Review of 'Blade Runner 2049'

blade_runner_2049.jpg Finally, the sequel to the cult and critic favourite “Blade Runner” comes to the big screen. I found the original movie incredible to look at and with an interesting story based on Philip K. Dick's “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”. I still found the violence in this original outing disturbing and liked very few of the characters. The levels of the story are intriguing as are the questions it poses. So, with all of the hype, how is this new movie?

Set thirty years after the events of “Blade Runner”, “Blade Runner 2049” introduces us to “K” (Ryan Gosling), a new-style Blade Runner and LAPD officer. The Tyrell corporation has collapsed following violent revolts involving their replicants and famine has swept the Earth. The Wallace Company now manufactures Nexus-9 replicants which are more obedient than previous models and, as before, are used for slave labour. After retiring an old-style replicant at a protein farm K stumbles across a secret that may shatter his life and his world. Those who want to keep the secret will stop at nothing to protect it. The secret requires he seek out Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), now long vanished. Will K be able to find Deckard before they do?

As with the original there is a lot of absolutely amazing eye candy such as the massive half-buried statues in the middle of the desert but like much of it the reason or logic behind it is frustratingly missing - Yeah, it looks great, but what is it for? What does it mean? Though perhaps the filmmakers want us to figure it out for ourselves and there IS some logic we cannot grasp? The cynical side of me thinks it is just there because it looks cool. There are numerous shots of flying police-cars largely unchanged from the original and the rain seems to have never stopped in the thirty years.

Much of Blade Runner 2049 seems to be a remake of the original film albeit with a different story-line. So what about the story? Yeah, it is interesting but ultimately fails to live up the hype with a somewhat disappointing ending. I expected a bit more depth and, perhaps, philosophy such as we saw in Blade Runner but this is a remake for the modern world - Short on depth, tall on spectacle.

K lives with a holographic woman named Joi (Ana de Armas) with whom he has a deep attachment ironically offers the most human performance of the cast (including an odd and slightly head-ache inducing “sex” scene) baring, perhaps, an incredibly brooding and depressing Harrison Ford as the now social outcast Deckard having escaped the modern world with his replicant love. Gosling's K is a confused and generally flat character who I found difficult to empathise with. It was good to see a cameo from Edward James Olmos reprising his role as Gaff, now in a nursing home but still seeming to know more than everyone else what is going on….but what else is going on is depressingly little-changed over time.

The casual violence throughout the film is more than a bit disturbing. Towards the end you become a bit nonplussed at yet another body crashing to the floor with a splash of crimson against yet another wall. The up-close personal violence of the first film is largely missing but it does mean we become a bit desensitised to it all. At least in Blade Runner there seemed to be a bit of remorse but here the characters dispatch one another with cold disinterest and move onto the next…

I am not sure what I expected in this movie. I think I expected the improved effects and incredible look that this movie delivers in spades but I also expected more depth and nuance to the story which seems here to be far too one-dimensional and trite. The length of almost 3 hours is filled with yet more, yes, incredible eye candy, but lots of eye candy does not a satisfying movie make, at least, not for me. The ambiguity from the first film of whether or not Deckard is a replicant is largely forgotten and largely irrelevant as we are transported from event to event with no stopping to think about what is actually going on. Even the metaphysical impact of the “secret” is largely left unexplored instead focusing only on the commercial and political aspects. I just don't think there is anything new here and there is none of the heart from the original. It just doesn't feel real. It feels, instead, like a committee designed the film to simply make money, throwing away any of the aspects from the original that make it so popular. So, I am disappointed…but, yeah, it does look great…

As far as those watching this film without having seen the original I suspect they will be able to follow it (despite what others have said) but find the almost three-hour running length excessively long and, frankly, boring. Oh, look, another picture of the desert (yawn). Oh, look, another picture of a future Los Angeles from the air (pass the popcorn, please). Sure, there is some incredible looking action but I can't see it will be enough to keep most modern cinema goers interested for long. For SF fans though there is something here to like and it is worth a punt. It might be helpful to watch the original first though to get the most out of it…

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2017-10-14

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Studio: 16:14 Entertainment

Year: 2017

Length: 164 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction

Other reviewed films by Denis Villeneuve: