong impression. And no-one comes close to Rutger Hauer’s impressive and awe-inspiring performance from the first film.

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However, we have ended up with a second Blade Runner movie. It is a pretty good movie and makes some great choices in sound and visuals with a functional story and characters. Could it thematically have been more powerful? Definitely. Could the characters have been more memorable and had more impressive dialogue? Absolutely. Am I nit-picking just because I can? Yes, yes I am.

But here’s the thing. If I go to a Sword Art Online movie I go in expecting it to kind of be rubbish and I get something that is kind of rubbish but fun and I walk out happy. Blade Runner is a title in the science fiction world where love it or hate it, there’s certain expectations built around it. Any sequel was going to be measured against those expectations. For me it fell short, but wasn’t a crushing disappointment. It did well enough but if only it had been better.

Alright, over to you. If you’ve seen the film what are your thoughts?


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Karandi James.without t

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16 thoughts on “Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

  1. I’m planning to watch it tomorrow, probably going to end up doing my own review of the movie, but it’s a good insight what you wrote here to prepare for the movie, thanks!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I saw the movie this past weekend and posted my review for it the day after, so you already know my thoughts for it lol 😂 That said though, you raise a couple of fair points, although this is one of the first times I also disagree with you on something (hey there os always a first time for something right? 😂). One of the things I found to be one of the saddest things in the entire movie was the relationship between K and Joi. The bleakness of it was just so incredibly hartbreaking. Here we have two beings that are artificial and have a relationship that is unsettling to say the least. But at the same time it is also beautiful in the way that it depicts them both from trying to be human. That one sentence: “just like a real girl” exactly hit the mark. She wasn’t a real girl, yet at times she made K feel like she was…and tried to make him feel human,which he also wasn’t. I loved that..as much as it saddened me too.
    As for Jared Leto’s character: that is something I can agree on. I found his role to be one if the weakest in the entire movie, which is pretty strange as he is such a great actor. That said overall it was for me a terrific film, that was just a bit too long, but a very worthy successor to the original movie.
    As always loved reading your post 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I liked the idea of the relationship between K and Joi but I just felt that line undermined any subtety in what they were trying to achieve. As you say though, it meets the mark and sums up the relationship and their existence but it just felt so unnecessary for something that had already been established and implied.
      I still really did enjoy this movie but given my long and complicated relationship with the first film (loved it and rewatched to death, then had to study it scene by scene which kind of killed it a little for me) this movie was always going to be subject to me nitpicking and I kind of knew that going in.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, really not a problem at all: I love it that you analysed the movie the way you did, and I always have the highest respect for your opinions. It’s true: the first film for me was also a bit of a love/hate relationship. It grew on me with a rewatch, but the first time I saw it I remember not liking it very much (but admittedly I was very young then). Maybe it will be the same with this one…it will grow better over more watches 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Maybe. That’s the other problem with movie reviewing in that I can’t take notes in the cinema and I can’t rewatch things if I mis-remember them. Makes writing a movie review significantly harder than an anime episode.

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          1. That’s true. Blogging does change how you view things, particularly when you know you are going to write about them. As I said, I left the cinema counting off points about the film and probably would have continued except that the person I saw the movie with decided to see if they could emulate the sound track while we were in the car and began wailing discordant tones at me (very distracting).

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          2. Haha…okay that seriously made me laugh at loud here lol 😂😂 I can see how that can be very distracting ! It really is strange though: people at work ask me if when I watch something nowadays reviews ate forming in my head. I can actually not quite, but I do form certain ideas in my head (which at times when I’m watching something at home has made me remind something because my mind wondered off. That is a little bit harder to do in the cinema though. I don’t think they will rewind a movie just for me, even if I ask politely 😂😂

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t normally disagree with you so heavily on a topic, but MAN do I disagree with a lot of what you say here. I figured by your Twitter comments that it wouldn’t be all sunshine and roses, but this is sort of gray. Almost makes me want to review the film for myself.

    Good write-up. Should do more of these on films.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’dlove to see your thoughts on it.
      The problem with me and movies is unless I’m on a holiday or on a work trip I’m not near a cinema so usually I don’t see movies until they get a DVD release. I used to live around the corner from a cinema and went all the time. I kind of miss that.

      Liked by 1 person

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