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Blade Runner 2049 – Movie Review

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Blade Runner 2049 – Movie Review

Rating: C (Average)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Warner Brothers

With the continuing influence of Blade Runner on science-fiction films and its growing relevance on cinema, it was inevitable a filmmaker would seek to revisit that world. Denis Villeneuve has taken the daunting task of following up Ridley Scott’s iconic masterwork and after sitting through the lengthy two hours and forty minutes of Blade Runner 2049, one wishes it had been left a stand-alone. Little has been added to the mythology and the execution is a long, plodding one. While some interesting ideas are put on the table, the paper-thin plot doesn’t allow for much exploration. This is a crushing disappointment, but it will at least be easy to forget its contents.

While Blade Runner is noted for its visuals and depiction of the future, there was a compelling mystery and layered personalities as neither Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard nor the Replicants he was ordered to hunt were quite what they seemed. Blade Runner 2049 is primarily a light show with a canvas for Roger Deakins to paint the frame in many colours. A lot of thought has been put into the world on-screen, yet it feels too clean and sterile to occupy the same universe as the first film. Part of the appeal of Blade Runner is the futuristic Los Angeles had a lived-in quality. It was easy to understand how Ridley Scott and original author Philip K. Dick thought that was what 2019 would look like. Villeneuve and his visual effects team have increased the amount of shiny billboards and everything looks too much like a set, neatly touched up to the last detail. There is a surprisingly generic quality to the Los Angeles of 2049.

Character wise, Ryan Gosling’s Officer K is hardly compelling. The mystery he finds himself going on is not intriguing and Gosling gives a stoic performance with the same expression through most of the film. There is little to attach oneself to him and that coldness applies to the film as a whole. Far more interesting is his girlfriend Joi, played by Ana de Armas. Through her, the screenplay asks some thought-provoking questions. That would be neat, if her scenes did not feel like padding. Her scenes provide some semblance of character growth for K, but they could have also been cut out entirely. Sylvia Hoeks’s Replicant Luv is another highlight of the film and her presence is appreciated at multiple points.

Deckard’s reappearance occurs later in the proceedings than one might prefer and any semblance of personality has been sucked of the character. Harrison Ford’s role here contributes little to the plot, though the film tries desperately hard to add some unneeded insights to the first film. Between Blade Runner 2049 and Alien: Covenant, it’s about time filmmakers stop re-writing narratives and creating convoluted back stories for earlier Ridley Scott films, including Scott himself. A curious decision has been made to barely include Vangelis’s brilliant score, which was so key in making Blade Runner come alive. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch attempt to replicate that style, but their work merely comes across as pale imitation.

On its own, Blade Runner 2049 is a ponderous film that throws a couple of ideas, but is merely a mystery with little curiousity about what follows. Comparing this movie to its influential predecessor makes the sequel doubly disappointing. One can admire Villeneuve wanting to put his own stamp on Blade Runner, but he also removes much of the visual splendor and wonder that made Scott’s film so spectacular. The best sequels make one look at the first films in a new light as we have an idea of how the characters will progress beyond their initial journeys. Watching Blade Runner in the future, this sequel will add nothing. Blade Runner 2049 is a curiousity piece at best, but it won’t have the same staying power as the classic that inspired it.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison