Blade Runner 2049 Review

I don’t even know what to say.

Blade Runner 2049 is the sequel to the cult classic Blade Runner. No one really asked for a sequel to Blade Runner. I mean, I was certainly surprised to hear about its existence. At the time, all I knew about the original was that it was a classic and Harrison Ford starred in it. So, I watched the original, and immediately thought the worst of the impending sequel. I mean, it could be good with the right people, but Hollywood never gets the right people.

Then, Hollywood got the right people.

Music by Hans Zimmer. Camerawork by Roger Deakins. Writers from the original Blade Runner and Logan. And, most encouragingly, direction from Denis Villeneuve, director of Arrival, Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, and others. I was interested.

The time came for the movie to come out, and (to my dismay) it flopped. Not critically, no, it was embraced by most everyone. What was worrying was the fact that this film had a budget of $150 million and it opened with $32 million. For those of you who don’t really know about box office margins, let’s look at a few other films of similar budget. Ratatouille, Thor: The Dark World, and Mad Max: Fury Road. Ratatouille, the 2007 Disney-Pixar animated film, has a great market: kids. Kids make Hollywood money, so this movie made money. It’s worldwide total exceeded $620 million, and it opened with $47 million. Pretty good, pretty good. Next, we have the Marvel film Thor 2. While Ratatouille was an original idea, therefore making it harder to sell, Thor was a part of the already-successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. That has a built-in audience of comic fans, as well as the hordes of teenagers, adults, and kids who will see the movie because they recognize Thor from The Avengers. Thor 2 opened at $85 million.

The last film we’re gonna look at resembles 2049 a lot more closely than the last two. They’re both late sequels to critically acclaimed films, they both have a good helping of critical love themselves, they’re both rated R, they both star a currently-hot actor in the leading role, and they both kinda came out of the blue in terms of existence. No one was really asking for a sequel to Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, but we got it anyways. Max 4 opened with $45 million.

As we can see, a $32 million opening is nowhere close to good for a film of this budget. Considering all the talent involved, I wasn’t terribly happy when I saw the numbers this movie was making. After seeing it, I’m even less pleased, so I’m making a PSA right now. If you have not seen Blade Runner 2049, watch it. Watch it right now. If it’s still in theaters by the time you read this, go watch it. If it’s not, wait until it comes out on video and buy it. Don’t rent it, you’re gonna wanna watch it again. There aren’t too many movies that I explicitly say this for, but you need to see this. 2049 is absolutely unmissable, and here’s why.

To start, let’s talk about the visuals. I’m a real sucker for good visuals (as anyone who’s watched a good-looking movie with me before will tell you, I am very enthusiastic about good cinematography.) This movie darn near killed me. Every single shot is worthy of being a desktop wallpaper. Every. Single. Shot. If you want an example, the cover image I’ve put for this review isn’t too far off from an actual shot in the movie. And the movie version looks better. By this point, Roger Deakins is such a master of his craft that he could make my graceless dog missing his jump onto the couch look like a renaissance painting. Moving beyond the camera, everything on screen works beautifully to realize this world and seep you further and further into dread. The colors are perfectly grim, all of the effects are convincing, the sets are just incredible, it’s all perfect. There is not a single thing wrong with the things we see on screen.

“That’s great,” you might be thinking. “That’s just peachy, Dawson, but is anything else good? Is it a case of A Cure for Wellness where it looks amazing but is really just hot garbage?” No. Thank God. This movie is far from a polished turd. It’s a polished burrito. It’s substantial, it’s spicy, it’s brutal, it’s everything you’d ever want from a burrito, but in movie form. The plot is captivating, but I kinda feel like giving any of it away would spoil it. Every plot point, every bit of information is revealed at just the right moment, right when it’s dramatically appropriate. despite this, nothing feels frustratingly withheld for the sake of tension. K (Ryan Gosling) is doing everything he possibly can to unravel this mystery – and he gets results. That’s why it always feels earned, K doesn’t have anyone telling him he’s too stupid to know a piece of information, or that he doesn’t have access to it. Even if he does, he just finds it out himself. No bit of information was cheaply earned or unfairly classified, and you have no idea how rare that is.

Let’s talk about actors. They’re kind of necessary to a film, good actors even more necessary. All of the performances are great. Ryan Gosling is the master of staring forlornly into the distance. He’s able to convey a mountain of emotion and character with only a sad face. He’s incredible. Harrison Ford is in this movie, and he’s exceptional as well. I was actually surprised by this, because before I watched it, I wasn’t sure if he cared about this project or not. He’s one of those actors whose performance quality increases or decreases with the amount of care he holds or does not hold for the movie in question. As a result, if he wasn’t particularly fond of a Blade Runner sequel, his performance wouldn’t be anything to write home about. In a movie like this, if there’s one person underperforming, they stick out. Here, he gives his best performance in years. Another surprise was Jared Leto who plays the antagonist of sorts. Last time we looked at Leto, he was hamming it up in Suicide Squad as the worst Joker to hit the screen. Now, as far as I’m concerned, he’s redeemed himself. Ana de Armas is heartbreaking as Joi, K’s AI companion. If I listed everyone who did a great job, this review would be twice as long.

This is a heavy movie. It deals with numerous topics surrounding humanity and love, like how close to human can artificial humanity get, how close should it get, can an AI love, can we love an AI, how much of a role does memory play into humanity; this movie even touches on some environmental issues as well. The movie presents these questions, as well as both sides of the resulting debate, and leaves you to chew on the ideas yourself. You will want to see this movie multiple times, I certainly do. If not for the breathtaking visuals, for the ideas thought upon.

As I thought further about it, I struggled to come up with anything wrong in this movie. Even things I originally thought were flaws turned out not to be. Not only are there no flaws, the whole movie embodies the figurative bar. The bar that indicates how good a film can be. How good the shots can be, how good the music can be, how good the acting can be, how good the writing can be, how good the directing can be, how good anything can be. As I sat in the theater, accompanied by a friend and some other moviegoers, I felt something. Something I scarcely feel. I felt like this movie, against all odds, was becoming a 10/10. And after much deliberation, I’ve decided that it is.


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