Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049

Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049 (2017) *The New Masterpiece Tops The Old*

Ryan Gosling and Ana de Armas in Blade Runner 2049
Despite not being a fan of the original Blade Runner, I completely acknowledge its importance to science fiction film making.  It’s undoubtedly a seminal work in the genre.  Blade Runner 2049 surpasses it on every level.  It is the rare sequel to a seemingly standalone film that takes everything good about the film and enhance its predecessor while simultaneously telling a better directed, better written, better acted, and visually superior installment.  Blade Runner 2049 isn’t just another Denis Villenueve masterpiece; it’s arguably the best film of 2017.

Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049
Blade Runner 2049 contains plenty of nods to its predecessor, and to understand and experience the full impact of the story, you need to see Blade Runner, but it almost stands on its own.  It doesn’t make any attempt to ape Ridley Scott’s film.  It doesn’t need to.  It exists in that same world (which it establishes with an opening coda), but just as 35 years have passed since the release of the original film, 30 years have passed since the events in Blade Runner (it was set in 2019, this in Los Angeles in 2049).  Think of all that’s happened in the last 30 years and how much the world has changed.  That kind of similar leap has happened in the gap between the films.

Sylvia Hoeks in Blade Runner 2049

I am going to make this a spoiler-free review (as much as possible), so I’m going to be very light on plot other than to say that Blade Runner 2049 has at its core a much better story as it unravels than the original film did.  Pacing is one of my biggest issues with the original film, and Blade Runner 2049 is a whopping 164 minutes long, but the difference is that despite the similar deliberate pace of the films, I never felt bored for a second.  That kind of audience capture is a Denis Villenueve’s specialty and he is, in my opinion, at this point in his career, a much better director than Scott was when he made Blade Runner in 1982.  Villeneuve has to be considered one of the five best directors in Hollywood, and he has shown such a flair for science fiction between Arrival and this picture that I hope he goes ahead with his plans to tackle Frank Herbert’s Dune next.  I don’t think any other director working today can do it justice.  I’ve grown into a huge fan of Villenueve’s (you can read my reviews his Prisoners or Sicario or Arrival by clicking on the link).

Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049

The world of 2049 and its technology is as much a character in the film as any of the actors (more on the ensemble next).  Like the best films, the F/X serve the story and you really don’t spend a huge amount of time thinking about how many are in every shot of the film, but the art direction and cinematography combine with the effects to produce what I call a postcard film.  You can pause any second of Blade Runner 2049 and have a shot worthy of being your desktop wallpaper.  Direction brings all these elements together, but each separately are worthy of special mention.

Harrison Ford in Blade Runner 2049The marketing makes this movie seem like it’s a Ryan Gosling/Harrison Ford team-up.  It’s not.  This is Ryan Gosling’s film with a lot of small, but stellar character roles in it by Ford, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Dave Bautista, and two actresses that I think this film will serve as a breakout film for: Sylvia Hoeks and Ana de Armas.  Ford’s role in the film is much smaller than you would believe going into the film, but he’s absolutely fantastic.  Deckard is one of his signature characters, and Blade Runner 2049 lends him depth and Ford seems to really relish the chance to step back into his shoes.  Jared Leto is also great in a very small supporting role that the marketing hyped.  If I have any complaint about the film it is his character didn’t seem to get enough screen time to be fully fleshed out, but his motivations were made pretty clear through his proxy (Hoeks).  Ryan Gosling carries this film from open to close and creates a character in K that is every bit as iconic as Ford’s Deckard.  It’s a role that could have come off as wooden with a lesser actor, but Gosling gives a nuanced performance that shows he’s continuing to elevate his game.

Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049The best science fiction uses exotic settings and devices to ask very basic, very fundamental questions that explore human nature.  What makes us human?  What’s a soul?  What constitutes life?  Will technology ennoble us as a species or will it enable us to repeat our worst sins on a grander scale?  Blade Runner 2049 explores all of these concepts while providing spectacular visuals, action set pieces, and cinematic excitement.  If there’s a fundamental flaw with this movie, I can’t see it, but you can bet I’ll be back at the theater soon to experience it again.

10/10

Blade Runner 2049 Poster

15 thoughts on “Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049 (2017) *The New Masterpiece Tops The Old*”

  1. This is a must for us. It is just perfect for my husband’s interest. And I love anything Harrison Ford, especially Regarding Henry since we are living it. Love your reviews, Dave.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. GREAT review. I’m liking my memories of the film better than the first viewing. It’s a thoroughly awesome film that works on its own merits, unlike most revivals. I was unprepared for the film’s cerebral nature, and the way it plays around inside the universe.

    I think I know what my problem was, other than the hype: despite all the new ground it broke, the film would have captured the essence of BR perfectly, if it had only been shot from the same kind of minimalist script. There is a lot of silence in the new movie, a lot of room for the characters, and us, to contemplate our humanity and take in the sights, but a lot of the dialogue is the dialogue from a conventional movie, instead of a stylized film noir. It’s trying to be like a stylized film noir, no question, but if it had possessed the genuine atmosphere of BR, the studio would probably not have backed it. Not saying it’s a conventional film by any stretch, just that I have a feeling some bones were thrown.

    The script gets out of the way in the original. The characters say what they have to say, and the atmosphere and claustrophobia envelop you all the more.

    My jaw was hanging open with the visuals in the new one, and I love the plot, and it has so much more on its mind than BR, and almost every SF movie in fact. But the script to the original feels like a holdover from the 1970’s, and this one feels like a 2017 movie. And there is probably nothing wrong with that, because look at what year we’re in. But the script sets the tone as much as the visuals, and in this case everything but the style of the dialouge was modeled on something made a long time ago. I am going to try to not let this get in the way of my enjoyment the second time.

    Hope you’re doing OK.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it almost demands a second viewing. I love that it wrestles with the big questions in the way the best kind of scifi does. As far as the lingo, like I pointed out in the review, look how much things change in 30 years. People don’t talk now the way they did in 1987, slang and cadence change and evolve and just as they did with the tech and the world, you could argue they did so with the language also. The whole paradigm of the world has changed between the two films, so it would make sense that a marked change in language would also occur. They do stick to the minimalist approach, letting actions and visuals dictate more than dialogue; that when when words are spoken they mean a lot. What was very nice was the use of score wasn’t distracting like in BR but truly served the film. I swear if I heard a synthesizer I was running for the exit.

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      1. The score to the first one is the only part of the film I am not enamored with. Scores can really date movies, and I prefer timeless ones. BR score sounds like an early 80’s attempt to sound futuristic, which is exactly what it is, and it is a distraction from the brilliance. The score to the new one is fantastic.

        Minimalism is not the same as slowness. The pacing of the new one is off. BR1 takes its time but I am never bored. But to cite just one example, K knew he would find the horse. We knew he would find the horse. The buildup did not have to last so long, it was just K slowly advancing through an atmittedly impressive set. The buildup in the casino took way too long too. Without exaggeration, this film would have been better if it had been a full half hour shorter. The hologram was a bad idea btw, no problem with K having her in his apartment, but turning her into a sidekick was formulaic and did not feel appopriate in a sequel to BR.

        Still an impressive movie, but it is sadly bombing. Only 13 mil on Friday. They made a huge mistake with all the secrecy. To bring in a younger crowd they needed an aggressive push without ambiguity or coyness.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No, commercially it’s going to bomb unless it hits overseas or WB pushes it for Oscar consideration, but so did BR. The brand name was too old for them to bank on. They should have used more of Ryan Gosling’s momentum coming off La La Land. As far as the pacing, the long, languid shots of the the cars flying through LA that NEVER EVER STOPPED are much bigger pacing problems than the second film had. I think Villeneuve might have made it a tighter film but he was trying to pay respect to BR without bloated pointless shots like the original (depending on which of the five cuts we’re talking about) is full of.

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      3. First, there is only the final cut. The theatrical version does not even exist. What came in between is almost identical to the final cut, so people who say all the different versions are ridiculous are sowing confusion where there is none. Second, we are never going to see eye to eye on the first BR, and that is ok. I would rather live in a world where everyone but me hated BR than a world where everyone everywhere agreed.

        I never fail to be fascinated by the exterior shots of LA in BR. And during those shots I am not being forced to anticipate a plot point I know for a fact is coming. They could have shaved 10 minutes from BR and made it a tighter film, but 2049 could have easily been a 2 hour movie, and still have kept all the incredible, mysterious visuals of future technologies. The tension and interest created in the first 20 minutes are just not maintained. The good points get diluted. I’m glad the film exists, and I like it a lot, but it is very flawed.

        Like

  3. Dave do you think SPOILER Deckard is a replicant? Because the question still remains. K’s false memory is of a horse. Seems like a deliberate callback to the unicorn to me.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. In light of the great pains that were taken, and the guts they exhibited after 35 years by taking those pains, I do not think will find what we are looking for.

        And I love Villenvue for it!

        Like

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