Oct 13, 2017

[Movies] Blade Runner 2049 (2017) Review

The original Blade Runner became a cult classic soon after release even though a lot of people weren't quite sure what they had just experienced. In many ways the movie helped define the aesthetic for cyberpunk and inspired many other stories of a similar nature. At the same time there have been several different cuts of the movie resulting in very different interpretations of the ending.

Blade Runner 2049 is the big sequel that I don't think any of us expected really and it was hard to believe that it was actually happening until it finally happened. I think I was still suspending belief until the movie actually began playing in the theater.

As much as it felt like it was more likely that they'd create yet another cut of the original movie, but we did get an official sequel. And it's a pretty good one, but it's also one that assumes you at least watched the first movie or are well-invested in the lore somehow. It's great that it was uncompromising in that sense but it's also daunting for non-fans given that fandom barrier.

But when it works it works pretty well.

Synopsis: Blade Runner 2049 is neo-noir science fiction movie directed by Denis Villeneuve. It's a direct sequel to the original 1982 movie.

It's 2049 and the bioengineered replicants remain a part of human society but newer models have been introduced to better integrate into human communities. However those older models are still fair game for hunters known as "blade runners" who attempt to "retire" such older models. K (Ryan Gosling) is one of those newer replicants who ironically work as blade runners hunting older replicants.

In one such investigation he discovers a buried lock box after retiring the rogue replicant. Inside they find what appear to be human remains for a woman who was subject to a caesarian section and this may have been associated with her death. To complicate things even more, it seems that this wasn't even a human woman - it's somehow a replicant.

What I Liked: Ryan Gosling was a good choice as K, mainly because he really has mastered the eerily robotic blank stare that he puts to good use over and over again in this movie. That's a bit of a back-handed compliment, but I swear it works here to great effect. And pairing him with the artificial personality Joi (Ana de Armas) was a great decision that really helped the story in the long run. And she was but one of many strong female characters in this sequel including Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) as a strong authority figure and a somewhat surprising appearance by Mackenzie Davis as Mariette.

And while I know some folks would find the movie to be slow, I rather enjoyed how the pacing reminded you of what the first movie felt like and that sort of old school slow burn storytelling. You already have an R-rated movie so you might as well take some risks, right? Thus the movie isn't necessarily all that flashy but it does push you into interesting directions and forces you to think.

What Could Have Been Better: That said, the pacing can be rather distracting at times as not all  shots felt like they needed to be shot in that manner. There's good pacing, there's paying homage to a beloved piece of entertainment and there's taking things a little too far. And in some places such homages to the original felt a little clumsy and not truly representative of the original work.

And then you have weird narrative dead ends as best represented by the character of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), head of the Wallace Corporation that took over the production of replicants from Tyrell Corporation that was the big figure in the first movie. He was meant to be a lot loftier than he ended up being and I just didn't fully understand what his long term value to the story. He gets involved again in the end but not to great effect. At least his drones were sort of cool?

TL;DR: Blade Runner 2049 had all the feels of the original with an aesthetic that was both updated to modern standards but faithful to the original. If anything it's also a reminder of how good the Ghost in the Shell movie COULD have been. This beautiful movie may be a bit confusing but it still deserves 4.5 creepy replicant behaviors out of a possible 5.

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