Blade Runner 2049 Review

I saw the original Blade Runner for the first time last year as part of my Blind Spot series. You can read my initial thoughts here. It’s a very impressive movie and worth watching just for the themes and influence it had on cinema. However, I must own I find it kind of slow and I’ve fallen asleep every time I’ve seen it (which is 5 times now). I saw the new film Blade Runner 2049 in a marathon with the old one and sure enough I fell asleep watching the old one. It’s just too languid in spots.

I did a podcast on the original with my friend Patrick you should check out

With that said, you can imagine my joy that Blade Runner 2049 not only kept me awake but I enjoyed it very much. I think it does the rare thing for a sequel by actually being better than the original film. It looks every bit as good but it is better paced with more engaging characters and action.

Director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins do an amazing job creating a world with layers and that feels old and new at the same time. Whether it is sand, rain or snow the atmosphere never fails to be immersive and mesmerizing.

The story is a bit convoluted but basically without spoilers Ryan Gosling stars as K a young Blade Runner who is given the job of retiring older model replicants. As he does this he explores part of his past, a mysterious body and a new organization that replaced the Tyrell Corporation from the previous film.

Harrison Ford is back as Deckard and he’s not in it quite as much as I thought he would but he’s great. It’s definitely one of his better performances and I wouldn’t complain if he got nominated for the role. He’s not just the surly old man he usually plays these days but a wounded desperate man.

There aren’t many cameos in Blade Runner 2049 and it focuses on telling a new story. I loved all the performances with the exception of Jared Leto who I found a bit grating.Robin Wright, Ana de Armas and Silvia Hoeks are all tremendous in their roles and Ryan Gosling is wonderful as the Blade Runner K.

I am not going to tell you I understood everything in Blade Runner 2049 or that it all makes sense but that is part of the fun of a film like this. It has layers you can talk about and interpret differently. It doesn’t spell things out like exposition heavy movies do (except for the Leto character which can be a bit much).

Most importantly I didn’t fall asleep or get bored like I do with the original Blade Runner. I found it engaging and interesting, which was a relief.

There are some issues with the movie. As I mentioned, I wasn’t high on Leto and the plot can be a bit convoluted. Also, it could have definitely had 15-20 minutes cut out and it would have been a little better.

Still, a big improvement over the original so that is a tremendous accomplishment for all involved. Blade Runner fans and non-fans should definitely check it out and enjoy some striking scifi film noire. It’s still not my favorite genre, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.



Blindspot 1: Blade Runner Review

blade runnerToday I got to see the first in my Blindspot series where each month I will review a well regarded film I’ve never seen before.  To see the full list click here.  This month’s selection is the 1982 Ridley Scott science fiction classic Blade Runner.

With this film I had the special opportunity to see it on the big screen as part of the Cinemark Classic Series (good timing!), and I ended up having a unique experience.

First of all, the movie is extremely immersive.  Set in a dystopian Los Angeles Ridley Scott creates a rainy city landscape that is textured and layered unlike I have seen in many other movies.  It was beautiful and almost overwhelming to take it all in.

bladerunnerThe plot is based on a Phillip K.  Dick story and it stars Harrison Ford as Deckard, a cop (or blade runner) who is assigned to hunt down creatures called ‘replicants’.

Blade RunnerThere are  4 on earth and a giant corporation called Tyrell has set them up to only live for 4 years.  The movie is basically a cat and mouse chase between the humans and the replicants but it is so much more than that.

blade runner2I’ll be honest with you guys about 30 minutes into Blade Runner I was feeling extremely frustrated.  I had no idea what was going on and didn’t understand who was hunting who and what all the characters were doing.  It was so much new and different I found it overwhelming and confusing.

Finally in frustration I did something unorthodox.  I went into the hallway and read the Wikipedia synopsis.  This helped me have some kind of framework to understand all the characters and world being thrown at me.  I know most people would bristle at reading a plot synopsis giving away the ending and other details but for me it helped to enjoy the film much more.

And like I said there is so much going on that knowing the basic framework really doesn’t spoil much in Blade Runner, so I’m glad I did it.  It might be unconventional but it worked for me!

blade runner5The acting is all fine in Blade Runner.  The characters and performances take a back seat to the story and setting but they work with what they’ve got. In major roles we see Edward James Olmos, M Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, Rutger Hauer, Joanna Cassidy and more.

I particularly liked Sean Young as Rachael, an ‘experimental replicant’ who becomes entangled with Deckard. William Sanderson is also good as JF Sebastian, a strange man who collects replicants and robots.

blade runner3Daryl Hannah is very good as Pris, one of the 4 replicants.

blade runner4Harrison Ford is a little bit bland here compared to his charisma in films like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark but it works. Contrary to some popular opinion not every character in a movie has to be dynamic- especially in a world and plot so dazzlingly complex as this one!

blade runner7Once I wasn’t confused any more I started to pick up on the main message of Blade Runner (all good scifi should have a metaphor IMO).

The theme I took from it was the replicants know they have a limited time period to live and they want life so much.  They will even go to violent methods to preserve it and lengthen it.  On the other hand, the humans who have a plethora of days are kind of faceless and bland, without any passion.

St_bladerunner_fThis robotic human existence is exemplified by the billboards we see projected onto the cityscape of women mindlessly taking pills.   The emotional climax of the film for me at least was when Rachel and Deckard admit they love each other. It’s like both realize the value of time and decide to stop wasting it.

It might sound strange but in many ways it is a similar theme we see in Wall-e.  If you think of Wall-e as a replicant and not a robot doesn’t he teach the humans to value their time instead of mindlessly absorbing entertainment?  Wall-e’s time is limited by his battery power, where the humans just need to wake up and live a full life.

Even with a plot synopsis not everyone is going to like this movie.  It’s just too out there and different to appeal to everyone.  Plus, it can be deliberately paced, confusing, and rather drab.

However, I am certainly glad I saw it and will look forward to seeing it more times and gaining further insight into the story and characters.  At the very least, it was a good reminder to me that sometimes I have to make the moviegoing experience work for ME, even if that means stepping out into the hallway and reading a synopsis!  If it helps me enjoy the movie more than isn’t that a good thing?

It’s at least worth seeing for the amazing visuals and world building.  The music by Vangelis is a little heavy on the saxophone at times but I did really like it.  The whole film is very well crafted and a wonderful sci-fi dystopian movie.

What do you think of Blade Runner?  Too weird for you or a favorite?

As far as content goes there is some sensuality and violence especially a scene where a characters eyes are stabbed.  The over all feel can also be dark and depressing like most dystopian settings.

Overall Grade- A-