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Review: Blade Runner 2049

Sci-Fi Sequels: Can they live up to the original?

Reboot+of+Blade+Runner+welcomes+back+stars+from+the+original+like+Harrison+Ford+%282017%29.
Reboot of Blade Runner welcomes back stars from the original like Harrison Ford (2017).

Reboot of Blade Runner welcomes back stars from the original like Harrison Ford (2017).

Photo by Creative Commons

Photo by Creative Commons

Reboot of Blade Runner welcomes back stars from the original like Harrison Ford (2017).

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I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Studios digging up beloved properties just to make a quick buck. I watched trailers to sci-fi sequels betray everything that made the original a classic.  All these worries about Blade Runner 2049 will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

I’m happy to admit I was wrong, but you can’t blame me for my doubts. I mean those trailers really were bad. To be fair though check out this trailer for the original Blade Runner, it’s even worse. Anyway 2049 is great, not as great as the original mind you, but then again, what is? It’s a much larger film than its predecessor in mostly every way. The scope is greater, there’s a lot more going on story-wise, and the themes it deals with are even more complicated. But is complicated better? In this case I’d say no. Sure the plot is a lot more complex with plenty of twists and turns, but it doesn’t match the brilliant simplicity of the original. 2049 is more focused on the story, as opposed to Blade Runner where the themes about what it means to be human overtook the actual plot with Deckard hunting down the replicants. That’s not to say that this one isn’t good, it’s just different.

2049 is great, not as great as the original mind you, but then again, what is? It’s a much larger film than its predecessor in mostly every way.”

While the movie is different in many ways, one thing 2049 retains is the slow pacing and general quietness. I still love this approach and it’s awesome to see a sci-fi movie with a budget like this that doesn’t rely on big action sequences to hold the attention of the audience. I do kind of take issue with the quiet though. Looking back at Blade Runner, it’s still very restrained, but there was always that gloriously atmospheric Vangelis score playing. Here it’s mostly without music which works, and does differentiate it, but the score is really what makes Blade Runner, and I can’t help but think how much better 2049 would be with Vangelis behind it.

The visual style is different as well, while remaining distinctly Blade Runner. It has less of the noir look of the first one, replacing the always dark and rainy sky with a constant gray fog looming over future LA, which makes the whole thing seem much more bleak. You’ve also got the new replicant company building which looks just like the last one with the same yellow shimmering lights and a bright orange desert littered with buried statues. It all looks incredible, but I prefer the rain and neon soaked streets of the first film, it’s all too clean looking for my tastes.

Ryan Gosling is good as the lead. He’s mostly playing his character from Drive, not showing much emotion. Harrison Ford is surprisingly good as well, actually acting for the first time in quite a while. The rest of the cast is fine, I liked seeing Edward James Olmos again, even if his scene really only amounts to a cameo. The one that I was most worried about, Jared Leto, surprised me by hardly even being in it. He’s not bad, but it would’ve been a million times cooler if it was David Bowie in the role like Villeneuve intended.

This is the kind of movie we desperately need more of. In an age of nostalgia pandering (Which I guess you could argue this does, but I’d disagree) and an endless stream of seemingly factory produced superhero movies, it’s really a miracle that this got made. Think about it. A nearly three hour long hard sci-fi film made on a $100+ million budget with hardly any action or humor that moves incredibly slow and is more concerned with ideas than it is with explosive set pieces. I still have some issues with Blade Runner 2049, like how it doesn’t have the emotional core that the first one had in Roy Batty, (Nothing in it comes close to being as powerful as the “Tears in rain” monologue.) and there’s some other minor things that I won’t get into because of spoilers, but as a whole this is really great. Now I really hope this does well financially, since I’d love to see more stuff like this, but I also really hope they don’t do another sequel. Oh god, they could even bring back Ridley Scott! Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it?

 

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Review: Blade Runner 2049