I really didn’t want to watch a movie from 35 years ago to ‘understand’ Blade Runner 2049 so I went into this cold. From those who haven’t seen the original Blade Runner, it was a Ridley Scott film about a dystopian future Los Angeles (ironically only set two years from now), in which synthetic humans known as replicants are hunted down by Harrison Ford who falls in love with one named Rachel.
This was an odd choice for a sequel considering the original was a box office bomb, but being a cult classic that had many people talking for years, Hollywood is hoping this film can pull in the big bucks and stop people from talking Harvey Weinstein for 3 hours. This film is one of the polarizing movies I’ve reviewed all year because there are things I really like and things I really hate about this film.
Set in the year 2049, The city of Los Angeles, which looks like a dystopian hellhole and yet still better than current Los Angeles, replicants have integrated into society to ensure humanity’s continued survival. K (Gosling) works as a blade runner for the LAPD, hunting down rogue replicants. After fighting Old Man Logan’s old brother, Dave Bautista in a maggot farm, he stumbles into an investigation where he looks for the child of a human and a replicant, something that is supposed to be impossible. The deeper the investigation gets, the more K believes that he is actually the child he is looking for (spoiler alert: he’s not), meanwhile a very dangerous organization also seeks the child and they will eliminate everyone in their way to get to him…or her.
I’ll start with the positives here, Roger Deakins and Denis Villeneuve did an amazing job with the visuals of this film. This is the third film the pair has worked on together, the last being Sicario. The duo has a great knack for getting the best out of their scenery without breaking the bank. Now I know the budget here is about $150 million which is not cheap by any stretch, but by comparison, Marvel films spend a minimum of $200 million on their films and they look nowhere near as visually appealing as this does. Blade Runner 2049 makes Future Los Angeles look authentic and desirable. The sound was insane as well, if you watch this in 7.1 surround sound, the opening sequence may knock you out of your seat with the intense sound mixing. All of the praise being showered on this film as far as special effects, sound, and editing are well deserved.
I love the visual storytelling but the actual storytelling does not hold up. First off, the film is 2 hours and 45 minutes meaning you will be sitting for over 3 hours watching this. You need to have something going to keep the interests of the audience and this film is just slow and dull for far too much of it. Ryan Gosling is literally a robot meaning that for 3 hours your story is carried by a man who barely emotes. Jared Leto, who gets less screen time here than he did in Suicide Squad is the villain. He is looking for the magical child of a replicant and human, however as the film progresses, you realize that there isn’t that much at stake as the film sells it.
Despite being on the poster, you have to wait nearly 2 hours for Harrison Ford to show up in a role that is 5 minutes above a glorified cameo. When he shows up, you discover they are looking for his kid, which K believes could be him, instead, we discover that it was someone we met for one scene about an hour ago who really doesn’t do anything in the film outside of being a vehicle for a plot twist. There is also an angle of a revolution amongst replicants, but that doesn’t go anywhere either. Blade Runner 2049 is like a faulty surge protector, so many plot points plugged in but only a few of them work.
Visually the film earns the highest marks but storytelling drags down what could have been a film of the year candidate into a sci-fi thriller that is 45 minutes too long. The plot isn’t interesting enough to justify the runtime and the twist ends the film on a flat note rather than an emotional one. Oscar nominations all around for the technical team here otherwise this film is a hard sell for your average moviegoer who needs to clear their schedule to experience Blade Runner 2049.