Blade Runner 2049 Review
The 2017 sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic Blade Runner that helped start the entire Cyberpunk genre, Blade Runner 2049 was directed by Denis Villeneuve (Dune, Arrival) and features Ryan Gosling as the main character K, along with Harrison Ford reprising his role as Rick Deckard and also featuring Ana de Armas and Jared Leto. Let’s dive right into this Blade Runner 2049 Review.
A Compelling Tale
Blade Runner 2049 follows the tale of android “replicant” K, who works as a blade runner, a police officer who hunts down and “retires” older replicant models. After hunting down a replicant off world, he makes a discovery that leads him to investigate something that happened in the past. Solving his case could mark a monumental change in society forever. The film also acts as a sequel to the original Blade Runner, while still acting very much as a standalone film.
Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t explain much at all for the viewer other than the beginning introductory paragraph. Normally having a beginning text to get audiences up to speed is something I don’t appreciate in a film, but considering how confusing blade runner 2049 is, I understand. It helps to have watched the previous blade runner film, and to know how important the line is between replicants and humans. The original blade runner explored what happens when humans love replicants, and what it means to be human. This blade runner explores, perhaps, what it means to be a replicant, and if it isn’t possible to be both somehow.
This film also features the theme of memory a lot, with vibes that were very reminiscent to Total Recall by Philip K Dick, which I loved. This is fitting considering the original Blade Runner was also based on a PKD short story.
Breathtaking visuals and direction
Within this film, the Cyberpunk Aesthetic is front and center. It actually won two oscars for best cinematography by Roger Deakins and best visual effects, and with good reason! Very bleak colors and sweeping views of desolate lands greet the viewer in one of the first scenes. The grey colors set the tone for the beginning of the movie. We later see the classic standard set by its predecessor with city rain, at nighttime, and windows or puddles from the rain reflecting a myriad different hologram advertisements along the buildings. Rain, lights, flying cars, and reflections: this is the true original cyberpunk aesthetic. The blade runner cars are truly beautiful. Dark lighting and steam seems to be a Cyberpunk staple. Even Gosling’s gait is down perfectly as the investigator.
A lot of Japanese kanji can be found on products in the movie (like in the food court area). The movie even has a machine that provides search results in Japanese. There are a couple scenes with Hangul too, suggesting a truly translingual future.
This film, released in 2017, would also be eerily prescient to what would come to happen in 2020, when giant wildfires set the night sky ablaze in dystopian orange. Many were quick to point out the visual parallels with Blade Runner 2049. In the film, however, the air was tainted due to radiation, not fires blazing.
A Similar Soundtrack, Yet Different for the Better
The original Blade Runner became famous for its haunting soundtrack by Vangelis. This time around the composer is Hans Zimmer, and while similar to his predecessor, I actually think he improved upon it. You may have heard Hans Zimmer’s work before in films like Inception, Interstellar, or Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The music is haunting but simple. They were lucky to have him at the helm this time. He never seems to disappoint.
The dialogue is also something that I found exceptional in this film. Gosling, De Armas, Leto, all of them deliver their lines in a slow, precise way, just amazing delivery.
“‘Mere data makes a man. A and C and T and G. The alphabet of you, all from four symbols. I’m only two. One and Zero.’
‘Half as much, but twice as elegant, sweetheart.'”–Joi and K
“It’s better than nice. It feels authentic. And if you have authentic memories, you have real human responses.”–The memory maker
My One Complaint: A Long Film With Slow Pacing
So this might not be a negative point for many who like slower-paced films, indeed in our day and age so many of our films are so fast-paced that it’s nice to see a film that takes its time. Still, I did find myself at certain points waiting for K or whichever character was on screen to do something, or say something. This film communicates a lot with facial expressions (or lack of expressions) of its actors, who do an excellent job. But for those who are more used to a faster pacing or more excitement, they may be left feeling a little bored or restless at times, as I was. But these moments were on the whole few and far between.
In some ways Blade Runner should be considered a work of art. Something you take your time considering, appreciating. This is no high-speed thrill-ride like some of the other Cyberpunk media (total recall, the matrix, upgrade). And I dare say if you re-watch it a couple times, it’ll grow on you if it didn’t at first.
Final Verdict: 9/10
Blade Runner 2049 is a Cyberpunk Masterpiece. A deep and complex plot, breathtaking visuals, and an excellent soundtrack truly combine to create a world that lives and breathes the Cyberpunk aesthetic and story filled with mystery and suspense. The questions the movie ask are subtle, allowing the audience to go as deep as they want to, and multiple viewings are recommended. Although the pace may feel a bit slow at times, this Cyberpunk classic is one not to miss, and should really be seen on the silver screen if possible.
I can’t wait to see Ridley Scott’s take on his original classic with the new blade runner series that’s planned to come out. Although to follow on the trend of sequels, considering Cowboy Bebop and Matrix Resurrections, I’m guessing many may not like it as much as the original, especially considering the high bar he set.
I saw this film for the first time alone in the movie theater, and I’m so glad I did. Experiencing this film alone in a movie theater, felt like I was witnessing greatness without fully understanding why or how.
What did you think of this movie? Did you see it in the theater, or at home? Did you instantly like it, or did it grow on you? Let me know in the comments below.
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