I ended up buying the original Blade Runner to prepare for seeing this, but I ended up not watching it. Oops.
Then again, director Denis Villeneuve did tell The Wrap that “the idea was to make sure that someone who knows nothing about the universe can still enjoy the movie, having enough clues and background in the movie”. So I took him at his word. I’d say for the most part, he was correct.
Blade Runner 2049 is Villeneuve’s most beautiful film I have ever seen, and it’s the most visually stunning film I have seen all year. If I was grading this solely on visuals, cinematography, and editing, this movie would be getting a 10 out of 10. Nearly every single scene is breathtaking, and the entire world that’s created looked so appealing despite how dystopian everything was.
The attention to detail is so rich, and it brought the world to life in ways that almost no movie has ever been able to. Everything in this futuristic universe made sense and was organic to how the universe worked.
These are the only shining compliments that I have for this movie, however.
The performances were all great, with Ryan Gosling having a very fleshed out and somber character arc. However, there’s no performance that made me fall in love with any of these characters. I went through the entire movie wondering why I wasn’t emotionally connecting to anybody.
This is likely due to the fact that every single person in this movie is joyless and humorless. Now I’m not saying that they should have added a heaping helping of comic relief, but some would not have hurt. After a while, it felt like I was watching a bunch of robots walking around and talking to each other.
Ana De Armas was great as well (and stunning as always… hoo boy), but the longer she was in the story, the more I was constantly questioning the extents and limitations of her character. I really can’t say any more without spoiling parts of the movie, and since the trailer was so great in not doing that, I’m not about to do that either.
Harrison Ford probably gave his most emotionally convincing performance in a long time (but that’s not saying much), and Jared Leto was great…. when he was actually in the movie. He’s not in the film enough to be an effective villain, and some of the scenes he’s in don’t make any doggone sense. But what can you do?
There’s a few moments in the narrative where I was wondering why the hell people were being so vague or obtuse with each other. Like there were pivotal moments when Gosling’s character finally finds what who he’s after, and he wastes his time asking opaque questions. And all I was thinking was “Dude, come on. Why in the world are you not being more precise with your questions?” And the only two answers I could think of for why was so that the movie could be more mysterious and so that it wouldn’t spoil a few twists revealed later.
Also, the movie is over two and a half hours long.
Regardless, most of the movie goes by quickly, but there are a few scenes that are overly dragged out for no reason.
Also, there is a bit of sex in the movie, and A LOT of boobs. Decide for yourself if this is a plus or a minus for you.
So the movie is fantastic, but it wasn’t phenomenal like I was hoping for. The movie is shot and edited as perfectly as perfect can be. The performances were all great. But the film does not have any sort of emotional punch, and it’s not really as deep as it wants to be. There are also moments of the film that really drag out.
This is the third movie I’ve seen from Villeneuve, the others being Sicario and Arrival (which was #5 on my best of 2016 list, and probably shoud’ve been #4 or #3). And visual-wise, Blade Runner 2049 far surpasses either of these films (and Arrival was no slouch on visuals either), but story-wise, I can’t say that Blade Runner 2049 is better than either of these movies.
That said, even if this movie ends up being my least favorite Villeneuve film, I’d say that speaks volumes of just how amazing he is as a director.
8 out of 10