I just went to see “Blade Runner 2049” and could not help but share my reaction since it sort of relates to us here. I saw it on a regular screen in 2d. I would say upgrade to DLX or whatever super screen you can get. IMAX is never worth it though. 3d? Nothing… and I mean nothing is there to make it worth that price premium. But I don’t like 3d so YMMV.
First off, I’m a huge fan of the first movie. Favorite movie all time bar none. I’ve done a previous dissection of the film here. The Breakers: Blade Runner. It’s worth a read I think.
Visually it is everything you ever wanted and more. If Rodger Deakins does not win the Oscar, no one this year deserves it. He out does the first film in so many respects but always pays homage. It is luscious like I said. You can go from the Film Noir high contrast to the subtle grays and smoke of French New Wave to the loud noisy spectacle of 80’s action films. All integrated and cohesive. None feel wrong. Neon, Fluorescent, “natural” light all his servants. This is cinematographer porn and your eyes will thank you.
Pacing is slow at times, but it doesn’t drag. It’s very dreamlike, which fits with the first film, seamlessly. There are long slow shots that just fill in the world so well, you are thankful to have the time to breathe and think on what reveals were brought up. It was also good to see the world in daytime and in the varied environments of the “Greater Los Angeles” area. It’s not all just arcologies and wasteland. You have to see it to understand the scope, and boy is it something!
Themes and subtext… brilliant, staggering and poignant. This move is PACKED with so many concepts and that spawns questions. I can see why they are not giving away spoilers or trying to explain it. It will pigeonhole and distort what it’s all about. Don’t let other people tell you what it’s about. There’s too much there to think about. They are layered, deep and sometimes very personal. This film relies on many conventions of film noir as well as what can be found in cutting edge Japanese cyberpunk Anime (think Masamune Shirow though he’s not a visual influence, just spiritual though it all hearkens back to the themes of Fancher’s take on Phillip K. Dick). It does not just appropriate from others who followed in the genre it created nearly single-handedly (at least for cinema it did), it evolves and brings it forward into the era it once called the future.
The story is excellent in encapsulating all the above, but has one painful flaw: It’s the first movie of an obvious trilogy. But… at this quality that’s like complaining about “The Empire Strikes Back” or “The Two Towers” needing a third movie to wrap up the trilogy. I really look forward to the expansion of the universe beyond this sequel. The story itself does stand on its own, but at the end, you have more questions than answers, and I don’t want to give away the biggest question of them all, because it will color your own ideas of the film all the way. And trust me, I’m fighting really hard to not say it. Oh… and as a HUGE positive: no SJW influence. That’s right. They didn’t dip down into trendy current political fads or preach any of the current dogma, just like we don’t hear dogma preached from a 1980’s perspective it would be out of place, so that works in big big ways.
Acting, superb. There is obvious chemistry and very well played scenes that draw the emotion out of you if you understand the contextual depth of what is going on. They are subtle, poignant scenes, so don’t overlook them. I should also say that the interplay between Ford and Gosling made me laugh outloud at times. They do have some great moments together.
The music pays suitable homage to Vangalis. Never outdoing him per sey, but expounding and enlarging what he did. BUT… I had one complaint in this regards. There are a few scenes where you cannot tell if the music is diagetic or not and it’s very loud and distracting. This was done in the first film to great effect:
…but at the same time, here… it’s hit and miss. The use of the film’s opening and closing music themes are perfect. To be fair even the original has two solid misses in it’s musical lexicon: the love theme and the credit theme. This film does not make those mistakes. The added music, (much like the 1920’s style ballad in the street corner bar after Zorah’s death, “One More Kiss”) is extremely well done, but using real era stuff.
The material taken from the first movie to be incorporated is incredible. I literally gasped at one of the reveals. I’m super happy with how they accomplished it, and the technical achievements in this manner are marvelous and Oscar-worthy. It’s not what you think either.
A little more nudity (none would have been better) and cussing than I’d prefer, but tolerable.
I should also point out how well it follows the first film. The violence is never glamorous. It is sudden, gritty and intimate. I cannot say it is not gratuitous… but it’s always appropriate and actually the “overuse” in one scene makes you realize the scope in which poor Agent K finds himself is far greater than just looking for a rogue replicant. The final conflict is thrilling and had me on the edge of my seat. In many ways this movie is a series of intimate portraits between people in the middle of a grand scene. That helps keep the movie tight and connected with the audience.
As a semi-spoiler, I did have one thing confirmed that should send raves throughout the nerd community: “Soldier” starring Kurt Russell *IS* set in the Blade Runner universe in the off world colonies. If only they had Ridley Scott producing that film, it would have been much better. If you know the film, you’ll get it when you see it. It ranks up there with the Alien skull reveal in Predator 2.
Ultimately, this is the sequel Blade Runner deserved. It is like watching “The Godfather Part 2” in some respects where it fills in the world, expands upon it and makes so many more things whole and important. Although it is not necessary to see the three attached shorts you can find online, they do help elaborate how we came to the world of 2049. This is a deep thinking film. You will ask yourself some questions that most people never even consider. Do not expect shallow fare to kill two hour and forty-some minutes in idle popcorn puffery. That will turn off many audiences who aren’t attracted by the nostalgia.There will be many reasons of why this film will be labeled a “flop”. It can only be considered one if using the mega tent-pole blockbuster measuring stick which has to tick all the focus group boxes that make them thundering bland flash for cash grabs. This is not for what Blade Runner 2049 is. Nor is it just self indulgent hipster-poseur art-house pseudo-intellectualism. So don’t let the inner life of this film pass you by. It raises some interesting points on where our civilization is going and who we are as individuals, not in a preachy way, but in curious introspection and possibly even a distant warning like storm clouds on the horizon.If I had to encapsulate it all, I’d give it a 9.5 out of 10. Fractions taken off for the nudity, cussing, the fact it is a sequel set up and that little sound issue. This is a solid R rating too, like the original was (Technically unrated, but that’s quibbling). Despite these points, he film stands on its own as a wonderful and possibly important piece of art. It might even aspire to being considered a “great” film some day. We’ll see. Not many sequels get a chance to be considered that way.
This one does and is so worth seeing on the big screen.Don’t cheat yourself, go while you can, and bring someone with who can have a long discussion with you afterwords.