Blade Runner 2049 Review
Director: Denis Villeneuve.
I remember sneering at the idea of a sequel to Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, thinking about what would be the point apart from making a quick buck and ruining an absolute masterpiece in the process. Villeneuve understood the pressure and responsibility he would have to take on and was initially set against the idea until reading the script, hearing Harrison Ford was already on board and Ridley Scott was in the executive producer's chair. Sean Young and Rutger Hauer have previously commented negatively towards the idea of the sequel with Young actually suggesting a boycott should she not be involved and Hauer, sharing my sentiments, could not understand the reasons of creating a sequel of something that he already considers cinematic perfection. You can read my spotlight review of Scott's Blade Runner here.
My reservations eventually turned into expectations being fully aware of having some of the most amazingly talented people in the business being on board in the production. Villeneuve's regular, amazing cinematographer, Roger Deakins is here, Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch on the score and Blade Runner's screenwriter Hampton Fancher returns to write the story and screenplay. But it is really just Hollywood attaching key names to ensure the ticket sales?
Scott's Blade Runner was such a masterpiece in every sense giving rise to neo-noir science-fiction which had an outstanding score, a simplistic yet provoking story, the alluring performances with an enchanting production of artistic perfection that made a futuristic world look seemingly dated. It's all of these key elements that I had reservations about, wondering how Villeneuve and Co. would attempt to continue the story 35 years on.
It's set 30 years on from Blade Runner's 2019 and whilst we see a much larger world here, it's still very much a world that remains stagnant with the only key advancement we see are those of the latest replicants, the model Nexus-8s. 'K', our new Blade Runner is on the prowl, but while retiring a formidable "skinjob" he discovers an incredible revelation that could change the world and rouses his imagination and questions his loyalties.
Blade Runner 2022 "Black Out"
The story is smart enough to engage most, but it does seem to slip towards to end, like it struggles to reach an inevitable conclusion. You think it's becoming predictable but there's enough twists and subplot interventions to keep the intrigue going, even with the drawn out runtime that doesn't aid in creating anticipation leaving audiences hanging for longer than necessary.
I was initially excited by the 163minute running time, but now having seen it, It's too long where it probably didn't need to be, where the pacing is incredibly slow and almost every scene is drawn out with long pauses of silence to parade Villeneuve's obvious, artful flair. It's a Villeneuve's film alright, set in a Blade Runner world but they should have heeded Dr. Eldon Tyrell's statement about the candle burning twice as bright and made this half as long. Well, not half as long but you get the metaphor.
The part was written with Gosling in mind and he suited the role of 'K' with his usual stone-faced and often emotionless persona. I could see pass the Gosling I knew, empathising with his character. It was Deckard I had trouble with. All I could see was Harrison Ford and even with him standing there, I could almost forget the Deckard I was familiar with. Let's not forget, Deckard is only here not because he "was good" at what he did, because, in truth he wasn't anything but lucky; he's here by the grace of Roy Barry's sudden change of heart and mercifully letting him live. I can't be precise, but there's something different, and yes I get the character, as well as the actor has aged, but there's a part of me that thinks Harrison had forgotten how to play Deckard.
I'm not entirely sure of the purpose of the character Joi, who's name might be a direct reference to the pornographic world, other than to increase some emotion investment for 'K'. Ana de Armas is stunning and adorable at the same time, but I think you could cut her entirely from the story and it wouldn't make that much of a difference. The character I really enjoyed beside Gosling's 'K' was Sylvia Hoeks' Luv. A ruthless femme fatale who is more than just an assistant to replicant godlike creator, Niander Warren who's played poetically by Jared Leto. I feel there's a lot more to both their stories than what the film and the shorts let on.
Blade Runner 2036 "Nexus Dawn"
Whilst it does answer a lot of unanswered questions of the first film, mainly, is Deckard a replicant? It does provoke it's own set of questions flipping the quandary back and forth, affording replicants the freedom of imagination often being a sad reality and actually represents humanity's own desire to feel special, wanting to be the chosen one. There's a pang of betrayal but with no-one to truly blame, and there's a personal realisation of just how insignificant we can be in the grand scheme of things. And like the first film, it ends on an opportunity, leaving the door open for possibly more. Where does mankind go after this? What happens next? Which side will you be on?
The production as a whole is very impressive keeping much to the fashion of Blade Runner. The verbally-controlled analytical equipment, the costumes, the constant downpour, the oversized decanters and a possibly synthetic pet which might be a nod to Philip K. Dick's original story of Deckard wanting a real pet to elevate his status. Other little touches was the etched symbolic date that echoes the US general release and the neon multimedia advertising with some obvious major corporations waving their Illuminated banners. Did anyone else frown at the possible patriotic product placement? Peugeot? Really?
The marketing and promotion has been the best I've seen this year, with 3 shorts being released periodically prior to the main film coming out. It has to be mentioned here, Luke Scott, son of Ridley Scott directed two segments, "Nexus Dawn" 2036 and "Nowhere to Run" 2048 with Cowboy Bebop creator Shinichirô Watanabe creating an anime short Blade Runner 2022 "Black Out". All being very impressive and intriguing. However, I was quite surprised there was no additional screening of Scott's original masterpiece, like what Scott did with Alien: Covenant showing Alien and Prometheus just prior to Covenant's release. But, I think I now understand why. It might be because of the contrast of style, character and tone would be more noticeable?
Blade Runner 2048 "Nowhere to Run"
Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer composed the score and sadly I think they have missed a trick here. However it does suit and makes this very much a Villeneuve film but personally, I wanted to see and hear a Blade Runner film and was hoping for the same ingenuity Vangelis created for the first. Listening to the score in isolation, I can't deny it's superb quality, but it's a score for an entire film, unlike Vangelis' individuality of an unique score. This isn't unique and much like the film, it's an inspired piece with parts borrowed from Vangelis'; some more obvious than others, with one key scene that almost attempts to rob off the original but I understand it to be a cue for the fans. Some parts have even been recycled from Dunkirk, just minus the tick-tocking. I also found the use of tracks from Elvis and Sinatra off-putting and unnecessary. There must have been a conscious choice and reasoning over the decided tracks and I'm thinking there was an opportunity to use something from today's musical arena, being from their past but making the film more relatable.
In comparison, this one lacks character, has a disparity from the previous and doesn't have the same magic of making a futuristic world seem old, distancing itself from Blade Runner's dismal Los Angeles. But don't get me wrong, the direction is nothing short of spectacular, the tonal style of this film differs greatly from Blade Runner allowing more colour to seep in and this isn't a criticism. The balance has been tilted offering predominantly daytime scenes as oppose to the dark, wet nights of Blade Runner; and the deployment of light, shadow and a full spectrum of colour is used so incredibly well, creating a vast range of artistic scenes and sequences.
For me, sequel versus previous; this is a perfect example of the previous being the trend-setter, the original that made neo-noir a genre, the one that inspires and continues to do so, where as this, the sequel is clearly the inspired, setting no aspirations or bringing anything original. To quote Salvador Dalí "A true artist is not one who is inspired, but one who inspires others." Which ultimately results in this being a stunning Villeneuve imagining of an already established fantasy.
Running Time: 6
The Cast: 9
Job Description: 8
The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for the incredible and stunning cinematography.
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