The follow-up to one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time is finally here after 35 years, but was it necessary?
After all these years, one of the greatest sci-fi films of the 20th century and all time is getting a sequel. At the end of the original film, we’re left with a rather open ended final scene with Deckard and Rachel. While many wanted to know what came next, I for one felt that the ending to the film was a great tie off to a great story. However, with the TV-fication of Hollywood and the incessant need for sequels, the idea was spawned out of what the world of Blade Runner would look like decades into the future. What we got was this film, Blade Runner 2049, directed by the amazing Denis Villeneuve and with a slate of talented stars, including Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas, Mckenzie Davis and many more. Despite all of these great things going for the film, one question still stands. Was it necessary?
To start off, this film is far from perfect. I wouldn’t even go so far as to say it’s good. However, I can’t appropriate the blame in any one direction. The acting throughout was rather good. However, given the cast, I wouldn’t expect anything but. Dave Bautista’s performance was particularly thrilling, especially considering most, including myself, associate him with his rather simple minded character from Guardians of the Galaxy. Sylvia Hoeks was the real treasure in this film, delivering a performance worthy to write home about. The amount of conflict she brings out in her character is incredible. She’s by and far the underrated star of this film. However, Ryan Gosling is no slouch. Gosling has proved time and time again that he can act in any drama, especially film noir. He can sing, dance, perform hilarious comedic bits and bring intense dramatics into his performance throughout all of his films and in Blade Runner, he does so in a great way. His character, of a stone cold Blade Runner, comes across not as grey but with the many shades of color that’s needed to elaborate his many conflicting emotions throughout the film. However, he does seem to struggle with bringing out the extremes in his emotions, even from a state of repression. Regardless, Gosling set the bar high and his cast mates followed, for the most part. Jared Leto felt overbearing and rather comical in his role. He failed to fear and intimidate and rather amused with the somewhat trite monologues he had. While the performances were good, the relationships between each of the characters felt incredibly thin. The relationship between Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling is an exception, but besides that, the atmosphere was rather cold between everyone else. The beginning of each character’s relationships are hopeful, but at the end, in one way or another, go nowhere. This is incredibly detrimental for a film such as this because if you don’t care about characters, when they die or narrowly escape death, it’s all the same to you.
The real driving force of the film is it’s esteemed director, Denis Villeneuve. Denis has produced some great films throughout the years, from Incendies to Sicario and many more, however, this film was all over the place. With a run time of almost three hours, the film felt incessant and although the plot progressed smoothly, it everything had quite a meandering pace. In addition to that, it’s quite clear to see that Denis had struggled with the run time of the film in that there are many, and I mean many, moments in the film where there are abrupt cuts that seem to jump scenes or cut them into strange pieces. At times while watching this movie, it felt like watching a long trailer, due to all of the abrupt cuts, overtly strong music overtones, and starkness of shots. However, with that said, Denis, along with his fantastic cinematographer Roger Deakins, provide many, many great large landscape shots filled with jaw dropping hues and quieting panoramas. The way he envisions L.A of the future is incredible and an enthralling take compared to the glimpse Ridley Scott gave us in the original. Every set and environment looked beautiful, even in it’s desolation. Deakins makes sure the film looks true to it’s noir nature by making even bright oranges feel dark. It might not be a very interesting or engaging watch, but it is a pretty one. With that said, many of the scenes are tarnished by the score, which is oppressively present in many scenes as an unwanted guest on screen. Sometimes, the additional sound is almost drowning the actors dialogue. Music and dramatic sound is meant to set the mood and help dictate the atmosphere and not commander a scene as one would do in a trailer. In many ways, this could be compared to a John Ford film with the great, large shots and incredibly long run time.
The script is in many ways a hit and a miss and I find it difficult to decidedly call it as good or bad. On one hand, it presents many interesting twists, turns, mind boggling reveals, and more while not doing too much in terms of fan service. In addition to that, it does a great deal of world building and making the universe of Blade Runner much more expansive. If the studio ever wanted to make this a mega franchise, the material is now fully there and fleshed out from the rather simple concept the original film was. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it good. While the film added to the universe and proposed many questions about morality and comparisons to God as the first film did, it didn’t add much to the conversation. There are some great and interesting moral questions to be answered or at the least explored, however, the film never does go into it. Film nerds will rejoice that all of the logic lines up and the rules of the world are always obeyed, but those enjoy to feel or think something after a film, other than dissatisfied, will probably feel dissatisfied.
At the end of the day, the question I proposed in the beginning still stands, not of whether or not the film was good, but did it need to be made? The answer, as of right now, is no. It adds nothing that the original Blade Runner didn’t already propose and gives the audience little more to think about. The relationships between the characters felt flimsy and thin. The film is too long and should’ve been cut into multiple sequels. This concept would have been much better served as a short run series on HBO, because there is a lot to this story and not enough time to do it justice. It seems the filmmakers bit off more than they could chew and the film suffers for it. If Denis, one day, releases a directors cut, despite a longer runtime of what I would hope is an additional 30 – 45 minutes, or a sequel to this for that matter, I feel that would make it a worthwhile watch. However, as it is now, it struggles to offer much to a modern viewer other than the same stuff the original Blade Runner offered, but watered down. Watch it for the amazing special effects and to relive some of the wonder Blade Runner offered, but not expecting a spectacular follow up to Ridley Scott’s masterpiece.
The film hits theaters this Friday.