Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best-executed sequel films of all time. Bold words, I know but recall that the original is one of those very few films that are as good as its source material, a.k.a. the book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. I believe it’s also in that rarefied world of sequels that are as good as the original. Like the original, 2049 is based on the world and characters of the book but not the full narrative per se. One of the things I really love is that, while they paid loving homage to the original, the film makers did not mimic the story (I’m looking at you Star Wars: The Force Awakens). A sequel needs a raison d’être and repeating the original is not it (although I confess to enjoying Force Awakens). This a new storyline extends the Blade Runner universe by 32 years and does so in original ways that are all consistent with the world originally described in Blade Runner. While there’s an organic consistency, 2049 contains a number of surprises, not only in the narrative but in the characters as well. So it ticks all of the boxes in terms of the storyline; it doesn’t ignore what went before, but it’s also not a slave to it. That balance is rare in a sequel.
Now let’s talk about the film itself. Wow, talk about checking the boxes. Nearly every role in the movie is superbly acted; the director uses that talent well. Even some of the relatively brief parts have a huge impact on the story and, whether it’s Dave Bautista as Sapper Morton, Robin Wright as Lieutenant Joshi, or Carla Juri as Dr. Ana Stelline (oh that scene with K), they nailed their piece. Ryan Gosling has really solidified his ranking among top contemporary actors in this role. Harrison Ford continues to be the bad ass we all know and love. Jared Leto remains the creepy dude that he even while being brilliant. There isn’t a weak performance among the cast.
Then there’s the camerawork. While this is a full, image-rich world, it’s a very run down one. It is shot perfectly. As with every element of the film, the world building and the camera work used to portray it helps convey the story. Some of it looks beautiful, most of it looks like a documentary of the results future entropy with rust and debris, just as it should. There are no gimmicks. There are no artificially long shots or no quick movement pans just to make things look action-oriented. There are no cheats. At all times, the camerawork highlights the drama and action embedded in the story. The lighting, angles, and movement are all used to tell the story and tell it remarkably well.
I’m not sure how you could better reflect the original soundtrack while keeping things new and fresh than has been done with this soundtrack. There are riffs and whole parts that are reminiscent of the original whilst continuing to go off on its own line. There are more references to classics and pop where that makes sense. It just nails all of it. What a great soundtrack and what a way to bring the old to the new and back together again. Once again, perfectly acknowledge what went before it while merging in what’s new all while helping to convey the story. (I think you get the theme here.)
So the world building is spot on, the narrative is fresh well done, the acting is executed flawlessly, and the music accentuates all of those elements to present a great story. I’ve read a few articles that suggest we contemporary moviegoers are lazy and so not willing to put into this film that active viewing it takes to really appreciate it. Apparently is not doing as well the box office as people thought it would. I don’t get this. It seems to me to one of those films that both entertains and challenges. Yes, it’s a film to make you think but it’s not just the cerebral exercise is just a great story.
And, oh that ending. No spoilers, but what an ending! So, a couple things to note about this film especially for families. There is nudity; a bit more than in the original. Some of it is more gratuitous than the original. There’s also some pretty solid violence, as would be expected, and none of that’s gratuitous; It all makes sense. So this is not to be for the young ones this is adult drama for grown-ups that are ready to be both challenged and entertained.
It’s one of the best films of 2017.