Blade Runner 2049 Review
For pretty much my entire cinematic life, Blade Runner was one of those defining 80's classics that I always really wanted to see, but never found the time to get around to watching. In fact, it wasn't until the impending release of Blade Runner 2049 that I finally made it a priority to sit down and watch it. I wish I'd watched it years ago in college, and really had the chance to dissect it. Perhaps then I'd have a greater attachment towards it, and a lot more patience. But, when I watched it now, I found a lot to admire to be sure, but a pace that kept me at arms length when trying to embrace it and get lost in it. I liked it, and appreciated its place in film history, but I couldn't love it. Maybe it's a film that would benefit and grow in my fondness with repeat viewings, but unfortunately I didn't have time for that before my viewing of Blade Runner 2049. So the question is, how did this sequel to the original film fare to such a newbie of the franchise?
Blade Runner 2049 takes place in the same universe as Blade Runner, thirty years after the events of the original film. But this time, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is no longer our blade runner protagonist (blade runners being cops who are tasked with hunting down replicants aka artificial intelligent robots.) In fact, he's been on the run and in hiding ever since we last saw him. So this time, the story focuses on another Blade Runner, a replicant simply known as K (Ryan Gosling.) On one of his many hit jobs hunting down other replicants, he discovers some incredibly shocking evidence that puts him on the path to find Deckard. But this newly discovered evidence isn't only of interest to K and his police department, but the head of a replicant creating corporation obsessed with creating life (Jared Leto) and his devoted assistant, who are determined to watch K's every move.
This time around I had a much easier time connecting with the story and found that this was a good continuation of the world we were introduced to in the first film. There's a definite sense of world building going on in this film with all of the different types of characters you have, and it's definitely half of the fun. It's fascinating to see replicant K's relationship with an even more AI than himself, his Siri like girlfriend Joi (played fantastically by relative newcomer Ana de Armas.) But the other thing 2049 does apart from expanding the universe, is also setting the stage for more. Here you see the seeds being planted for a real uprising as replicants are starting to believe they're more human than humans.
But aside from all the interesting questions that Blade Runner 2049 has to pose, it has a lot more to offer as well, starting with how beautiful it is to look at! The cinematography by Roger Deakins is absolutely breathtaking. The original had many sweeping and beautiful shots, and Deakins definitely plays tribute to them. One of the main reasons I was really excited to see this film was because it was being helmed by Denis Villeneuve whose past work (most recently being Arrival,) I really admire. He didn't let me down as he accomplished something truly difficult in making a film that still felt like it was his, while completely honoring the original.
Villeneuve also assembled a really fine cast. Gosling is solid as always and carries a lot more of the film than I thought he would. But he gets some great support from his costars, particularly from the female cast. I already mentioned really enjoying Ana de Armas' performance as K's longtime artificial girlfriend, but Robin Wright makes the most of her screen time too as the Lieutenant that K reports to. The other female performance that really impressed me was by another newcomer, Sylvia Hoeks, who plays Jared Leto's replicant assistant. Perhaps for me, the weak link here is Ford, who seems that with every classic character he slips into nowadays, he simply plays them as a grumpier old version of himself, rather than connecting to who these characters were. I didn't see much of a resemblance to his original character, but then again after 30 years of being on the run, maybe everyone would start acting crotchety?
All in all, Blade Runner 2049 is a really well made film that I liked a lot. However, as much as I enjoyed it, I still found that since I didn't have a strong connection with the first film, I couldn't really say I loved this one either. Again, perhaps repeated viewings could really warm me to it, but for now I will appreciate it from a distance. RATING: 8.5/10