Film Review — Blade Runner 2049

(Originally written on October 12, 2017)

So I’m sitting in the theater eagerly waiting Blade Runner 2049 to start. I watched the first Blade Runner (the ‘Final Cut’), and the recent live-action and animated shorts created to supplement this world, in anticipation for this new film. The lights dim. The sound system booms. Company logos flash on the screen dramatically with a nice glitchy effect. Then the actual film begins. I’m suddenly transported to a futuristic vision of the world, immersed from beginning to end.

That’s what I think the strongest aspect about Blade Runner 2049 is: the ability to grab your attention and never let go of it. For good reason too. I applaud director Denis Villeneuve and his crew for creating such a rich, detailed, and at times gritty world in which to present this film’s story. The visual element of this film is extraordinarily astounding. From the futuristic Los Angeles to some areas that have seen better days. Walking through the city to then viewing it from inside hovering cars. Everything has that touch of wanting to present a fully thought out world. The technology of the future has evolved since the original Blade Runner as well, showing how everything has moved forward despite the dark days many endured. This being a sci-fi film set in a very near future, it really takes to heart the portrayal of living in a world having gone almost completely digital, and showcases both the people who live right in the center of that digital evolution and those who live outside of it (both literally and figuratively).

However, the plot of the film feels more like a supporting role. It’s almost as if there was a bit more emphasis placed on getting the look of the ‘Blade Runner’ universe correct rather than telling a compelling story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that bad of a plot. In fact I was drawn in quite easily. However, I would give the world of Blade Runner 2049 more credit for doing that rather than the story presented.

Taking place 30 years after the first film, we follow K (portrayed by Ryan Gosling), a LAPD officer going about his presumably daily assignment: tracking down older models of replicants (artificial humans) who have gone rogue and killing them (referred to as ‘retiring’ them). It’s a nice parallel to the main protagonist Rick Deckard from the first film, though with a few changes. The plot begins to pick up after he discovers something that may upset the balance of the status quo created between humans and replicants. Unfortunately I can’t share more than that due to possibly delving into spoiler territory, but from what I was given to follow, the film’s plot does an admirable job with its pacing.

BUT BE WARNED: This film uses a slow burn approach with some scenes being more drawn out than they need to be (at least in my opinion), and some plot threads simply presented for the sake of the story but never expanded on. Additionally, there is some nudity in the film, as well as brief moments where you’ll feel very uncomfortable, but that’s to be expected with the tone that’s created here.

Plot grievances aside, I have to give credit to all (and yes, ALL) the actors and actresses involved. Though Ryan Gosling gives a good performance, I can’t help but admire the performances of those who had more smaller roles in the film (particularly one actress whose character is very close to K). As for Jared Leto, his acting isn’t terrible but his character felt very underdeveloped. And yes, Harrison Ford returns (awesome!) as an older Rick Deckard and the first scene with him is great and worth waiting for. Sadly his character also felt somewhat underdeveloped, simply acting as a thread that ties back to the first film. That in itself isn’t necessarily bad, but when the plot relies much on what came before, I can’t help but speculate about a story that didn’t.

The score of Blade Runner 2049, created by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, respectfully pays homage to the music from the original Blade Runner which was masterfully composed by Vangelis. As well, what I loved about the score is how it was used rather sparingly. This is an excellent example of how sometimes less is more. Many scenes in this film do not use music at all, allowing the actors and set design to tell the story of those scenes. However, when the score does kick in, it’s highly invigorating, adding a much needed dimension for whatever is happening on-screen. Whether it helps with the tension or allows your mind to be at ease to take in what is being shown, the score does a phenomenal job of rousing your senses.

Overall, Blade Runner 2049 is a film that was created with an enormous amount of respect and care. You can tell there was an overflow of creativity when you see the world presented here. Every detail is beautifully crafted, accompanied by a score that appropriately shows up when it needs to. Though the plot has a few issues, it doesn’t ruin the film by any means. All you need to do is simply sit back and let yourself be taken on a journey through this futuristic world.

- A. Shin

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