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Blade Runner 2049 – a cut above the original?

Why did this movie not perform as well at the box office as expected? Could it have anything to do with the fact that the original Blade Runner phenomena found a niche among a certain generation and nobody else cares?

K standing next to his car

Blade Runner was a movie I had largely overlooked in the 80’s because I was more of a Han Solo and Indiana Jones fan, I was all of about 10 years old by the time I tried to watch it and of course it went straight over my head.

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I hated it because there was no real sci-fi action and I really didn’t understand any of the adult concepts within. I was however, initially very excited by the name which sounded dangerous and the prospect of seeing some cool special effects like flying cars and stuff. But those cars didn’t really do anything, except for take people places. Which I guess is what flying cars are supposed to do.
So I didn’t grow up with Blade Runner.

I would watch it later on in life and love it though. A lot.

Aside from the fact that it was set in 2019 which is not that far away and there are no fucking flying cars to speak of here today, it is a great sci-fi noir type movie. I’d seen the original cut which I liked but went back and checked out the final cut and loved it even more. The original movie is so much better when it doesn’t hold your hand.

You can just suspend your disbelief about the timeline and say it’s a parallel universe or some shit, and if you do that, you’ll find it has dated incredibly well.

Particularly if you look at some of the crazy shit that is happening with artificial intelligence these days. Like those two AIs that Facebook created and had to shut down because they started talking in a language they developed that their creators could not understand.

Why?

So when they announced that they were doing a sequel and calling it Blade Runner 2049 it was if a million geeks cried out in pain… Why?

Why fuck with something that, after shitload of tinkering had a final cut that was pretty much perfect. Blade Runner was one of those movies that posed questions, but they were ones you could dwell on and create your own theories for in the absence of a sequel.

It just did not feel necessary.

Like it or not though, we got it.

And for those of us questioning why the fuck are they doing that, Blade Runner 2049 shoves you right back into your seat and shows you.

Through it’s look, story and characters.

Because…

In spite of Ridley Scott’s recent indiscretions there is no doubt as to the size of the shoes he leaves to fill on this movie, thankfully director Denis Villenuve is more than up to the task. He’s definitely proven his mettle with films like Sicario and the Arrival and I can tell you right now that this movie elevates him to newer heights as a director.

He has done an amazing job in stitching this film to the original in a way that appears seamless yet is still unique. It looks amazing, the special effects are used with motivation and meaning. The cinematography is absolutely beautiful and the score, while not done by Vangelis this time around, has been picked up by Hans Zimmer and plays a major part in binding this film to the original.

The story

I’m gonna keep the story overview very general because part of the beauty of it is not knowing how it is going to play out. There’s also some really cool easter eggs tying this back to the original that will leave the hardcore fans delighted. It is best to just say, keep your eyes wide, be your own detective and look out for some cool surprises.

So basically we’re 30 years on, and we join a new Blade Runner named K, who’s hunting replicants, as you do. He stumbles into the middle of a mystery so huge it could be the undoing of civilisation for both humans and replicants for different reasons. This sees him united with Rick Deckard from the original Blade Runner and pulled from pillar to post in search for answers not just to the mystery at hand but what lies within his own mind.

The cast

Most of the casting is great, aside from one or two people.

Ryan Gosling is incredible as K, he is easily as good as Harrison Ford was in the original. Robin Wright, who seems to be having a bit of a renaissance as and actor, plays a great hard arsed LAPD leuitenant named Joshi, Ana de Armas is brilliant as the holographic girlfriend Joi and Sylvia Hoeks is formidable as the replicant Luv.

Harrison Ford reprising his role as Deckard is ok. Just. But for me I think he phones it in. At first I thought it was the 30 year hangover of the ten year old me looking at him as Deckard and being disappointend because I was expecting Solo or Indiana Jones, but I think it’s more than that. I think it’s the real life cantankerous old bastard Harrison Ford colliding with the characters he inhabits and I’m seeing more of the grumpy old man from interviews and less of his characters. It’s not helped by the fact that in any publicity he does he constantly runs the whole “I’m only in it for the money” line. Heaven forbid you have any passion for the fans who may have put you there in the first place. I’m not entirely sure he doesn’t respect the fans, but with him constantly shitting on an industry that basically made him, it’s hard to see past that.

The real problem is Jared Leto. He just takes himself way too seriously, and instead of him inhabiting his character Niander Wallace, we get what I guess is the theatrical equivalent of having a wank in front of the audience in what I’m sure is his attempt to completely inhabit and immerse himself in a character. I’m not saying his attempts aren’t genuine. I mean I couldn’t do what he does, but I can pay money to watch him and say to people that I think he tries to hard.

Those criticisms aside, it is a great movie and I think largely because it has a great director in Denis Villenuve. The continuity between it and the original and the direction the story takes beyond is done with a lot of love and care for a story that a lot of people are very fond of.

I know it hasn’t opened well at the box office but I think over time people will warm to this film. Although I do wonder if it’s because it’s a pretty niche fans base to start with and the younger crowd simply don’t and won’t care.

I on the other hand spent most of my time watching being blown away by the style of the visuals and the way the story weaved and unfolded before me.

The verdict

It’s not perfect, there’s a few plot holes but if you loved the original, there’s nothing broken here, it’s not going to ruin anything for you. You will like this and over time maybe love the way they have expanded on the story. If you’re new to it it might be a bit of a head scratcher, but I’d suggest you go check out Blade Runner, The final cut and then see this movie. It’s exceptional science fiction storytelling that like the original film will spark countless late night conversations in discussion forums (be they online or in real life) among fans for years to come. And that is worth more than anything you can capture in an opening weekend.

🍿🍿🍿🍿1/2

3 Comments on Blade Runner 2049 – a cut above the original?

  1. I’m seeing it tomorrow and I am really looking forward to it. On the other hand I am also a bit skeptical for it, the film has been receiving so many positive reviews that I always try not to become to excited for it. In the past I have had it happen that a film recieved so much high praise but in the end did not live up to that. Still, I think with this film, it really will be great watch. Terrific review! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A very fair review although I disagree with your point about Jared Leto – he came across to me as a different technocrat – more austere and Steve Jobs like than the slimey Tyrell in the first Blade Runner. This movie was stupendous in its visuals and the sound design and music track was incredible. The wonderful way the music referenced and used the famous Vangelis score was a key element in how the storyline was continued from 2019 to 2049. There were some lovely subtle tie-ins to the first movie – great to see Gaff in the retirement home and the line he said about Deckard’s eyes. All in all, superb!

    Liked by 1 person

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