Blade Runner 2049 (8.3)

Blade Runner 2049 is about a replicant, Officer K (Ryan Gosling) who is given the task of hunting down other rogue replicants and in the process unearths a secret that makes him question what it means to be human.

Just like the Blade Runner universe I have reemerged, uncalled for, with no proven track record of success, only to lose money once again.

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Cinematographer Roger Deakins, looking stunning as always

Box office jokes aside, this movie was by all means artistically successful. The story was methodical and thoughtful, which was quite a contrast to most modern blockbusters. Denis Villeneuve understood that a Blade Runner sequel couldn’t be just an action movie and he handled it with a poise that echoed Ridley Scott’s original techniques.

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A bleak cityscape from Blade Runner (1982)

I have probably seen close to 1,000 movies and one thing I especially value is when a director has control of timing. While there are many great fast-paced works, one of the hardest things to do is to slow down while maintaining the audiences attention. Ridley Scott demonstrated this in the original Blade Runner, and in his previous movie Alien. Alien demonstrates that when you give the audience very few shots of the monster, it can be much scarier than anything you could put on screen. Similarly, you can limit what is shown on screen to give the audience time to think, as shown in Blade Runner. This can actually allow the audience to get deeper into the story, as the director does not need to explain all the nuances he wants an audience to see, but instead imply them.

“Commerce is our goal here. More human than human is our motto.”           – Tyrell, Blade Runner (1982)

Villeneuve picked up where the franchise left off, and posed more questions than it answered. It also left some of its predecessor’s original question unanswered, leaving the mystery of the original intact.

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The streets of Los Angeles in Blade Runner 2049, clearly influenced visually by the original.

If you’re not one for philosophical movies, you could just watch Roger Deakins manipulate light and color for almost 3 hours and be perfectly happy. I had a friend who didn’t understand the plot but really enjoyed the movie just for the visuals. He and Villeneuve understood not only the look, but the feel of the original and were able to bring that forward 30 years into an even darker world.

Harrison Ford, who won’t get out of bed for less than $10 million, gave a surprisingly layered performance. While it was fun to see him back as Han Solo in The Force Awakens, I didn’t feel like there was much there there. In Blade Runner, he seemed to understand the importance of his role, and had incredible command over the character.

Some may disagree with me on this but I found the movie a rare misfire for the ever popular Hans Zimmer. His music typically works well in similar movies, but his loud drones seemed more like him making a statement than to emphasize plot points.

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Officer K in an abandoned Vegas showroom, searching for Deckard

The storyline that this movie was a massive failure emerged only a couple days after its release because it did not live up to expectations at the box office. While it may have been a failure for the producer or distributer, Villeneuve made this movie for the audience, whose reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Not every movie needs to draw in over half a billion to be great (has anyone seen Avatar since it left theaters? Serious question). Despite its box office performance, this movie still has the ability to make a cultural impact and grow its audience. Only time will tell if it has the depth to back up its massive balls.

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