Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Critic Consensus: Visually stunning and narratively satisfying, Blade Runner 2049 deepens and expands its predecessor's story while standing as an impressive filmmaking achievement in its own right.
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Critic Reviews for Blade Runner 2049
Watching Ford and Gosling onscreen together suggests an evolution of masculinity within the films, one that exists along a continuum of noir leading men, from those failing to hide their tenderhearted nature to the solemn figures who make stoicism an art.
From the grayed-out countrysides over which the sky has closed like a lid; to the drizzly neon decadence of Los Angeles; to the Ozymandian wreckage of Las Vegas-the film is a visual splendor of the first order.
A meditative and moving film, sumptuously photographed by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins in the finest and most astonishing work of his career.
Blade Runner 2049, on the other hand, manages to be prettier but far more prosaic.
The rare sequel that truly merits its existence, updating and expanding the themes of the 1982 original to bring them from the 20th century into the 21st.
Audience Reviews for Blade Runner 2049
Ridley Scott's fingerprints are all over this; the atmosphere generated reminded me of the movie Prometheus. Plotting was terrific. Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling are both heartbreaking in it.
Another year and another old franchise is brought screaming and kicking back into the present. For better or worse? Well that's always the million dollar question and often its the latter. And with that in mind I dived into the sequel/reboot (bit of both really isn't it) of one of my favourite movies...with much trepidation. The Plot: Its now 2049 and now all older model replicants are illegal (newer models are legal). We now follow a replicant blade runner called K (Ryan Gosling). After retiring a rogue replicant K discovers a box buried in the ground which contains a mysterious skeleton. Turns out the skeleton belonged to a female replicant and bares the marks of a caesarean delivery. K is now tasked with finding the child and retiring it. He takes the remains to the Wallace Corporation, which took over the Tyrell Corporation, to identify the remains. The replicant is of course Rachel from the first movie which will in turn eventually lead K back to Deckard (Harrison Ford). Of course Wallace CEO Niander Wallace wants to know how replicants are reproducing so he sends his combat model replicant Luv to get the remains and track K to find the child. The Visuals: Oh man its dark here, its so really really murky dirty and dark. Like has mankind somehow blocked the sun out and everyone lives in perpetual darkness and rain, like lots and lots of rain. But seriously, we all know the first movie was a dark moody vision of the future so its of no surprise that that has continued here (despite the fact that outside the cities there is still green countryside and blue skies, apparently). Director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins have certainly recaptured the original movies looks...and then some. Every scene, every shot, every sequence feels like something you'd see in an art museum exhibition. The imagery ranges from stunning to super stunning utilising vivid colours, muted colours, barren wastelands, surreal interiors, and of course bleak dystopian cityscapes. Anyone who knows this franchise will know what to expect for sure, but what you see here is still gonna blow your socks off. Whilst some scenes look like something straight out of your standard futuristic anime vision of Tokyo complete with huge holograms and neon signage everywhere. Other (interior) scenes do certainly seem to have a 'Prometheus' vibe about them. You could be forgiven for thinking you were watching a sequence involving the Weyland Corporation. Indeed whilst some sequences do look highly imaginative, at the same time they can be quite bizarre also. Most interior shots of the Wallace Corporation are wildly outlandish and alien looking. In fact some of it is so alien looking it actually comes across as less authentic and more showcase, literally like an exhibition of the future by a designer. On the flip side it seems impossible to escape the more obligatory dystopian visuals. As already mentioned you have the typical Futuristic far east vibe; but then you also have the typical grotty wastelands and ruins where typically hostile scavengers eek out an existence. An abandoned ghostly city (Las Vegas) is also a pretty standard sci-fi trope but in this case its visually breathtaking because its enveloped in, an apparent, eternal dazzling sunset coloured haze. Without that haze these scenes would look pretty dull and standard. The Score: After much tinkering around with different people at the helm at various times, eventually Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch were hired. The aim was to get the score back to the roots of the franchise, more in line with Vangelis's iconic score. With that in mind do I think they achieved that? Well yes and no. On one hand parts of the score is very original, very bombastic with its very loud blasts of electronic synth. But it does also tend to feel a bit too heavy or videogame-esque in places more than anything. On the other hand the more recognisable parts of the score (that remind you of the original film) are good but tend to feel a bit too close; as if they just modified Vangelis's actual work instead of coming up with their own. That's fine, but then maybe just use Vangelis? Sticking Vangelis's original score over the finale merely confirms that they should of used it throughout. The World of 2049: So what's really changed here? Not much by the looks of it. The cities (or at least LA) still look like highly polluted, rain drenched, flying traffic infested urban sprawls festooned with various (oriental influenced) neon signage. Vegas is now (ghost town remember) awash with radiation after a dirty bomb struck it (bomb? What??). We don't see much else of the world but apparently the climate is ****ed up which has led to California suffering almost permanent winters and the sea reaches inland up to Sepulveda Boulevard. Oh and said state is also overcrowded with refugees, so an accurate portrait of California for the future then. But where did all the Asian people go from the original film? In this age K can now appear to lead a normal life with a hologram partner. To the point where said female hologram actually falls in love with him and arranges for a prostitute to pop round so she can 'merge' with the prostitute and have sex with K. I found this...odd, to say the least. So is this female hologram programmed to so this? Did K request the hologram like this? Did K programme the hologram himself? Also full blown gigantic neon advertisements can interact with you which seems kinda pointless. I did like how they advanced the technology from the point of view of the original movie. In other words this films future tech is based and advanced on from the future tech of the 1982 film, not our reality based future. Hence plenty of analog tech and Atari are apparently still a big company. The whole police protocol baseline test that K must undergo in order to remain...emotionally reliant I guess, seemed overdone to me. He seemingly undergoes this everyday I think, at the end of his shift. Its quite clear that K has been taking and passing this test for quite some time and is a solid blade runner. Yet at one point he fails the test and is immediately branded rogue. By this point I would of thought failing the test wouldn't be that big of a deal. I would of thought something like that would/could be easily sorted as part of a constant police monitoring programme because surely over time it will have occurred often. I just don't see how it would be a major problem anymore, in the early days maybe but now? Also K stages Deckard's death at the end, intending to claim that Deckard drowned in the crashed spinner (or whatever flying car that was). But how does that work?? Surely anyone could quite easily find the crashed vehicle reasonably quickly (especially a man like Wallace) and discover no body. With all the tech in this world I'm sure Deckard would get found out soon enough (ahem...sequel). Niander Wallace and Luv: I can't deny that Leto fit the bill here perfectly with his smooth baby-faced looks. But I can't help but think that both Wallace and his brutal assistant Luv were slightly generic. Wallace is a highly perceptive, intelligent, calm, and softly spoken man. He is blind but we do not know if he was born this way or not (I originally thought he was a replicant). He also has a sadistic streak about him and a clear God complex as he refers to himself as a father to all of his (replicant) creations. He really did come across to me as your typical 80's kimono wearing bad guy who dwells in his large lair sending out cronies to do his dirty work. That leads us to Luv who is Wallace's female replicant enforcer. And that's all you need to know really. She's your typical menacing, equally sadistic enforcer type who knows martial arts, meh. Its worth noting that in this sequel the replicants do not appear to have the noticeable shine in their eyes anymore. I put that down to the obvious evolution of replicants, the slow blurring of both human and replicant. Well that plus the whole managing to give birth thing also. Overall the lack of a proper score throughout this film is but one issue I had in a string of issues that all led me to one real conclusion. What is the actual purpose of this film? I'm a solid fan of the original 1982 Ridley Scott masterpiece. Back in the days of yore (the 80's) when I was young I didn't really like or appreciate it. Later in life I have since grown to understand the film, I like (but not love) it. But I have never really thought the film required anything more, and that's the problem (on top of the fact this franchise is highly divisive which was proven at the box office. If you didn't like the first film...forget it). This new feature doesn't really feel like it needed. Yes the visuals are (inevitably) lavish and opulent, yes the acting is solid on the whole, and yes the package overall is well put together (kudos). But the story just felt kinda dull, not really important, not really required. There is little action which was to be expected, but also no real moments to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Nothing that rouses your emotions and adrenaline. Nothing that almost brings you to the brink of tears (...in the rain, yes I'm referring to that iconic scene). The original movie is fine as a stand alone film. It offers intrigue that doesn't require a bow on top, it doesn't really need anything further. This just felt like a sequel for the sake of having a sequel. As though they did it merely because they could, because Ford is still alive, because they could basically remake the original with better visuals. That's essentially how this came across to me. And despite being a good science-fiction film, it still can't touch the original.
We now find ourselves in an age where the filmmaking craft is so preoccupied with making money that it hinders the art form itself and saturates the market with crowd-pleasing dross. The rise of the superhero blockbuster has played a huge part in this and, as result, the creative and artistic nature of Blade Runner 2049 has become a casualty. Like Ridley Scott's film before it, it has proven to be a box-office failure and despite the desire to provide sequels, the masses simply weren't interested in this one. But 2017 took the sequel to a whole new level. They weren't just money-spinning exercises but revisits to much loved cult classics that were intent on exploring their characters in a whole new depth: 20 years after the drug-addled exploits of Trainspotting, Danny Boyle brought a satisfying maturity to T2 while, 25 years later, David Lynch revisited the quaint logging town of Twin Peaks with The Return - a deeply surreal 18 episodes that has reinvented the way that television can be viewed. Going even further back than that, Denis Villenueve revisits Blade Runner after a 35 year hiatus and relieves my nervous disposition with the impressive completion of a 2017 hat-trick. Plot: Former blade runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) has been missing for thirty years and now LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), has taken over the role of "retiring" replicants that don't conform to society. When K unearths a secret that has the catastrophic potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos, he has to find Deckard to get answers to what actually happened after he disappeared. A lot of credit must be given to director Denis Villenueve for taking on one of the biggest gambles in filmmaking history. To take on the unenviable task of delivering a sequel to the 1982 Ridley Scott classic, Blade Runner, shows real, self-assured confidence. Villenueve took the task on simply because he thought he could do a serviceable job while fans of the original (myself included) had strong reservations about a sequel even happening in the first place. As is always the case, however, the proof is in the end result and I couldn't be more happy that Villenueve has been vindicated. His vision of Blade Runner both expands upon its predecessor while also complimenting it's narrative depth and ethereal beauty. Villenueve's decision to open on a close-up shot of an iris is an obvious choice - with perhaps the only thing missing being a referential wink to the audience. Within seconds he goes on to depict an expansive, genetic farming land that's as desolate as it foreboding and already the opening "Hades Landscape" of the original springs to mind as Hans Zimmer creatively riffs on the iconic Vangelis score and manages that fine balance of reminiscence and originality. From here on, it's clear that we're back on Blade Runner territory and I'd be lying if I didn't say it felt good. There are many subtle references to the original throughout the entirety of the film but Villenueve is clever enough to make this film his own without succumbing to a pastiche. His deliberate pace will ostracise many viewers but it's entirely in keeping with the films meditative themes and allows cinematographer Roger Deakins the luxury of immersing us in this dystopian, retro-future with an abundance of gorgeous imagery. There's not a single frame wasted as Deakins delivers one of the most beautiful pieces of work ever committed to the screen. This visual genius has been nominated for an Oscar 13 times and he's lost every time. If there's any justice at all, he should win on his 14th attempt with this. This truly is a remarkable artistic achievement. Such is the visual mastery, you could be forgiven for getting lost in Deakins' sumptuous scenery and miss key elements to the plot but Villenueve, or more particularly screenwriters Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, explain things in relative layman's terms. It's not difficult to follow but sometimes can border on cliche and convenience. I didn't fully buy into some plot developments but the questions left from Deckard's past were, somewhat, unavoidable and this film provides some answers which slightly take away from the original's ambiguity. That said, it's an unavoidable line that had to be crossed and it's afforded a lot of care and respect. Although, the narrative is fairly simple the similar weighty existential and metaphysical themes are prevalent again. Where the first film explored the nature of existence, 2049 takes it slighter further and ruminates in what it constutes to have a soul and if you're looking for a reliable lead that can convey such world-weariness then look no further than Ryan Gosling. Gosling has fast become a physical master of minimalism and, as he has already proven in Drive or Only God Forgives for example, he can convey internal struggle by practically doing nothing - which makes him absolutely perfect casting here and apparently the first (and only) choice that Villenueve had in mind. He shoulders a lot of the philosophical weight of the film and holds things together when the pace is lesuirely and there's the overhanging (and overbearing) 1 hour 40 minute wait for Deckard to even appear onscreen. It's a wait that's worth it though, as it kicks the film into another gear and brings with it Harrison Ford's best performance in years. There's also more than able support from Ana de Armas as a complex hologram that longs for emotional connection and a megalomaniac Jared Leto with delusions of godliness. In other words, Blade Runner 2049 is a remarkable refurbishment and a genuinely astounding spectacle that manages to hit the beats of the original and still find its own rhythm. Some critics have have went as far to claim that this is an improvement over the original. Although I wouldn't go as far as that, this is still a magnificent continuation of the mythos. The only sour note is that it descends into slightly generic action material towards the end which jars with the deliberate and meditative tone that preceded it. That said, it manages to turn this around and when credits rolled, I found myself in contemplative silence, exhilarated by what I had just witnessed. Sequels that can achieve such a balance and expansion on their much loved predecessors are a rarity and, as a result, 2049 can take a bow and is fully deserving of a rapturous applause. Villenueve has only gone and made things we fans couldn't believe - a worthy sequel on the shoulders of a giant. Mark Walker
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