“Sometimes to love someone, you gotta be a stranger.”
Hype is huge when it comes to resurrecting Ridley Scott’s 80s classic Blade Runner, and what happens when inital reviews are overwhelmingly positive? People go nuts.
The first wave of reactions to 2049 had me hooked: critics call the film a “sci-fi masterpiece” “better than the original” and “one of the best sequels of all time” … bold opinions impossible to overlook, right? Despite those headlines, I ignored full reviews to maintain manageable expectations.
After nearly three hours of Dennis Villenueve’s version of a dystopian Los Angeles, the replicant-hunting flick felt flat and more like a sequel to Her than a continuation of Blade Runner.
A young blade runner’s discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for thirty years.
We’re living in a time where studios actually have the potential to produce sequels or reboots that satisfy as much as their predecessor. So what gives with my lack of enthusiasm for 2049…a film that has been lauded as the almighty sequel? Why do I have to be the hater?
To understand my disappointment with 2049, you’ve got to understand my adoration for the original Blade Runner – it’s classic, boundary-pushing science fiction at it’s greatest. The futuristic vision in Blade Runner was cutting edge material, and time hasn’t dated it. My issues with 2049 don’t stem from it’s inability to build upon what was created in 1982, but a lack of heart the movie has as a whole. Let me explain.
2049 feels like a chore to watch. It’s a tiresome sit-through distracted by the dazzling visual brilliance created by cinematographer Roger Deakins … that much-delayed Oscar is coming. The British cinematographer has been nominated 13 times across his career, for films including The Shawshank Redemption, No Country for Old Men and Skyfall, but has yet to win.
The tone of the movie is entirely flat, the performances are predominantly lifeless and the entire world of 2049 is void of any emotion. It may be overrun by robots that are more human than human, but let’s think about how alive it all felt 35 years prior.
The first Blade Runner was set in the same world yet managed to be equally as frightening as it was extraordinary. It was visually daring and stimulating to experience, but I didn’t feel the same emotions with 2049. With the death of every replicant in the original, it was impossible not to feel a sense of grief for their fight to live, but fast-forward 35 years later, and I couldn’t care less about these new characters or their plight. Why?
“It’s exquisite-looking and distant, inviting you into a painstakingly crafted world but no further — certainly not into any particular investment in K, or Joi, or Joshi, or even its older and embittered Deckard, whose presence is still easily the warmest to the touch of anyone onscreen. Ford’s character wasn’t necessarily sympathetic in the first Blade Runner, but he was one whose fate felt important, an individual trying to survive in a system run by giant, indifferent institutions, unwilling to consider the question of whether he himself was just a tool created by one of them. He was someone whose limited point of view was forcefully cracked open. Blade Runner 2049, on the other hand, manages to be prettier but far more prosaic. It might put on a convincing face, but you couldn’t ask it to pass a Voight-Kampff test.” via Buzzfeed
At 163 minutes, with pacing slow as hell, I was expecting to receive some grandiose revelation, a profound monologue that would give me an ‘a-ha!’ moment of greatness. Rutger Hauer’s “tears in the rain” monologue from the original is one of the most powerful (and brief) monologues of any film. 2049 makes an attempt with Jared Leto’s mumbling speech regarding space expansion and the future of civilization in his zen conference room that was meant to evoke such sentiments, but flopped miserably. I don’t care about all your angels, Leto.
“Think about this, too: there aren’t any truly “great” scenes in Blade Runner 2049 – none that come close to the images burned into our brains courtesy of the original, anyway. Most of the scenes are played as a means to an end, not as self-contained gems you’re desperate to relive the second the Blu-ray comes out. Where the heck are all the memorable moments, Mr. Villeneuve?” via What Culture
I didn’t expect Villeneuve to compete or one-up one of Ridley Scott’s best (if not best) work. I simply wanted him to expand upon what was already given and present a new generation with a deeper dive into the possibility of a dysotopian future.
As WhatCulture explains, the majority of 2049 feels like a giant first act, wondering what this puzzle could unfold into and where the hell Deckard was hiding. In the original, we explored the world as Deckard carried out his duties, but for much of the sequel, “you start to feel like a lost tourist.”
The sequel features one of Hollywood’s greatest “it” actors, and one of my personal favorites to date, Ryan Gosling. But, not even Gosling could match what original protagonist Harrison Ford had to offer. I cared about Ford’s mission, but I felt lost and distracted with Gosling’s quest to uncover the truth.
Embodied by Ford, the character felt three-dimensional in all the ways that Officer K – Ryan Gosling’s protagonist in Blade Runner 2049 – doesn’t. Gosling, as an actor, has two modes: he’s either stoic and charming or stoic and stoic, and in this sequel we get the latter. Officer K is essentially an extension of the character we saw in Drive, the movie that relaunched Gosling’s career and made him Hollywood’s coolest actor.” via WhatCulture
As long as you know you’re not getting a gritty film noir, you’ll have a better appreciation for this film than I did. Watching the final cut of Blade Runner the night before made it glaringly obvious that this was Dennis Villnuave’s take on a tale from the universe of Blade Runner, and it wasn’t the gritty detective masterpiece that Ridley Scott made in the 80s.