Blade Runner 2049 (Spoiler Free) Review
Blade Runner 2049 is a science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green. It is a sequel to 1982's Blade Runner and stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista and Jared Leto. If you want thoughts on the first film and its many editions, click here.
The Story/The Direction:
This film takes place thirty years after the original film concentrating on the story of K (Gosling). He is a replicant blade runner whose duty is to track down old replicants who have gone into hiding. While tracking down Sapper Morton (Bautista), he finds something that'll have him questioning who he is as a replicant, what it means to be human, and his past. The script is very well written as it is able to introduce new characters and flesh them out while also exploring philosophical themes set up from the original film. Villeneuve is able to do create a film that not only passes homage to the original but also expands on it. It furthers the story while also leaving new questions open as the original did. He is able to fully realize Ridley Scott's vision and also create his own. He took the Los Angeles that Scott had created and advanced it but in true fashion. The companies that were existent in Scott's LA were here and they were more advanced as they would be if they did not go under like Pan Am. Villeneuve had a tough assignment with taking a thirty-five-year-old film and creating a successful sequel. Most sequels come out every few years so trying to come up with a sequel that is just as good or better than those types of sequels is very daunting. However, he does an amazing job.
Villeneuve's direction is absolutely incredible and while the great action scenes are few and in between, he is able to keep you engaged throughout the film. He and cinematographer Roger Deakins are even able to take the story outside of LA to outside farms, San Diego, and Las Vegas. In these new and old areas, Deakins absolutely shines so much so that an Academy Award for Cinematography should come his way. In the original film, the setting, while futuristic and advanced, felt very grounded. Deakins was able to keep this aspect of the original in this one. He is able to show that this world is huge but not overwhelming. The way he uses color and pays attention to detail is absolutely fantastic. You see each snowflake fall in one scene and feel each wave hit you in another. Even the scene in the desert is an allusion to a line in the original film. It was one of the best shot films this year and should be fully enjoyed in the IMAX setting. One could go to this film just to experience this universe that Villeneuve and Deakins have created and the amazingly powerful Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch score. This score also pays great homage to the original but also sets the tone of the film in its own way. What differs this from Dunkirk is that the characters are worth following and you follow them through this mystery.
Being the star of the film Gosling works very well as K. He goes from being this order-functioning police officer to detective. Gosling's performance shows he has a lot of pain in his life in that he has been subjected to a lot of prejudice from being a replicant. He is thought as a lower being and while still following orders as he programmed to do, he still feels the pain of this. Even when he has to retire his kind, he feels it as Deckard (Ford) did in the original film. That is if you are apart of the group that believes Deckard is a replicant as well. As for that question about Deckard, this film won't give anyone a concrete answer but enough to make the audience think either way as the original film did. As with the overall film, it expands on the mystery. Ford continues in his role as Deckard and while his role is reduced in comparison to the original, he makes the most of it whenever he is on screen. This is perhaps one of his best performances as he is able to show the pain and sadness that Deckard has gone through since the original film. While the audience does not know all the details about what he did in the past three decades, you can still feel his pain. Both actors are very similar and you can see the parallels between them as characters. Both of them are able to give the audience stoic and gruff but also powerful performances.
The rest of the cast is very impressive as well. Avoiding spoilers, elaborating on how they are impressive too much is difficult but the standouts are de Armas as K's love interest/gal Friday Joi and Hoeks as Luv. The former will give viewers questions to ponder as they leave the theatre and the latter is a very subtle but powerful woman replicant whose motives are definitely run by Wallace (Leto). Leto is decent and his character is very interesting and brings in a more psychotic version of Tyrell. Bautista's small role is important to the story and shows he can act well when he's not painted up in the Guardians of the Galaxy films. Wright puts out another good performance as Lieutenant Joshi and she should be in more starring roles.
Having said all of that, the film is not perfect. It does drag a little bit in the middle of the film, a few plot points don't always make sense, and a few characters could have been more delved into. They more go into him/her in a sequel and there was some allusion to their origin in the "prequel" shorts but why does the audience need this? It should be done in the film. Maybe there will be a released cut that includes all of those intertwined into this film and go beyond the three hours. Watchmen did that so why not this? But based on this cut, this was a bit of an annoying fault. This film does look into the ideas of what it means to be human however it wasn't done as well as the prior film. In all though, these flaws may fade on repeat viewings and may be honestly nitpicks.
This film is a piece of art that will only get better as the years progress. Villeneuve knew the daunting task he had to complete and he did it in the best way possible. Someone could have come in, recast the characters, and completely remade the film. Thankfully, Villeneuve does not do that. He is able to expand on the film that has inspired many filmmakers today, even Villeneuve himself. He continued the story in a way that makes the audience appreciate his work and also the original even more. As of this review, this film has only taken in $90,015,191 which is very short of it's $150 million budget. This is unfortunate because it is everything you'd want in a film: romance, action, great acting, stunning cinematography, fantastic score, and a gripping mystery. The original did not do that well at the box office either with only gaining $4 million over its budget. Hopefully, this film will make more in the coming weeks and its greatness will be revealed as the years go on. While the original is a tad better, it is an amazing film that should be experienced in IMAX but does not depend on it. With its great plot, characters, and acting, this film will be re-watched many times.
Rating: 4.5/5.0 bowties
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