Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It’s time for another movie review presented by our good friends over at FatCats Gilbert on the southwest corner of Greenfield and Baseline! FatCats Gilbert is the best place to see all of the latest box office hits like the one I get to talk about today, Blade Runner 2049! Too see all showtimes and to purchase tickets, you can click right HERE!

The closer this screening came, the more excited I was to see the movie. I can’t say that it was something I was jumping out of my shoes to see just because I don’t love the original. I appreciate what it is, and there are times when I do feel like revisiting the movie because of certain things that I find fantastic about it, but no matter how many times I see it, I think it’s dull and very black-and-white for a movie that addresses complex themes like existence, life, and humanity. On top of the concept and name brand, where Blade Runner 2049 had me was with the director, the cinematographer, and the lead man. Denis Villeneuve has proved to be one of the best working directors right now. With Arrival, Sicario, Enemy, Prisoners, and Incendies all under his belt, he’s finally getting to take on a sci-fi blockbuster. He’s also working with Roger Deakins, his partner-in-crime on some of his best films. Ryan Gosling has also been one of my favorite actors for a while, and for the umpteenth time he has partnered with a great director, so I couldn’t wait to see what came out of this movie! I do want to clarify that this review will be SPOILER-FREE. I’m just going to leave it at that.

Blade Runner 2049 is directed by Denis Villeneuve and stars Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, and Jared Leto. I’d tell you a little bit about the story, but I don’t want to spoil a single plot point. This is the first screening I’ve ever been to where I was told exactly what not to spoil, but I totally get it, so I guess I’ll just explain the concept of the original movie. Replicants are artificially intelligent beings that show striking resemblances to humans. When they become dangerous, a law enforcement group called blade runners must track them down and kill them, a practice known as “retiring” the replicants.

Though I don’t particularly care for the original Blade Runner, you can bet that when my “best of the year” list comes around, Blade Runner 2049 will be on it, if not topping it. This is one of the best science fiction movies I’ve seen this decade, and I think people will be talking about it for a long time. First of all, Denis Villeneuve directed the heck out of this film. There are certain directors who are the true stars of their movies, and Villeneuve constantly proves that he’s one of them. This story is told so beautifully in a way that easily milks emotion out of each moment. He knows when to go to a close-up, when to go to a wide-shot, when to hi light a certain aspect of the visual design, and how to perfectly convey every single idea he proposes. I felt as though each shot in this film had a distinct purpose. Each shot had a reason for being there, and when it gets a home release and we get to analyze the movie frame-by-frame, we’ll be able to find a purpose for every cut and every sequence. We can’t forget about his trustee cinematographer, Roger Deakins. I would be shocked if Deakins didn’t take home the Oscar for Best Cinematography. I would be completely baffled. He does things with a camera that I didn’t know were possible. The way scenes are lit with specific purpose, and the way he navigates this world and all of these different sets is mind-blowing. Deakins could have single-handedly made this film watchable because of its spectacular visuals. How does he not have an Oscar yet? Luckily, I think that this will be the film to change that.

The performances are also incredible. This is an area that I sort of have to tip-toe around to avoid the exact spoilers I was told to avoid, so here we go. Ryan Gosling is perfect for this role. I think that he’s one of the most under-appreciated actors in Hollywood, and he spoils us to the point where we just expect quality out of his movies. Gosling’s character, K, faces a moral and philosophical battle in this film that defines who he is as a character, but he always seems to maintain his composure. It never feels like Gosling is acting. It always feels like he’s just there. He’s just there involving himself in this world, and in the process he sells us on the entire story. He’s never going to be that guy who has multiple scenes in a film where he explodes off the screen, and to me, that’s a wonderful thing. The rest of the cast is also great, and Harrison Ford is now 2/2 in the past few years when it comes to bringing one of his classic characters back to life. His character has dilemmas, but he faces them with so much charisma while also being able to pull the emotions out of each of his scenes. He truly steals the show multiple times, and he provides some of the most heart-breaking and heart-satisfying moments.

One issue I had with the original is that I felt like it was too black-and-white at most points. Yes, there are moments that I was moved into the grey area, such as the final monologue from Roy, but for most of the film I wasn’t emotionally compelled by how the film explored the subjective view of humanity. Blade Runner 2049 completely flipped the switch, and I think that it outdoes the original in that aspect. Again, without getting into spoilers, this entire film is a grey area to be explored by our characters. What does it mean to be human? How is life determined? How is a person’s purpose decided? What truly matters in this world? How does purpose define existence? I’ll pull a line out of the trailer for the film to illustrate my point because it, along with pretty much the rest of the fantastic script penned by Hampton Fancher, the writer of the original, and Michael Green, the writer of this year’s Logan, moved me to my core. Gosling’s K at one point states that “things were simpler then,” and I have to agree. This movie gave me the exact complexities that I wanted while still maintaining coherency in the story. There’s a lot of reading to be done in this movie, and I don’t mean of words. You have to read emotions and thoughts to find a character’s purpose. This isn’t a movie that develops characters in a conventional way. It doesn’t give them motivations and stakes right off the bat that easily bring us closer to them. This movie challenges us to follow along on the road toward finding those motivations and those stakes, and that fascinates me. I also have to quickly mention the use of technology in the film. I bought into the technological aspect of this world so easily, and it feels like we’ve advanced 30 years in this story. This is a believable gap for me. Early this year we went back to one of Ridley Scott’s original films with Alien: Covenant which I thought threw the Alien timeline for a complete loop. Blade Runner 2049 had a dedicated commitment to nail this world, and it did.

I feel like my issues are slightly nit-picky, but here they are. First, the movie clocks in at two hours and forty-four minutes. This is a tough thing for me to call an issue simply because I was enthralled to the point where I couldn’t get enough. The world-building and expanding is amazing, so I wouldn’t say that I think that the movie fell flat at points or came to a stop at points as much as I would say that it just didn’t need to be as long as it is. There are certain scenes that I think could be cut, and we would still get the same effect. Again, it’s really weird to say this because I still enjoyed seeing these scenes, and they were purposeful in expanding my knowledge of this universe, but they might have belonged on the home-release extended edition. On that note, I have to give props to Villeneuve and Sony here. There won’t be an extended cut, a director’s cut, and international cut, or a final cut. I think they released the movie they wanted to release, and I think they’ll stand by it. My only other issue was with the villain of the film. I think the villain is pretty generic and doesn’t necessarily get a deserved amount of focus. I could counter this by saying that the real conflict is not a single character. The real villain of Blade Runner 2049 is this society and this story-world that these characters exist in, and the conflict resides inside most of the characters we see on-screen.

Overall, Blade Runner 2049 is a movie I’ve been thinking about since I walked out of the theater, and the more I think about it, the more I like it. Villeneuve once again proves that he’s one of the best brains in the industry, and every single time he releases a film I’ll be fired up to see it. The story is told wonderfully, and Villeneuve and Deakins capture it in this medium perfectly. I have no doubt in my mind that Deakins will be nominated for an Oscar, and I’d like to think he’ll go home with his first Academy Award at the end of February. Practicality and visual effects are blended so well, and the visual design wrapped me up so easily. The acting is fantastic, and Gosling might have turned in another award nomination-worthy performance even though Harrison Ford completely steals the show when he’s on-screen. Han Solo. Check. Rick Deckard. Check. I guess if the next Indy movie is a hit then he will have brought all his three of his classic characters back to life. In my opinion, 2049 does a much better job than the original when it comes to blurring the lines of humanity. I also think that it’s unconventional in that it never exactly gives us motivations or stakes. Nothing is spoon-fed. Instead, it tells us to hop on the tour bus and experience the defining moments with these characters. The complexities are so meaningful, and they challenge us in a time where the world seems to forget its sense of humanity. This is so timely in our world right now where we tend to define each other in certain over-generalized groups and assign categorizations when what is assigned is often untrue. The questions aren’t just challenging the characters; they’re challenging us. How do we subjectively define humanity? Can we do it objectively? Is there even a way to define it? My two very minor issues with the movie were the length and the villain, but it’s tough to consider them issues when I can counter my own arguments. I had to think about this one for a while, and it just keeps growing on me and getting better. If even I could argue strongly against my own negatives with the film, I can’t bring myself to take any points off my score. I’m going to give Blade Runner 2049 a 10/10.

Will you be seeing Blade Runner 2049? Comment down in the comment section and let me know! As always, thank you, and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!

About Justin Lyons

Hey, it's Justin Lyons! I am the Chief Film Critic for The Pulse. Have any questions for me? Please feel free to email me at [email protected]