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Blade Runner 2049

Watched 5 October 2017

Blade Runner "K" walks toward a desolate cityscape.

Blade Runner is one of my all-time faves. Internet, I have opinions.

First of all: thank you, Ridley Scott, for realising the reins needed to be handed over. And oh boy were they handed to exactly the right people. Denis Villeneuve one-ups Arrival with sheer ambition, and Roger Deakins turns in some of the most beautiful imagery I have ever seen in a film, period.

I can see now why Villeneuve took such a risky job, at a time when sequels are so often aggressively received as “ruining the original” — the script is poignant and gracious, breathing even more life into the world of the first film, but standing on its own as a story worth telling. For all it does, it’s surprising how little it relies on the trappings of being a sequel.

The atmosphere is chilling, sharpening a sense of existential dread and desperation; the original feels more curious and hopeful by comparison. The score handles this transition handsomely, if not as iconically as Vangelis’ 1982 masterpiece. I would love to hear Jóhann Jóhannsson’s take on it.

As before, the world itself is a central character in the narrative, and it gets its fair share of character development: the art direction is delightfully obsessive in attention to detail, presenting brilliant solutions to retro-futuristic contradictions in design. The ’80s approach to futurism is built upon to read as soulful instead of dated, taking “the future is old” to new heights. I could have done without Jared Leto’s blue LED, though.

Unfortunately, just like the theatrical cut of Blade Runner, there are a couple of flaws regarding exposition that I suspect come from studio meddling more than anything else. Here’s hoping we once again get a cleaned-up Director’s Cut.

Like its predecessor, this is an intimate, haunting film, as well as a grandiose cinematic experience. After Ridley Scott’s own meandering Alien prequels, the concept of a new Blade Runner seemed like such a bad idea that this outcome feels nothing short of miraculous.

About star ratings

My ratings are subjective. I’m not aiming for a perfect ranking of comparative artistic merit, just trying to represent how I feel about stuff. Here’s what they mean:

Personal favorite. I simply love it, warts and all.
Something special. Highly recommended.
Good, but unremarkable. I’ll probably forget about it.
A waste of time. Not recommended.
Practically insulting. Soulless garbage. (Rare!)