- Product Rating -

Blade Runner 2049

| November 7, 2017

The advent of mainstream science fiction in recent year seems to have largely run parallel to dug-up sequels. If the former is a human, the latter is a replicant, and in that way, Blade Runner 2049 operates a plane a bit more unique than similar films of recent memory. While that provides for some incredible filmmaking, it also causes aspects of the film to come off as a bit maddening, although the good definitely outweighs the bad here. This is pretty much a technical masterwork from beginning to end with some of the most standout cinematography of recent years, making the argument for Roger Deakins’s eventual Oscar win even more impossible to deny. From a narrative perspective, though, Blade Runner 2049 can be aggravatingly sparse and sometimes bombastic, taking too much time to say what it wants to. When the pieces fall into place, though, it’s spellbinding.

30 years after the original film, updated replicants are now part of society in order to help the continuation of humanity. K (Ryan Gosling) is a new blade runner, hunting down and retiring the older model replicants, who comes across the remains of a replicant who appears to have been pregnant at the time of her death. This leads him to track down Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who’s been missing since the events of the first film. With a general synopsis this bare-bones and a runtime of 163 minutes, it’s natural to anticipate a script that’s either jam-packed with themes, development, and twists to chew on, or one that would be hollow. The end result is somewhere in the middle, closer to the former.

What does work at all times (save for a few fleeting moments) are the visuals, which are stellar. Deakins puts out his cinematography since Skyfall, a barrage of eye candy that’s in turns sleek and dusty. Taking the neo-noir aesthetic from the first film and injecting it with visual senses of thematic progression and a more distinct identity, he allows different scenes and locations to thrive in different ways that still flow together, keeping a consistent visual style. It can be breathtaking to behold, and as glib as it sounds, it can also be jaw-dropping to witness such fluidity in the form of a man with a movie camera.

The score from Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is largely background noise and intentionally so; the synthesized humming and occasional jolts of aural energy are more meant to be complimentary to the visuals. This works well, save for one or two moments where its vying for attention can be distracting. Denis Villenueve’s direction, while not quite perfect, carries on his willingness to hold shots and let settings breathe, an artistic choice that’s much needed in blockbuster filmmaking.

The flaws in Villenueve’s direction aren’t wholly his fault; the largely stem from a script that can at times be thin. Co-writers Hampton Fancher and Michael Green—the former of who also holds a story by credit—continue with the ideas that the original Blade Runner catapulted into the zeitgeist in 1982, and the choices are intriguing and philosophically sound. It’s wiser not to mention them because of their associations with plot points later on, but it can be said that Fancher and Green take too much time conveying their messages. This is a 163-minute film that could have been 140 minutes, and the decisions have a first act that’s almost 45 minutes and a midpoint that arrives later than preferred dilutes the material at the core of the movie. The amount of time spent on world-building is odd given the fact that every person already seeing Blade Runner has gained a sense of its universe through osmosis whether they know it or not, and a few cringe-worthy lines of dialogue don’t help either.

Blade Runner 2049 is a movie that is both recommendable and unlikely to encourage itself to multiple viewings because of how overcooked some of its most tender meat is. It’s stunning to look at; there’s always something to digest even when the movie isn’t moving as steadily as it needs to. It is, at its worst, a bit dull, but it is never boring. An odd and unnecessary male-gazey approach to some content feels like unsubtle attempts to cater to younger audiences, but it still knows who it really is for. After seeing the film’s underwhelming weekend box office numbers, it remains to be seen whether or not that audience will actually show up. They should, though, because even with its bumps, Blade Runner 2049 often feels as smooth as silk-covered steel.

About the Author:

Senior year film student at Columbia College Chicago, Hollywood Film Festival pre-screener, and Best Social Media Presence for North Farmington High School's 2014 senior mock elections. Firmly believes that ".gif" is pronounced "jiff".
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