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Ah, Blade Runner.
So much has been said about you already; most of it good, some of it not so much. When I first saw Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner I was not impressed; I was about fourteen years old and was expecting an action film with robots and Harrison Ford and all that comes with it. What I got was a lot of things, but that was not one of them. But, there is only so many times you can hear that a film is a classic before you decide to give it another go. I was twenty when I finally did, and I have not regretted it since. I own Blade Runner on Blu-Ray now and will happily call it one of my favourite films. Is it perfect? No, they wouldn’t re-edit it four more times if it was. It’s slow at times, with many shots of the cities great scale (which is still beyond impressive, by the way) taking probably a bit too long now-days. I’m not a fan of the Sabastian character and there’s a very awkward scene where Ford forces himself onto Rachel. But otherwise, I love it to bits. It’s not a film I would have pegged for a sequel though.
How long has this been in the works for? There have been whispers and rumours for over a decade now; then out of nowhere, here we are. Blade Runner 2049!
So, what’s the story? I’m not going to tell you! I honestly don’t want to say. I like to avoid spoilers, and I think that if I give a summary then I’ll spoil a part of the film for you. There are so many twists and turns that the story takes from the get-go, yet none feel out of place at all. I thought I had it pegged for a long time, but then the carpet was pulled out from under me. That’s how well plotted it is, and I don’t feel like robbing you of that. So, instead I’ll just discuss what I liked about Blade Runner 2049 – which is almost everything about it.
I’m not going to dance around the point – I really, really liked Blade Runner 2049. I think I loved it, but I’d have to see it again to be sure. The plot was fantastic – it never came close to retelling the first film. In-fact, they are both very different beasts. Ridley Scott did not return for this one, opting instead to give us Alien Covenant (which, given that films quality, was probably for the best) – so in his place we have Denis Villeneuve. The only over film of his I have seen was Arrival, which I really didn’t like. Thankfully, he has improved here in every aspect. The command Villeneuve had over this film was beyond great. He never over-played his hand, like I thought he had with Arrival. Every shot feels perfect. Every sound feels necessary. Every line of dialogue intrigued me. Everything this director could bring to the table worked perfectly.
It’s Blade Runner in the end, so we expect it to look like one of the best thing’s we have ever seen.
I’m happy to say that 2049 doesn’t let us down. Thankfully they didn’t even try to recreate that amazing shot at the start of the first film – flying over that city remains a special experience that can’t be topped – instead they show a different side to the same city, now upgraded. This is one of the best-looking films I have seen since, well ever. Mixing sets, models and CGI to perfect degrees. This is helped by the camera work, which always gives the best of everything on display.
Let’s not forget the acting either. This, Logan and War for the Planet of the Apes know what comes of pitch perfect casting. Nobody let me down. Nobody was just good. Everybody was perfect for their roles. Ryan Gosling as K, a Blade Runner hunting for the truth behind a conspiracy, give us his best. It’s such a subtle, naturalistic performance that I couldn’t even tell that it was acting. He was K, just as much as Jackman was Logan and Serkis was Caesar. Harrison Ford, who is not in this film very long at all, slips back into the role of Deckard like he never left it. Easily the best performance Ford has given us in years. Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Mackenzie Davis, Ana De Armas, Sylvia Hoeks and Jared Leto all worked just as perfectly with what they had. And considering how challenging some of these scenes were, they all deserve what praise they get.
But, just like Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049 is not a perfect film.
And, I won’t lie, I can see some people not liking this film – or even hating it. First thing’s first, like the first one, don’t go in expecting an action film where Ryan Gosling and old-man Ford have to take out Jared Leto and his robot army, because that is so not what you get. What you do get is a colossally long sci-fi epic – clocking in at nearly three-hours. While I was never bored, it’s a slow-burn to be sure. Other issues I personally had were with the music and villains. The first films soundtrack is easily among my favourite – look it up. This film feels a little off to me. Most of the time, it works well, but then… Looking at the credits I saw two composers for the film and boy did my eyes role when I saw the name Hans Zimmer as one of them. Zimmer has done great scores before; but now, save for the odd exception, his scores all sound the same to me. Here in Blade Runner 2049, he committed the cardinal sin – his score for the film actually took me out of the scenes it was so distracting. As for the villains, they’re fine. Perfectly performed and carrying a little charisma with them. But it’s the case of one is a little one dimensional and another’s motives don’t match the character. Not much more than a nitpick, but it was an issue.
With scenes like Ford’s introduction, the final moment, a giant advertisement, and an incredible scene involving a robot and a hologram (you’ll know it when you see it), more than save a great film from minor shortcomings. Despite being a sequel it’s just as original as the first film – I don’t think I’ve been able to say that since Aliens. I’d love to say that it’s the best film I’ve seen since Logan, but I’d have to see it again to be sure – not that it’d take a lot of persuasion. Go and see it. If you like or love the first one then you will this one. If you didn’t, then still give it a go as they are very different films. A beautiful film that is all heart through the grit of reality, that is what we have been given. Will it be regarded as a sci-fi classic to stand the tests of time, like the first film, or will it be lost in time, like tears in rain? Only time will tell.