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Blade Runner 2049 – film review

October 9, 2017

BLADE RUNNER 2049

This Blade Runner does the biggest thing the original failed to do. It moves us.

Reviewed on Friday 6th October 2017


Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Screenplay by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, story by Hampton Fancher. Starring: Ryan Gosling, Robyn Wright, Ana De Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Harrison Ford and Jared Leto. Running time: 163 mins.

PLEASE NOTE – THIS REVIEW IS SPOILER FREE

First up I have to say I was there when the original Blade Runner was released in theatres in 1982. And even though I was aware of all the meddling that had been     done to it in the lead-up to seeing it (being an avid reader of advance genre news magazines such as Starlog, Starburst, Fantastic Films and the like) – I still came away feeling somewhat disappointed. Actually, to be perfectly honest – it left me kind of cold. For me anyway, there is a certain aloofness to Ridley Scott’s third feature which makes it an oddly empty and un-engaging experience (quite the polar opposite to his previous film Alien). For a story about empathy it confusingly doesn’t make me feel anything for anyone in it and, to this day – I’m not entirely sure why this is. Perhaps this is why I revisit it so often – to try and figure out why it fails to engage me on any real emotional level.

There is no denying Scott’s film is visually impressive. And his gritty, almost insanely detailed depiction of a future Los Angeles has indeed impacted massively on the sci-fi genre (both books and films) in the decades since its initial release – so I can appreciate Blade Runner on this purely aesthetic level. But meticulous world building alone is not nearly enough to invite emotional investment.

Although he has his own particular visual aesthetic, Denis Villeneuve’s sequel is as equally gorgeous – with every frame again a work of art. And it undoubtedly looks, sounds and (most importantly) feels like a genuine expansion of the Blade Runner universe. However, the overriding difference between this Blade Runner and the ’82 original is the sense of emotional inclusion we have with the characters. Scott’s original is bizarrely distancing; giving us the sense that we are merely passive observers to events and not active participants. In this film we are right up close and personal with the characters and emotionally invested in their fates. This new Blade Runner has clearly been made with a lot of love and respect and honourable intentions. And having the original’s primary screenwriter Hampton Fancher (the man charged with adapting Philip Dick’s source novel into the movie which became Blade Runner) – on board for this is a major coup and hugely instrumental in maintaining thematic integrity with the original film (and indeed the voice of Dick’s source novel).

As far as the actual plot is concerned, I’m reluctant to go into it in any detail for fear of spoiling the experience. So all I’ll say is – whereas the original Blade Runner is essentially a straightforward chase film, Blade Runner 2049 is first and foremost, at its core, a compelling mystery to be solved. And the mystery to be solved at the heart of this film is the significance of the date 6.10.21. Is it a birth date? A death date? And if so – who’s is it? After a succession of effective plot twists and turns,     the answer is satisfyingly revealed.

There is a very definite and cohesive vision to this film – a combination of the talents of screenwriter Fancher and helmer Villeneuve. It feels like a solid story well told. And who could ask for more than that? Fancher’s sensibility perfectly fits hand in glove with Villeneuve’s aesthetic and it would be great to see these two team up again on other unrelated projects (sorry – my inner fanboy slipped through).

This is without a doubt the best performance Harrison Ford has given since his heyday. And despite the limited time he appears on screen, he is given plenty of scope to showcase his emotional range as an actor. Perhaps this is why he felt Fancher’s script was the best he’d ever read. Likewise, Ryan Gosling is also very good in the lead and perfectly cast (for reasons which become readily apparent). Actually – much like the ’82 film – this one is extremely well cast overall and again features a bevy of visually fascinating actors in the various supporting roles.

The breathtaking cinematography by the Cohen brothers’ resident DP Roger Deakins beautifully recalls Jordan Cronenweth’s landmark lensing of the original. And utilizing that atmospheric, swirling, soaring signature Vangelis sound to great effect – the music score by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer perfectly emulates and effortlessly captures the feel of the original score – while injecting something fresh and new into the mix.

Dedicated nerds may also get a smile from the clearly deliberate inclusion of the waste dumping ships from David People’s (Paul WS Anderson-directed) 1998 Blade Runner spin-off Soldier – again cementing the idea that this much underrated Kurt Russell-starring film is in indeed canon.

As I post this, it’s been several days now since leaving the cinema positively overwhelmed by the experience and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about           it – always for me a surefire sign of a great film. In future retrospect, I see a time when Blade Runner 2049 will be looked upon fondly in that much-coveted, but limited pantheon of superior sequels to highly-regarded movies.

5 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Event Cinemas Megaplex Marion, Adelaide, October 6th 2017

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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11 Comments
  1. Great review Greg for a fantastic film. I’m watching it for a second time today, eager to see if it actually improves on second viewing. I think we’ll be talking about this film for years.

    My only concern is the much-publicised troubles at the box office. It’s like history repeating and seems particularly unfair.

    • gregory moss permalink

      Cheers, Ian. I know how much the original BR means to you, so I’m pleased you love this Blade Runner as much as I do. I’m looking forward to seeing it again myself. As for the box office. It could be a blessing in disguise – if it means they won’t be making any more after this. I think they should just leave us with two great films – and not run it into the ground for the sake of a quick buck as they did with Alien.

  2. Colin Robertson permalink

    Thanks Mr Moss. I always enjoy your sci fi reviews. This film was an audio/visual feast and I certainly enjoyed the film as a whole. I do wish there was more Ford on screen time as well as more of an explanation about what he’s been up to. I still side with him being a human versus a replicant but maybe I’m short sighted. Goslings performance was a bit wooden but he can go to intensity very quickly which worked well. You’re right that this film felt more like a mystery to solve versus the original which indeed felt like a chase. First blade runner after replicant and then briefly vice versa.
    The only thing I disagree with your review is I felt more connected to the original…the “final cut” specifically. Perhaps this is due to Rutger Hauers pehenomenal peformance. His famous final scene makes that film and brings that whole world to the forefront of human/replicant emotional understanding.
    That all said, I sincerely enjoyed the film and feel it’s a great modern day sci fi flick! Cheers!

  3. Nice review, Greg. I too loved the new film, just as I loved the original when I saw it as a teenager back in 1982. Both films hit emotional chords for me, actually. Ridley Scott made me so sympathetic towards his replicants that I felt truly sad for them all, especially Roy, of course. I do think the romance between Deckard and Rachel falls short, despite great performances from Ford and Young – perhaps just down to a lack of chemistry. Ultimately I think that plays into Scott’s hands, strengthening the emotional power of the Nexus 6 storyline. In Villeneuve’s sequel, Ford socks you in the gut with his very human, very vulnerable Deckard. And Gosling’s straight-faced performance barely masks his character’s very real confusion and yearning, especially in his touching relationship with Joi. In both films, there’s so much going on both above and beneath the surface. I expect that the sequel – like the original – will stay with me for a long time. Villeneuve certainly has a knack for making films that make you think, don’t you think?

    • gregory moss permalink

      Cheers, Graham. I saw it again last weekend for the second time. Holds up even better on repeat viewings. I’d love to see Denis do Dune. He’d be perfect for that I reckon.

  4. Glad you liked this! Am surprised you weren’t a huge fan of the original. Yes, I can see how this movie MAY be an improvement on the original… 🙂 It’s a brilliant film.

    • gregory moss permalink

      Absolutely! After about ten minutes, I knew this was gonna be a great movie. 🙂

  5. Hi Greg, did you go back and rewatch it? I ended up going back a third time (unheard of for me) and just loved it all the more. The pacing seemed less of an issue and the sense of sadness all the more pronounced- I really got a feel for K’s existential plight with repeat viewings. The nuanced performance of Ryan Gosling really rewards repeat viewing.

    Have you considered writing an analysis of the script, how it’s constructed? I’d be interested in seeing your opinion. For once a film with a really great script.

    • gregory moss permalink

      I’d love to get my hands on a downloadable copy of the screenplay – which I guess will be available at some point. It would also be cool to read Fancher and Green’s original draft (which was meant for Ridley) – and compare it to the rewrite which had Villeneuve’s input. And you’re absolutely right regarding subsequent viewings. It just gets better and better, doesn’t it? I’ve seen it twice now at the cinema and am looking forward to the blu-ray release. Reckon I’ll buy a bigger TV especially for the occasion. 🙂

      • Ha, I’d love a bigger TV, but I’m waiting for my current one to fail, damn thing keeps on going.

        I think people will be surprised next year rewatching the film just how much it gets better on repeat viewing. I’m sure the film will have long legs and (eventually) break even.

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