Words by Owen Trewartha
Blade Runner remains to be an incredibly influential masterpiece of Sci-Fi/Tech Noir and one of the greatest examples of visual storytelling. A combination of style and substance which provokes the audience to question their own morality and philosophical stance on love, death and what it means to be human.
As a self-proclaimed fanboy of the original, admittedly my heart sank when a sequel to this great piece was announced. However, now that the sequel has arrived and the hype surrounding it swarmed, I, as most others would struggle to contain excitement for another installation into the Iconic universe.
Blade Runner 2049 starts strong with an incredible visual flair and even more impressive soundtrack, which had butterflies in my stomach. Could it be? Will there be a film that can maybe even top the now aging Blade Runner? Unfortunately not even close.
Blade Runner 2049 is like a beautiful 5-star meal with all the trimmings, if that meal was prepared 3 days prior. It’s extremely cold exterior and even less satisfying plot leaves the fan groaning in the credits and feeling dizzy. The film stalls hard after the initial buzz and fails to recover at almost every turn.
It seemingly has all the right ingredients and a healthy budget to justify it’s over bloated runtime at 2 hours and 45 minutes, but the surface enjoyment you’ll get from its bright lights and grinding soundtrack can only do so much.
The answer is a simple one. Its soul is missing. At its very core, Blade Runner as a story challenges the audience to think abstractly about how we as humans perceive our value and relationships with others. Memories, lovers, music, pets etc. All of which have been blurred into organic and synthetic subcategories leaving the dark future of 2019 Los Angeles a seemingly heartless and cold purgatory. Inside this cold world and restrained characters burns a flame of passion and humanity which we can’t help but be pulled in by.
2049 fails to give any emotional weight consistently and tries embarrassingly hard to get your attention. Scene after scene includes people weeping and trembling, expressing the trauma in which they have undergone in this bleak existence. All of which come over as synthetic as the 40-foot holograms which advertise bankrupted airlines and Japanese soft drinks and snacks.
The root of why Blade Runner is remembered, not just as a film but a philosophical debate, has been left behind. Denis Villeneuve has created a sexy imitation of his best Blade Runner Halloween costume, but once you remove the mask it has the directors face looking up at you, praying you believe the illusion.
Villeneuve also challenges the first installment by altering plot lines and changing the entire integrity of the original’s message, which in turn makes the sequel not poor by any means but painfully average. So much can be done with the universe at hand and yet we receive a simple, linear, plodding art show which has forgotten what was important about Blade Runner in the first place.
As mentioned this film isn’t terrible. It will heavily disappoint fans once the bells and whistles of the shiny effects wear off and leave an unremarkable film in its wake. The reception of Blade Runner 2049 is reminiscent of Star Wars: A Phantom Menace. Massive amounts of buzz in the beginning but the feeling slowly will set in, that perhaps it really isn’t as good as you first thought.
These are initial reactions and repeat viewings could change my opinion, but the long run time and ticket price aren’t tempting to even a huge fan. A good attempt but could have been so much more.