Let me start off with a few important points...
- The original Blade Runner is one of my top five movies of all time.
- Ridley Scott is my second favourite director of all time. I mean c'mon... Alien, Blade Runner, Legend, he even directed the Apple Mac: 1984 commercial!
- See the original before watching this one.
- This blog post does contain spoilers. So unless you've seen this flick, I recommend you stop here.
- Don't believe the hype. Hype is a marketing tool for mindless sheep.
Never has a movie made me feel so pissed off than Blade Runner 2049. This movie actually hit me to the core... and not in a good way. It's exactly what happens when Hollywood production companies get together and dump tons of money into a film just to profit on the success of a classic.
If you haven't seen the original, see The Final Cut. Don't watch the original, or The Director's Cut (Ridley Scott didn't even personally work on The Director's Cut - released in 1991). See The Final Cut. This was the film that Ridley Scott wanted to make. I've seen the original in all three forms.
Ridley was such a perfectionist in his vision for the original film (much like Stanley Kubrick - my favourite director), that he was pushing long hours on set, way over budget, and fought to keep the film being made his way without the red tape pressure from the production companies. So much so, that there was an imminent strike among the actors near the end of photography. Crews often referred to the film as "Blood Runner." Even the final scene was shot literally hours before the producers were due to take creative control away from him. In the end, the film was made, cut, and distributed, and it wasn't until The Final Cut (released in 2007), that Scott supervised a new version that he could genuinely call his 'Director's Cut'.
The original film is loosely based on Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and the title comes from a book by Alan Nourse called The Bladerunner. The 1982 film was a cinematic masterpiece. It's a poetic blend of intellectual science fiction and film noir. Mind-blowing cinematography, a soundtrack by Vangelis that was omnisciently hypnotizing, a rich, unique, and layered story, state-of-the-art effects, and impeccable acting by Harrison Ford, Daryl Hannah, Sean Young, and Rutger Hauer. It is the perfect blend of technology, society, existence, and human nature; it took sci-fi to a whole other realm. It pushed boundaries, kept you uneasy, and had you wondering the entire time.
I could fill this blog with facts, did-you-knows, and my personal opinion on the original masterpiece, but I'm here to talk (or warn you), about Blade Runner 2049.
As soon as I heard that this was announced I was disappointed. The greatest part of the original was the fact that you never really know if Deckard was a Replicant. I had a feeling that the sequel would ruin that; although it didn't, some movies just shouldn't have prequels, sequels, or be remade. This was one of them. Why mess with a good thing? I thought I'd check it out with an open mind and see how it goes.
It's directed by Denis Villeneuve who directed such films as Prisoners, Sicario, and Arrival - all decent movies in their own right. It's co-written by Hampton Francher, who co-wrote the screenplay for the original Blade Runner. The cinematography is by Roger Deakins who has 10 Oscar nominations. The soundtrack is composed by Hans Zimmer. It has Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling. Has a total estimated budget of 150 million. And the executive producer is Ridley Scott! These all made me smile. They CAN'T screw this up, how could this be bad in any way?
Well fuck. They did, and it was.
The opening crawl was just like the first film. It had the same white words on a black screen describing the history leading up to the Replicants and the current society's state. One thing I noticed is that the word Replicant was red, but it didn't have the dictionary font like the original. I liked that and I was a little disappointed when they didn't do it again. Minor flaw... I know.
The following scene gets the blade hunting going immediately. It shows officer K visiting Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), an older model Replicant trying to live peacefully. Cool cat K tells him the ol', "We can do it the easy way, or the hard way." Fight ensues, good guy wins. It was a very slick scene. As usual, K finds himself caught up in an even bigger investigation, and his lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), sends him on a mission.
Ok, cool so far. Beautiful cinematography with gorgeous effects, the same Vangelis themed luminous soundtrack, and Los Angeles has the gritty, dystopian semblance like it did in the original. I started to notice it was too clean of a look - bright colours and overcasts days. Not like the dark and grimy original.
They had Gaff (Edward James Olmos) come back. That was a nice touch. Then we get introduced to Jared Leto's character, Niander Wallace. Wallace is the mastermind behind the new generation of Replicants. In the first one, the Replicants were Nexus 6. Now they are Nexus 8's and new Nexus 9's. His goal is to create replicating Replicants. Although he's manufactured millions of Replicants over the years, he “can only make so many.” The key for him, is to find out how to make as many Replicants as possible, and then to take them off-world and spread them even further. They tried to make him this godlike genius and it was just lousy. His lines were so trite and forced and it was very unconvincing. It's like he was trying to channel Steve Jobs. And he was supposed to be a bad guy?! Honestly, they could've cut out the entire Leto character and just minimally touched on him like Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel) in the first one. Plus, Leto didn't even turn up until the last hour?! Nothing... NOTHING compared to a villain like Rutger's Roy Batty. Wallace's assistant Luv (Sylvia Hoecks) plays an evil and dangerous Replicant. She was nothing special. It was like she was added just to spice it up.
At this point the soundtrack was starting to get repetitive. It didn't keep you eerie and on-edge like the original, it just kept popping in and out during transitions. I started to realize they were using a lot of wide angles that didn't make you feel like you were right in the action like the first one did. Something just wasn't right.
Ryan Gosling did an OK job, nothing special. He just played the same character as he did in Drive - which was a great film. Gosling was just bland though. I guess it's hard to give a compelling performance when you're just playing an emotionless Andie. One part I actually laughed out loud at was when his hologram girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas), named him Joe and said, "You're a real boy!" All I could think of was Pinocchio!
Harrison Ford doesn't show up until the two hour mark and his performance was extremely underwhelming. He wasn't even playing Deckard; he was just rehashing old Solo. I was just waiting for him to say, "I'm too old for this." He honestly wasn't even the same character. At one point in the final fight, K and Luv were battling it out while Deckard was handcuffed to the craft. It kept cutting back to Harrison showing him almost drowning while they were fighting. It was overly pointless and ruined the most important fight scene.
All the effects were modern takes. The medical equipment looked like it was from 2017, the car interiors looked like they were from modern minivans, and they did the same holographic ads. And oh my god, can we PLEASE stop using the shitty CGI of recreating younger versions of people? Like Clu in TRON: Legacy, Governor Tarkin in Rogue One, or young Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, It just looks soooo bad! The technology just isn't there yet and cheapens the film. It always reminds me of the Rock in The Scorpion King, or the Matrix Reloaded fight scene. It's such a hackneyed effect. Please stop this ridiculous trend Hollywood. This cheap CGI effect was used once again to recreate Rachael. That was the last straw for me.
The film stretched out to a brutal 163 mins. I was sitting through it going, c'mon already, get to the point. It’s dreadfully slow. I was even thinking, was that character really necessary?! Just searching and investigating with a character you have no connection with to find newly developed characters you don't care about. It's like they peppered it with nudity just to keep you awake. A fast forward button/editor would've helped this flick immensely.
If you see this in the theatre, it'll test your bladder. You can get up, go hit the bathroom, grab some popcorn and a pop, come back and you wouldn't have missed much. There'll be a cheap how-it-happened story flashback later to describe what happened anyways. Ugh. That watered-down, poor writing method is such an insult to the audience, especially when it's a sequel to such a critically acclaimed intellectual fantasy.
The ending in the original left you thinking about many things. It's the kind of film that leaves you in your seat contemplating everything. This one just leaves you going... ummm what?! So many loose ends, pointless plot holes, and leftover, useless characters. In the 1982 version, as Roy is dying, his final monologue is set to Vangelis - Tears in Rain...
"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die."
Beautifully scripted! In 2049, officer K lies dying on the steps of Dr. Ana Stelline’s laboratory while it's snowing. That's it. His cerebral thoughts are probably, "I have a wooden toy horse, I've had a threesome with a hologram, ooh look... snow!" Then, Vangelis Tears in Rain starts to play. Probably used as homage, but it just seemed extremely forced.
Overall, it was just pretentious and lacks inspiration. It didn't push the envelope visually and the whole film came off as cookie cutter and safe despite being impeccably mounted and lusciously staged. I've never seen an episode of CSI, but I feel if they made a futuristic three hour version, this would be it - a boring cop chasing not-so bad guys. They should've made it that and not tainted the Blade Runner universe (more on the Blade Runner connected universe here). For the insane budget, the photography was extremely underwhelming. Some great shots/scenes, but nowhere what I expected for 150 million. I felt that they wanted to make it long like the first one but didn't have enough material to pace it out. I'd give it a 4 out of 10.
I'm not just being cantankerous because I jerked off the first film. Just don't believe the marketing reviews, it's over-hyped for sure. Flashbacks to tell the story, sub-par acting with poor character development, mediocre special effects, too damn long, and simply put, intellectually bleak. They tried too hard to recreate a legacy and failed to do so.
I was actually upset when it ended. I had to come home at 1am and play arm-chair director writing this blog until 4:30am - not a great idea. I felt like Hollywood once again tainted a cinematic masterpiece just to earn a few bucks. It worked, and it always does... I mean they got my cash right? It could have been done better, although this is one of those films that should have never been made. It just sucks to see these films get bastardized.
See it if you've seen and liked the first, but I'm warning you... it just ain't the same.
* All the photos and videos included are not mine.