Is it worth it?
My verdict: B+
A sci-fi noir (or “tech-noir”) story told with a hint of art-house flair, Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel, 35 years in the making, to the original cult classic which opened in 1982. The story follows the journey of a “Replicant” (an artificial human) and “Blade Runner” (police sanctioned killers of other illegal Replicants), played by Ryan Gosling, who discovers a secret so vital that all parties – the good guys and the villains, want a handle on it to serve their own purposes. It is a relatively simple, but interesting story with a slight twist sometime after the half-way mark. Harrison Ford, who played the original movie’s main protagonist also stars in a supporting role, as does Academy Award winner – Jared Leto.
Blade Runner 2049 seems to be one of those movies that people either like, love, dislike or hate. My guess is not many will fall in the middle portion where people find it just “okay”. As for me, I kinda like (not love) it. It harkens back to an older style of story-telling in movies – more slow burn and of letting scenes linger and the story drag out. As such, it may not appeal to the sensibilities of modern audiences (as shown by its weak box office performance so far), who generally prefer a faster-paced story. Plainly speaking, if you are born in the 90s or later, then you most likely won’t enjoy this movie. Where I watched the movie, I overheard comments such as “I don’t understand…”, “What the @#$% is this about?”, “So boring…”.
Nevertheless, story and pacing aside, I thought that the filmmakers did well in almost all other aspects. Chief among those is the cinematography. Oh, how gorgeous. One of the most beautifully shot movies this year in my opinion. The interplay between light & darkness, color, framing, depth and details is a pleasure to behold. And precisely because of the slow pacing and lingering shots, one gets to appreciate the scenes even more. The backdrops featured include a dystopian metropolis, a post-apocalyptic ruined city, an abandoned steel mill, avant-garde halls, forests, deserts… there is sand, there is water, there is wood, there is snow… and iron and rust and… in other words, it’s a diorama builder’s dream come true.
In addition to the stunning images is the mesmerizing soundtrack, which follows in the vein of the original with its mix of odd synthesizer notes and “industrial” sounds that is both hypnotic and disturbing to hear.
Another key point is that all the actors delivered, from Ryan Gosling’s stoic but driven detective, to a grumpy old Harrison Ford, to Jared Leto’s enigmatic mogul… but the standout for me is Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks, who plays the ruthless, arrogant female main antagonist. Don’t mess with this b**.
Overall, I will say that I fairly enjoyed this movie – it has a good enough story for me… and again, magnificent visuals. The director has successfully kept the feel and tone of the original, albeit with sleeker designs and better production value. On the other hand, it IS a long movie (approx. 2hrs 40 mins) and some audience members may find it draggy and confusing.
Lastly, one might ask “Is it a must to watch the original movie before I see this?” Well, I think it is not essential, but it will certainly help you appreciate this movie more.
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