Saturday, October 7, 2017

Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049, like the original, is better defined by its tone than its plot, characters, or even themes. Those elements are all present in both movies, but what's memorable is the world. It's the visuals and sounds of Blade Runner that defined thirty-five years of dystopian cinema and influenced damn near every Japanese animated movie since.

If you've seen Blade Runner and have no idea what I'm talking about, let me save you three hours: you can skip this one. But if, like me, you loved the world of the original and would welcome a chance to visit it again... holy crap, are you in for a treat.

It's difficult to convey just how successful a movie this is. It manages to both rebuild and dramatically expand on the world of the original to a degree I don't think we've seen before in any property. The new Star Wars movies come closest, but not even these can compare to the sense of authenticity Denis Villeneuve achieves. I suspect part of that comes from wisely borrowing from the well of genre work that sprang out of the 1982 film. There are characters and settings here that feel like they fell out of an anime, and none seem out of place.

In case anyone cares, the rest of the movie is good, too.

The themes and story are extrapolated from the original without feeling like carbon copies. This doesn't retread the story from Blade Runner, nor is Ryan Gosling's K just an updated Deckard. As a piece of science-fiction, this stands among the most intelligent and complex ever put on film.

If you want to nit-pick, there are opportunities to do so. The movie's primary antagonists could be excised entirely from the movie without impacting the story (Robin Wright's role could easily have been expanded to pick up the slack). I didn't mind Leto's comic supervillain or Sylvia Hoeks's sociopath android (actually, I liked her quite a bit), but it's hard to deny they were a bit over-the-top. On top of that, the movie occasionally offered a touch more exposition than was strictly necessary.

But I didn't mind any of that. There are enough unanswered questions and open threads to spark endless hours of speculation. And even the weaker scenes were a joy to watch. This movie was almost three hours long, and I honestly think I could have sat there happily for three more if it had kept going.

I find it oddly fitting that Blade Runner 2049 was Denis Villeneuve's follow-up to Arrival. Arguably, we haven't gotten a better SF double-header from the same director since Ridley Scott made Blade Runner right after Alien.

As a final side note, I want to mention I saw this in IMAX in 2D. If you have the chance to do the same, I strongly suggest you do so. This thing is an experience: the more immersive, the better.

No comments: