Blade Runner 2049 Falls Flat

Blade Runner 20493star“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.

No Spoilers

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Ryan Gosling Blade Runner 2049

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.

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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?

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“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

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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.”

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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.

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26 Comments

  1. Very fair criticisms. This isn’t a masterpiece and it’s not better than the original. It’s very slow and there aren’t memorable scenes like in the first one (“tears in the rain” is, as you said, one of the best ever). For me, the visuals and the overall aesthetics were enjoyable and felt like an extension of the original, a worthy continuation, and that was enough for me to like the film. But you’re right, it’s not a truly great movie. I don’t think you are a hater for pointing out the flaws.

    1. Thanks, Sean! The visuals were overwhelmingly captivating, but I knew they would be watching the trailers. It’s definitely a fine continuation of the original, but it felt like a totally different movie to me…which is okay…but I’d never say it’s better in any sense. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I loved the original as well…I rewatched it not so long ago and did a review for it. Honestly I am getting caught up in the hype as well, with all these rave reviews for the movie. I hope to see it on saturday myself. But at the same time I am also very skeptical. When movies are hyped this much I really try to stay on my toes so to speak. I can’t judge it yet, but I am actually glad for reviews like these, it helps lower my expectations. Great post! 😊

    1. I don’t want to lower expectations; I just want people to be more realistic. I didn’t want to write a review that just spewed negativity, but rather a different point of view from a fan. Thanks for your input, and link me to your review when you see it!

  3. Fantastic write-up! I saw this last night and haven’t had a chance to write about it, but I completely agree. In recent times, critics have started to label films as either “masterpieces” or “total disasters”, with few in-betweens. Yet Blade Runner 2049 did fall somewhere in the middle.

    While the cinematography is impressive, the story fell flat for me as well. I say this as a huge fan of Denis Villeneuve, whose works usually show a lot of heart. But this script never once came close to the Voight-Kampff dialogue, or Rutger Hauer’s (supposedly improvised) monologue.

    Blade Runner has always been thematically powerful and thought-provoking. Yet the sequel only scraps the surface of the meaning behind humanity, throwing out superficial questions that have been better raised before, in films like Her and Ex Machina. That said, 2049 is still one of the more interesting films I’ve seen, only disappointing considering its original.

  4. 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

    all day, erery day…. jokes aside this speaks volume

  5. I couldn’t agree more. I love the original but not enough to wait for a sequel with bated breath. I liked all the technical elements involved with 2049 but overall it was boring. Extremely slow paced and it didn’t wow me like the original concept of Blade Runner did. I think had they scraped the unnecessary love story (which I’m glad you also saw this movie as a Her sequel) they could have focused more on adding something valuable to the overall concept instead of creating a multi-million dollar fanfic.

  6. Great review! I liked it more than you did, and I right now I feel like I enjoyed it more than the original, but I’d need to re-watch it first to make a fair judgement.

      1. Just watched it yesterday. I agree with many points…

        SPOILERS AHEAD.

        a) Leto’s character was totally useless
        b) you do feel like a lost tourist because the movie even with such a slow pace manages to show so little of this world! That was embarassing at times. It felt like they choose a room or two to shoot and do it fucking brilliantly well, but if you don’t show what’s outside the room or how this world works… it makrs me feel like a tourist on a panoramic bus.
        c) Gosling was fine, but not outstanding. Agree with you. Ford in the first movie was totally different, but Gosling…
        d) the score was good, but sometimes felt like…typical Hans Zimmer’s stuff.
        e) the plot. While it was well-crafted and connected to the first movie, developing it, I was hoping for something bigger than the eternal dilemma of sons, fathers, daughters and all this melodramatic stuff.
        f) the ending. The movie just finishes in the middle of nowhere.

        With all that said, I just loved the movie. I need to think more about it. Visually, it’s a masterpiece. I loved it’s slow pace. There were many beautiful scenes that, in my opinion, will remain rewatchable for a long time as stand-alone scenes. My favourite was when Joi merged with another girl. That made a huge impression on me. Maybe that’s personal, but it was a very powerful scene.

        It is not a masterpiece, and the movie’s strentghs and weaknesses are often the same thing. It doesn’t happen often to me to criticize a movie so much and love it at the same time. So, maybe I need more time, as Brittani.

        There’s also a high probability that this kind of film needs more time to be appreciated…or more time to be less appreciated. My vote goes for the first option.

        Sorry for a messed up writing. 😑

      2. Thanks for all your feedback! I definitely agree with you on the Joi body merge…I kind of wish the movie was more of that “Her” aspect without the other subplots, but then it wouldn’t be Blade Runner.

  7. I enjoyed Gosling’s path to discover who he is while watching this. At least Gosling had better chemistry with De Maras than Ford had with Young. I understand and respect your opinions of it. I enjoyed it but it will not be anywhere near the same level as the original but it in my opinion pretty damn close Even if it is a sequel to Her

  8. Good, honest review Courtney. The inital reviews definitely overhyped it. I give the film a 3.5/5. What generated much of the emotion and atmosphere in the 1982 original was Vangelis’ amazing soundtrack. Zimmer/Wallfisch try to recapture that, but the new score, while decent, is nowhere near as good. Still, it wasn’t a chore for me, the sequel held my interest despite some rehash and an almost 3h running time.

  9. I enjoyed it more than you did but these are fair criticisms. I think that was because I went in with zero expectations. I only watched one trailer and ignored all the reviews. I was overwhelmed on my first showing but watched it again soon afterwards. Enjoyed it the second time round and was able to pick up more of the subtle narratives it was portraying. Too early to say masterpiece and the long running time certainly did not help but loved how artful and beautiful it was. It’s a bit old school in that way and not like most films today. Time will be a factor (just like how the original became widely recognised as a sci-fi classic) but I think 2049 will have enough to sustain that, despite the poor box office takings.

    1. Thanks! I’m actually really surprised that it’s flopping at the box office, because it’s certainly worthy of some $$$ recognition. It just goes to show what sells and what doesn’t these days…it’s a shame, because I thought this one would be highly financially successful.

      1. Well it’s sort of expected sadly. We’re talking about a film that a) has a 30 year cult following, b) largely aimed at an adult demographic, c) some may never have heard of Blade Runner and its original impact and d) may not be interested at all. It doesn’t have the same appeal as a comic book film which the turn out is higher and has a broader base of who watches it. No matter what people’s opinion of Blade Runner 2049, it deserves much more. When we ask for more ambitious films and no one shows up when it comes along, it’s sad.

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