BLADE RUNNER 2049 (Review): A visual masterpiece with static storytelling

NO SPOILERS!

1982s Blade Runner, although not a commercial, box office hit, found it’s footing on home release and has since been one of the most dissected and studied Sci-Fi films of all time. The cult classic, now regarded as one of Ridley Scott’s finest films was nothing short of a visual masterpiece. Scott’s interpretation of how the future would look more than 30 years ago is stunning and probably one of the closest predictions of how the modern world would pan out. However, for me, the film never offered much more than an incredible visual experience. Whilst aware of the existential themes of the film, I was never blown aware and unlike others who love the film and I never thought back on the film after I watched it. Though overall an enjoyable watch, I found myself wanting more and always feel like I have missed something that those who love the film were clearly aware of. Now with 2049 hitting theatres after a 35 year hiatus in the franchise, I once again find myself the anomaly amongst the stellar reviews.

 

First of all, once again from a visual standpoint this film is faultless. Denis Villeneuve once again has proven himself as one of the finest discernible directors working today. One detail that Villeneuve executed perfectly was the advancement of the world that Ridley Scott created. It is clear that close attention was paid in order to further the technology predicted by Scott in 1982, instead of just integrating the world we have today into the film. On top of this the visual effects are exceptional with not a single frame looking computer generated. Although the film had the help of a budget exceeding $150m, its use of practical effects as a preference and only incorporating CGI when necessary provide a much more visceral experience.

 

Amongst the technical achievements of Blade Runner 2049 is its score. Provided by Hans Zimmer, it is distinctly reminiscent of his work on Interstellar, which earned him an Oscar nomination back in 2015. The music, although not everpresent, made itself known when it was there, jumping out of the speakers adding an incredible sense of wonder to every scene in which it was used. The score was also accompanied by excellent performances across the board. Ryan Gosling was the clear standout in this film but it is Harrison Ford who turns in by far his best performance in recent years. Jared Leto is surprisingly tolerable in this film and he manages not to be distracting or over the top for the scenes in which he is sparingly used.

 

However, as stated earlier on, this film is not without its negatives. At 2 hours and 43 minutes the film is a slog. And similar to my thoughts on Arrival (Denis Villenueve’s most recent film), the pacing of some scenes was poor, bringing the film to a halt multiple times. There were countless lingering shots, all just a second or two too long but cumulatively probably contributed to about 20 minutes of the already bloated runtime. Similar to a gripe I have with Sam Mendes’ style of filmmaking, Villeneuve uses a multitude of establishing shots to introduce to nearly every scene, which can grate on you when it is clear that the film is in some need of revitalisation. Maybe this is an issue with the editing as well, but had the film been less ruthless with its obtuse pacing a good chunk of the runtime could have been shaved off. Though this may take away slightly from the visual kudos this film is trying to achieve, it would have certainly made it more accessible to more casual cinemagoers.

 

It seems though that the film’s pacing is a universal concern for even the biggest fans of this film. Another issue i took with the film was it’s missed opportunity to attach some emotion into what turned out to be quite a grey film. Certainly the story line with Ryan Gosling’s ‘K’ was one that could have tugged on the heartstrings had it been approached differently. The arc he has is one that would naturally provoke a reaction from the audience, and it did, but it lacked that overall punch to it, that the film could have really benefitted from. Also, it sets itself up as a detective story, having ‘K’ stumble onto a thread that unravels gradually throughout the film. While mainly a metaphor for his own self discovery, the revelation at the end is somewhat predictable and a bit of a let down. Considering it took 160 minutes to reach the finale, I expected that there would be a bit more I could take from it.

 

Overall, though, I would say that any fan of the original Blade Runner will be delighted with what this film has to offer. It is a true sequel that develops on the original, maintaining the same archetypes and tone and thankfully doesn’t suffer from the studio trying to build a franchise around this property. I would go as far to say that it is better than the original too, with the investigative nature of the story providing for a more enticing story than the original. However, if you did find 1982s Blade Runner to be a bit dour and boring at times, I personally wouldn’t recommend this film. Denis Villeneuve, whilst putting his own stamp on it, has followed the same parameters of storytelling that Ridley Scott opted for 35 years ago. It is at times confusing and doesn’t pander to the audience as most Hollywood films these days do. Although this will be a positive for some people, an approach where the audience has to do a lot of work to get something from the film definitely takes away from the actual experience of watching it. And what many critics will call masterful storytelling, I will say that more casual film fan would just use the word ‘pretentious’.

 

3 stars

 

Leave your thoughts in the comments below…

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21 thoughts on “BLADE RUNNER 2049 (Review): A visual masterpiece with static storytelling

  1. I don’t think ‘pretentious’ from the ‘normal’ cinema-goer would be fair but there’s a definite possibility they’dun find it long, and possibly a little bit confusing in places. I’m a visual-kinda-guy, especially in the way shots are set-up and it blew me away in that sense. However, they could have lost a good 20 minutes of lingering, as you say, where not much was going on.

    My negatives were that I expected a LOT more from Leto’s character, he was lost in the world but Luv took that chance and ran with it – literally? The naked woman scene (being harvested) with Wallace was bizarre though, I understood what it was about, but it just doesn’t work and all felt a bit unnecessary.

    Gosling was on top form, Harrison Ford now plays Harrison but we all still love him but those visuals and THAT score were sublime.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I get what you mean with regards to me saying people may find it pretentious. Although not my own opinion, there is times when a film that requires thought and dissection to understand is described as pretentious and I just thought it was possible that that word could be thrown into the mix with this film.

      I agree with what you say about Leto’s character too, his performance was fine but I’d say the writing for him felt inconsistent and his plans, I thought, were unclear. For me, he came across as a bit of a Marvel villain and his motives were just “I’m bad, and so I want to do bad things.” – although if there is something I’m missing with his character that you picked out, please do enlighten me – Interestingly David Bowie was Villeneuve’s original choice for Leto’s part before he died, think it would have been great to see what he would’ve brought to the role.

      Also, yes, Harrison Ford played Harrison Ford, but in recent years I thought he’d been phoning it in a bit (particularly Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Force Awakens). But for this he delivered a good performance.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think Nolan’s films of late have given rise to a ‘deeper’ understanding within films, I’m glad personally and he always gives his audiences the chance to try and understand it. That said, Nolan’s can also be more obvious with their intentions.

        Don’t get me wrong on Ford though, he’s a proper big screen legend and definitely gave more for this one and I saw a twinkling of his classic one-liners as well.

        I think I was just underwhelmed by Leto and he kinda disappeared for a long section of the film, Luv had more of an impact and you felt her anger and fight. Love your point on a Marvel villain, that’s exactly what it was and I wanted to feel it a little deeper.

        Finally, I didn’t know that about Bowie, that would be have been something! Still miss that talent…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Definitely true what you say about Nolan yes. The fact that studios trust him with $150m budgets for the type of film he creates shows he’s unique in the industry. Although Nolan does like to make more of ‘the thinking man’s blockbuster’, I’d say that I agree he’s more obvious with his intentions. Though I think his film’s benefit from that, you get that understanding required at the end of the film and the satisfaction from story pay off. However, there’s always so much more you can gain from revisiting it and he manages to do all this whilst making very entertaining films – definitely my favourite writer/director working today.

        And yeah, Leto was overshadowed by Luv for sure. When he was first introduced, it seemed like he’d be one of the main driving points of the film but was sidelined for the majority of it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Adam! Thanks for the follow. You do movie reviews too? Cool!

    My only two nitpicks of the film are:

    1. There was just one shot that could’ve been left out.

    2. Zimmer’s main theme for Blade Runner 2049 was all over the place.

    Other than that I really, really liked it. Film of the decade for sure. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting – yeah my page is mostly movie reviews or just general thoughts etc.
      With regards to Zimmer’s score, I really liked it personally, although I know some people do find his work a bit messy and jarring at times…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah! It’s nice to finally find a like-minded individual when it comes to films.

        To me personally Zimmer’s work on Blade Runner 2049 tarnishes his perfect record. It was the main theme really. It’s as if he and Wallfisch hobbled together portions from other songs…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree for sure Zimmer has a perfect record, although I’m not a fan of his Amazing Spider-Man 2 score, but that’s it I’d say. I can’t see myself listening to this score outside of this film, but in the context of it I really enjoyed it

        Like

      3. I think we can agree that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 shouldn’t have been made. :)))

        And yes on the 2049 soundtrack: It really is an accurate audio description of the Blade Runner universe, mistakes and all.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Amazing Spider-Man 2 was just awful, I really loved Andrew Garfield as the character too, but Sony were so desperate to have a cinematic universe they forgot about the film they were actually making

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Exactly. Like Spider-Man 3, the heroes worst enemy was corporate meddling. Sayang. Garfield was pretty good, though he had to work with what he was given, which wasn’t much, sadly.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I can understand why most would find the movie ponderous and pretentious. I myself appreciate that there’s still room for filmmakers that don’t feel the need to give us a roller-coaster ride every time at bat. BLADE RUNNER 2049 is firmly in the style and mood of the original and I appreciated that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you there. It is the perfect sequel with regards to the film that it is following. Also, in a time when films are made mostly for money and less so out of passion we need directors like Villeneuve, Nolan, Edgar Wright etc to give us something original and outstanding. My favourite films of the year are usually smaller budget films that rely on their quality, not marketing, to get noticed. However, with 2049 I felt like Villeneuve didn’t quite get the balance right between taking his time to tell the story he wanted to tell, whilst making it compelling for the audience. I realise I am not in the majority with this conclusion, but it is how I feel. Thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey Adam, thanks for following our blog! Yours is incredibly written and very thought provoking. I appreciated reading your comments on Blade Runner 2049, and found them very insightful. Agree with much of it! Keep it up…look forward to visiting your site often!
    Frank

    Liked by 1 person

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