Movie Review: ‘Blade Runner 2049’ (Second Opinion)
Read Gfunk’s review right here!
Plot: Set thirty years after the events of the original, replicants have been integrated into society and obey humans without question. Officer K (Ryan Gosling) is a blade runner, tasked with hunting down older model replicants and “retiring” them. When his latest target leads to a discovery that could alter the course of human history, K’s journey unveils a mystery that leads him directly to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a famous blade runner who disappeared decades before.
Review: Like many people, the first time I watched the original Blade Runner I hated it. As a fifteen-year-old used to the dynamic space action of Star Wars and the time traveling DeLorean in Back to Future, the slow pace, lack of action, and atypical plot came off boring. I didn’t understand the appeal or why this was considered a “sci-fi classic.” It wasn’t until years later after a little seasoning, that I realized how brilliant the film really is. From the cinematography, to the color schemes, to the epic score by Vangelis, to the overarching theme of what it means to be human, Blade Runner is a true landmark in the history of cinema.
When a sequel was announced, my reaction was ambivalent. That is until I found out Denis Villeneuve, Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, and Roger Deakins were involved. My interest went from ambivalent to intrigued. As the release date drew near, I became more and more excited. Would the film live up to the hype? Would it avoid a trite action path? Would Harrison Ford be engaged or phone it in? And most importantly, would Blade Runner 2049 be a good movie?
I say this with no hyperbole, Blade Runner 2049 is a masterpiece, a pillar of greatness in the pantheon of classic science fiction cinema. In addition, the film is equal to, if not better than the original. If you’d told me six months ago I would ever write that last sentence for this review, I’d have called you a liar. And yet here we are. Much like it’s predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 demands multiple viewings to appreciate the finer nuances. It’s the first film I’ve seen in a long time that I immediately wanted to walk back in to the theater and watch again.
Rare is the film that can suck you in right from the get go, but Blade Runner 2049 is one of those films. From the opening scene where Officer K descends upon a dusty windswept farm to confront replicant Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) to the final shot on the steps of a snowy stairway, Villeneuve’s epic grabs you and refuses to let go. For the life of me I don’t understand the people saying this film is too long and too slow. Personally, the entire movie was nothing less than captivating. I never felt a single shot was wasted or unnecessary.
One of my major concerns was that Villeneuve and company wouldn’t be able to recreate the world of Blade Runner. Anyone who’s ever seen the film knows that it is a unique universe all in itself. I can set your fears at ease. Blade Runner 2049 sweeps you back into the world Ridley Scott created thirty-five years ago. It’s a visual feast of colors and shots that will leave you agape. Roger Deakins is sure to finally win an Oscar (he’s been nominated thirteen times) next year. Blade Runner 2049 deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible in order to appreciate it’s full scope.
You’ll notice that my plot description at the top comes off vague. That’s intentional. The less you know going into Blade Runner 2049 the better. Even minor plot details would ruin the experience. Suffice it to say that screenwriters Hampton Fancher (who incidentally wrote the first Blade Runner) and Michael Green have crafted a remarkable film with arguably a better plot than the original. The film once again explores the nature of what it is to be human yet also manages an intricacy and intrigue I wasn’t expecting. Nothing is as it seems in Blade Runner 2049 and the payoff is worth it.
Blade Runner 2049 sports a stellar cast with Ryan Gosling leading the way. His stoic and implacable portrayal of K could have come off stilted and robotic in the hands of another actor. As it stands, this is one of Gosling’s finer performances ranking up there with Drive and Lars and the Real Girl. Gosling is the closest thing to a modern day Steve McQueen working today. Harrison Ford returns as an old and somewhat grizzled Rick Deckard. Deckard is haunted by his past. Although not in the film as much as you’d expect, I found Ford to be fully engaged in this role, much more so than he was in The Force Awakens and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Dave Bautista also stretches his range as a Nexus-8 replicant named Sapper, proving that he’s more than just Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy. Edward James Olmos also returns in a brief but pivotal scene as Deckard’s former partner Gaff. Additionally, Oscar winner Jared Leto brings a burning, quiet intensity as the de facto villain Niander Wallace, a replicant manufacturer who saved the world from famine.
The female cast is just as impressive with Robin Wright excelling as K’s implacable Lt. Joshi. There’s a compassion for K that underlies her tough exterior. She’s a nice counterpoint to the original’s police captain Harry Bryant (M. Emmett Walsh) who I always felt was a little too hammy in the role. Ana de Armas also captivates as K’s holographic girlfriend Joi. While ostensibly an A.I., the dynamic romantic relationship between K and Joi never feels artificial. Although the Cuban actress has been performing for years, I think this will be the role that propels her into the limelight. Of all the female roles in Blade Runner 2049, I found Sylvia Hoeks’ Luv the most engaging. A replicant and Wallace’s right hand, her intensity is a nice balance to K’s quite stoicism.
None of Blade Runner 2049 works without the sure handed direction of Denis Villeneuve. When asked why he wanted to take on the sequel, Villeneuve stated it was because he “didn’t want anyone else to fuck it up.” Villeneuve’s sequel is about as far removed from a disaster as you can get. With masterworks like Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival, and now Blade Runner 2049 under his belt, Villeneuve has moved into elite status as a director, right up there with Spielberg, Scorsese, Nolan, and Paul Thomas Anderson. I can’t imagine any other director crafting a film that pays homage to the original and stands on its own as a superb piece of cinema.
While Blade Runner 2049 has failed to succeed at the box office I couldn’t care less. The fact that this movie exists is in and of itself, enough for me. Riveting, complex, entertaining, and compelling, Blade Runner 2049 will go down as one of the great cinema sci-fi masterpieces of all time. And for this critic it’s hands down the best movie I’ve seen this year.
My rating System:
0-1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
4 Sub Par
8 Very Good
10 A Must See
Blade Runner 2049 rates: 10/10
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