Movie Review: “Blade Runner 2049” – An Upgrade

Written by Matt Butler October 21, 2017

blade runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 is a special kind of sequel. It’s a sequel that sets out to do the same as every other good-natured sequel intends: Outdo the original. Blade Runner 2049 succeeds because it stands on its own terms. It doesn’t hold your hand as you walk into this new future, 30 years after the events of 2019. It throws you headlong into a slow and enveloping descent. It’s that rare sequel with a world all its own.

Still, if Blade Runner 2049’s poor box office returns tells me anything, it’s that it isn’t for everyone. It’s way slower, headier and more methodical than the standard blockbuster. Blade Runner 2049 clocks in at 2 hours and 43 minutes, and that’s as long as it feels. But it makes up for that by way of its striking visuals and engaging atmosphere. I guess the benefit of slowing down a film is that it gives the audience a chance to breathe, to take in the presentation. It’s a style of film making that limits cutting and favours indulgence. It’s quite the same style that turned me off of War for the Planet of the Apes. Though the difference is that with War for the Planet of the Apes, I knew the story was over. In Blade Runner 2049, it’s only just beginning.

“I did your job once – I was good at it.”

Building off of the events from 2019, Blade Runner 2049 furthers the character study of replicants and their conflicting humanity. Ryan Gosling plays Officer K, a Blade Runner and a replicant himself. While he struggles with the paradox of his job and his identity, K uncovers a secret that could unravel everyone’s perceptions of artificial intelligence and what it means to be human.

blade runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 takes everything from the original and pushes it one step further. It dives deeper into the replicant/human dynamic by pairing a replicant (Gosling) with a hologram (Ana de Armas). Ironically, this purely mechanical romance has twice the humanity of Deckard (Harrison Ford) and Rachel’s (Sean Young, whose stunning digital recreation puts Grand Moff Tarkin’s to even further shame). Much of the film’s running time is owed to the exploration of their relationship and the humanity they see in each other.

“More human than humans.”

What makes one human in Blade Runner 2049 is a matter of perspective. We, the audience, know K is a replicant, but we spend enough time with him to find out his personality and conflict. We know he’s lonely, so the presence of Joi (Armas) becomes that glimmer of hope, even though we all know she’s just as automated as he is, if not more. It’s the optimistic heart of Spike Jones’ Her trapped in the cold steel of The Terminator.

blade runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049‘s weak box office opening doesn’t surprise me (the first wasn’t even critically successful in its theatrical run). But I hope this review at least sparks your interest in giving it a shot. Perhaps a good start would be to watch Arrival, another recent sci-fi directed by Denis Villeneuve. It has many of the things I praise Blade Runner 2049 for with almost half the run time. It’s also currently on Netflix! If you enjoy that, you might just have an open enough mind to explore the dark, inventive, but uniquely human world of Blade Runner 2049.

My Rating: 8/10

blade runner 2049

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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2 Comments

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  1. I agree with everything you said, although I would give it a 9/10! One thing…they didn’t ever definitively confirm that Deckard is human, did they???

    • Matt Butler

      I’m pretty sure the unicorn scene they added into the Director’s Cut confirms Deckard’s a replicant, but I nearly fall asleep every time I watch the original. Sooo…..

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