Every now and again, a film comes along, a film from which you expected contrivity and unoriginality that ends up being good. Great, in fact, and if it’s not too early to make such a claim, even a masterpiece. I’d hazard to guess that “Blade Runner 2049” is one of these films.
The “Blade Runner” series is based from the 1968 novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick. It was adapted in 1982 by Ridley Scott into the cult sci-film “Blade Runner.”
Three short films were also recently released to support the release of Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049,” which stands as the most recent and hopefully the final entry in the franchise.
The world of “Blade Runner” is a hyper-capitalist world where the cities are crowded, polluted and filled with huge, invasive advertisements. The upper class has moved off-world, leaving the dying planet as a container for the poor and weak.
A huge corporation (the Tyrell Corporation in “Blade Runner” and the Wallace Corporation in “Blade Runner 2049”) creates what are called “replicants,” synthetically-made humans that are used mostly for off-world slave labor. The series revolves around the ethical questions this premise presents.
“Blade Runner 2049” avoids the sci-fi sequel pitfalls of dithering in the past and takes a blazing step forward, keeping the world much the same while adding far more depth. In terms of scale alone, the sequel is indeed superior to the original, that is if anything can be expected to usurp the classic.
I reiterate, however, that I think this film’s done it: it’s become more of a classic than the classic from whence it came.
I’ll try to avoid giving away plot points because the film is better when you know less. I’d say it’s imperative to watch the original “Blade Runner,” but after that, avoiding info on the sequel until you can see it works to your advantage. I’ll say that the plot is one of the most well-handled things in the film, with a dizzying variety of themes.
I went in (mostly) blind, and the nearly-three-hour film brought me on a cinematic journey I haven’t been on in ages. When the film ended and the credits rolled, it didn’t go away like so many other movies; it stayed in my head for days (it’s still in there and will likely be there for awhile).
By far the most delectable detail of this film is the design: the visuals and the sound. I can’t imagine how many millions went into the CGI, but none of it’s wasted. The lighting and cinematography also border on mastery.
There’s not a single unconvincing shot in this film; every frame could be hung on a wall. It’s truly beautiful, and is a work of art in that right alone.
There’s also the score, composed in part by the famous Hans Zimmer. It’s subtle and in the background for the majority of the film, but at times it rises to ear-shattering volumes in the form of incessant blasts of noise from what sounds like a symphony of synthesizers.
While none of it stands out particularly well in memory, the film would have been far worse without it. It serves as a perfect complement. The loud moments typically coincide with extremely intense points in the film.
The synth-blast technique isn’t much different from the squealing-violin horror trope, but it’s used rarely and at some points just in establishing shots. For the moments in which it is used in intense and important scenes, however, it tends to drown out the dialogue. This is probably the harshest criticism I can lend the film.
The film stands at nearly three hours, and I can’t see a way in which it could be cut any shorter. Every scene serves its purpose and serves it well. The pacing of the film is so unbelievably slow, and that’s so unbelievably refreshing to see in a sci-fi film. So many of its contemporary counterparts see the genre as an excuse for space battles and high-octane action, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but seeing a film like “Blade Runner” slow down and give us what amounts to a slow movie in a world of countless action possibilities makes the moments of intensity that much more engrossing. I found myself tightly gripping the armrests during all of these scenes.
The cast in the film is also directly on-point. Ryan Gosling gives a surprisingly emotive performance supported by the equally convincing Ana de Armas and Robin Wright.
Gosling’s character, K, goes through a sprawling rollercoaster of emotions in the film, and Gosling’s ability to display this behind pursed lips and unmoving eyes is nothing short of applause-worthy. Even Dave Bautista has a small role in the film and he performs it admirably.
The film is a work of art, plain and simple. It’s fair to say that it takes everything that made the original fantastic and turns them all the way up. “Blade Runner 2049” is a triumph, and I fear we may not have many more films like it.
The film has barely made a return in the box office, considered by most to have barely missed “bombing.” Already it’s being yanked from theaters. It’s not so very often that huge Hollywood studios takes chances on sprawling, ambitious pieces like this, and such small return investments are likely to dissuade them even further from taking such chances.
A film that asks as much from its audience as the audience asks from the film isn’t likely to do well, and this is unfortunately exemplified in this movie’s fiscal performance.
It’s on this note that I beg the reader to see this in theaters as soon as they can. We need to do everything we can to show Hollywood the types of movies we’d like to see produced, even if all we can do is buy one ticket. Unless we want a dozen more “Geostorm” clones, we need to support true artistic vision, truly masterful writing: true film.