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Blade Runner 2049 - A Review
If we are having a conversation about most influential Sci-Fi movies of the 20th century, we may bring up Star Wars for its scope and imagination that captured generation after generation of fans. We may talk about Alien, which changed the horror genre from a bloodbath slasher culture back to the moody character pieces full of ambiance. Maybe most importantly then we need to bring up 1982's Blade Runner, a movie that purposefully was not meant for everyone to enjoy, but one that captured a niche group of fans and made everything from The Terminator to The Matrix possible.
To be honest with all of you I am not the biggest Blade Runner fan, the story telling was cryptic and while looking great for the time, watching it for the first time post new millennium and taking the nostalgia away really hurts the experience. Not to mention those 7 pesky different versions of the film, which drives me crazy, has made me over and over again wonder if I truly saw the best version of Blade Runner. All together while I can respect the influence and themes that the original made possible I was not rushing off the couch to re-enter this world.
With that said Blade Runner 2049 has a few things going for it first of which is that it is not a remake. As the title suggests Blade Runner 2049 takes place 30 years after the events of the original movie and while many things have changed, there is still a need for "Blade Runners" ...cops who hunt down and "retire" older model replicants. This time the focus is on a Blade Runner simply known as K. After retiring a replicant on his protein farm, K notices a tree with a flower growing next to it, a complete rarity in this world where wood is one of the rarest items in the world and farmlands have been replaced with metal shipping containers.
What lies under that tree will be the catalyst for the plot of Blade Runner 2049 but before we get to that lets discuss some of the finer points of the movie. Denis Villeneuve is a director that if you have not yet heard of, its time to get on the bandwagon. Villenueve has directed some of the best movies to come out over the last five years. Movies such as Prisoners(2013) Sicario(2015) and Arrival(2016) have all been amazing and vastly different. The man not only knows how to perfectly capture a tone and is not scared to make things a little dark (Both physically and metaphorically) is probably the perfect director to take on this project.
While Villeneuve is a master of his craft in his own right, he brings with him one of the greatest to ever do it in Mr. Rodger Deakins. Deakins is a name you may have never heard before as "director of photography" is not the sexiest of titles, but his work as cinematographer on a multitude of fantastic looking movies is staggering. Homeboy basically changed the game with the washed out look of "O Brother, Where Art Thou" for the Coen brothers with whom he frequently collaborates. He has now become a staple in the Villenueve camp shooting both Prisoners and Sicario but Blade Runner 2049 may be his best contribution to the Villenueve canon yet.
Blade Runner 2049 may just be the best looking movie to come out in years. The lighting is perfect, the colors are perfect, the placement of the camera is perfect just about everything that is shown in this movie looks amazing. Even the backgrounds which are normally a thick gray fog or a brownish orange dust storm build the cinematic feel of the movie beautifully. Characters moving in and out of shadows builds characters and tension which when added to the fantastic sound mixing and a solid score from Benjamin Wallfisch and Hanz Zimmer makes for and unbelievable ambiance and cinematic tone.
So the movie looks great and sounds great but what about the plot? The story in Blade Runner 2049 is one that is best left undiscussed until after all parties have seen the flick. What I will say is that while a bit confusing and hard to follow at times, just like it's predecessor, the writers of 2049 have done a great job of connecting the two movies, even with 35 years inbetween. We all know Harrisson Ford reprises his role of Rick Deckard but the connections go deeper than that. There are strong connections to the original movie both in theme and tone, but there are little moments that will satisfy the oldest of Blade Runner fans.
What is really important here is the characters, erm well actually kinda just one character, K. Not only does Ryan Goesling play him well but he is really easily the most fulfilling character in the movie. His heroes journey is unique and takes some interesting turns but overall I am left incredible satisfied with his arc. Robin Wright as Lt. Joshi gets a nice supporting role that gets just enough screen time, Jared Leto as Niander Wallace does not. Both characters are important as Joshi is K's boss at the LAPD and Wallace is sort of the defacto bad guy but we never really get to see why other than a few extended monologues.
To go along with the stars there is a cavilcade of side characters littered throughout 2049 and somehow they are almost all fantastic no matter how small the part. Ana De Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, David Dastmalchian, Barkhad Abdi, Wood Harris and even Dave Bautista turn in solid performances from various amounts of time on screen. It is more a testament to Villeneuve than anything, it shows that actors will go out of their way to be in projects of his no matter how large the role.
There is one glaring weakness to Blade Runner 2049, one big huge 163 minute problem. Yes you red that correctly, 2049 clocks in at over 2 hours and 40 minutes long! Now you may be asking "How were they able to not give the big bad enough time in such a long movie!" and my honest answer is I don't know. I will say the movies moves really well for such a long one and I can't say there are a whole lot of wasted scenes or directorial masturbation in the form of extended shots to "really flesh out the loneliness of it all". It is of course as almost always the third act that really slows things down with a load of exposition and back tracking but with a plot so subtle and complicated those sorts of things can be a welcomed sight.
Save for the exorbidant run time and a little fumbling when it comes to characters and plot, Blade Runner 2049 is an amazing movie. I knew that Denis Villenueve must have had faith in the script and the tone to take on such a tall task as I'm sure he is a huge fan of the original movie. I just was not sure how time would take to the ideas and themes presented by the original seeing as those ideas have almost become cliche at this point. It takes a true master to take on such a big task and nail it as well as Villenuive did, but it is almost hard to believe how well this movie lives up to expectations even as I write this. Not only is Blade Runner 2049 certianly in my top 5 movies so far this year just behind Baby Driver and Dunkirk but it is most likely the best Sci-Fy movie since Ex Machina to grace the silver screen. If you are a fan of the original, a fan of Sci-Fy, a fan of movies or even a fan of Ryan Goesling god damnit...see this movie and may your memories not be lost to time, like tears in the rain.