Saturday 17 February 2018

Movie review: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

(Four stars out of a possible five. No spoilers - but if you are already sure that intend to watch Blade Runner 2049, I would advise Not reading the following.)

The recent Blade Runner sequel will appeal to those who loved the 1981 original (I rate it as one of the very best movies ever) - indeed, the new Blade Runner is specifically for such people.

As such it is a worthy attempt, and has a lot of good stuff in it, and is worth watching - but the movie ultimately fails to satisfy.

Why? Well, to satisfy, either the screenplay would have needed to provide more, or else there would have to be one or more actors who was able to give the kind of inspired, uncanny, spontaneous and poetic performance that Rutger Haur provided in the original (and which - with a first rate film score and brilliant editing - made one of the great scenes in movie history).

The parts involving the evil genius just didn't 'work' - they needed something more, but instead they strove for meaning by sheer length of slow, close-up exposition and silent acting; and by repetitious elements (plus some gratuitous and unworthy use of reiterated 'pork-pie peril', presumably to try and compensate for this lack)...

The editing of Blade Runner 2049 was deficient throughout; and the flow and shape of key scenes was thus spoiled - and the narrative lost focus in the later part of the movie, moving towards the climax - consequently the film (running at about 2:45) is a good half-hour too long, and could probably be enhanced by re-cutting.

In sum, I was left unsatisfied - especially by the climactic scene, which was dramatically-botched.

Yet, Blade Runner 2049 is a high aspiring, and high quality movie - and I feel it will stay with me.

Note added November 2022: "I feel it will stay with me". It did not stay with me. Indeed, I remember almost nothing about it and have no desire to re-watch it. Therefore, in retrospect I would down-rate Blade Runner 2049 to 3 stars - worth watching, but not re-watching. 


ted said...

I agree with you review. Visually stunning at times, and the world constructed definitely drew me in. But the climatic scene seemed contrived. I will say that Ford's acting has improved from the original film.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ted - Glad we agree.

wrt acting; my feeling is that Harrison Ford is, and always has been, a superb actor; and when he seems anything less - it is because the director has wanted him to do it that way. And in the case of Blade Runner (1981) his 'deadpan' style was what the director wanted for the benefit of the movie as a whole - and it worked!

(Also, sub-optimal editing, as with this movie, can make actors seem less than they are. On stage, actors can control the pace of a scene - but in movies they are subject to the editing process.)

But Ford is not the kind of 'magical' actor (who is also usually erratic) that can (on his day) make something out of not-much and raise a mundane scene to something special - someone like Nicol Williamson as Merlin, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, or Alan Rickman as Snape.

pyrrhus said...

I agree with your review. The first Blade Runner was a great movie, while the 2049 version offered tantalizing hints of what it could have been, but never lived up to them. It was still worth watching, but I'm not sure even Rutger Hauer could have saved the plot...Just needed a better script, IMO...

Bruce Charlton said...

@pyrrhus - Good, glad we agree. wrt script. Script is vital - but my understanding is that the climactice scene of Blade Runner was significantly improvised by Rutger Hauer. If so, the best and most vital moment (for which the rest of the movie had preapred us) was not in the screenplay. What 2049 needed was some kind of climax/ epiphany/ insight/ realisation/ poetry - but not only was this not in the script, nor could it be supplied by an actor; but (my guess is) the director tried to *replace* it with physical peril and an extended fight scene. Of course Blade Runner had both peril and fighting leading to the epiphany, but they were pacey, not over-extended; and they led up to something substantive.

Nicholas Fulford said...

The poetry of the last scene in Blade Runner is a beautiful weeper. It is without peer, and potent.

Now, I did enjoy the 2049 version, but it did not have that poetry, though it tried for a similar feel in the closing few minutes. It suffered from copying poorly - a poor simulacra - whereas it should have expanded upon some of what Philip K. Dick did in "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep". That book deserves a read and a re-read. Dick is phenomenal, and I hope some brave director tries to do Androids. The thing is to do Androids would be tough. It is a thinking person's speculative fiction. A Tarkovsky could do it justice, because like his Solaris it requires giving the audience time to think through the implications.

Still, I did enjoy Blade Runner - 2049; but it could have been a much better film than merely enjoyable. "It could have been", will frame my feelings about this film.