Blade Runner 2049 Review
I figured I should let a couple days pass before I actually sit down to write a review for the amazing thing that was Blade Runner 2049, which I had the chance of watching at cinema Pathe De Munt in Amsterdam, on 3D. There is a lot to be said of course and as always, I will respect those who do not wish to get spoiled regarding anything in the story.
Please be reminded that as much experience as I may have in the field of art, be it interactive, aural or visual, this is but a humble opinion article and I may be wrong on many parts. What I aim to achieve through this, is sharing my opinion about the film and thus extending it to people in my social circles, so that they can have a more complete view of what I thought of the movie. You are more than welcome to agree or disagree, it matters not in most cases as this is just an opinion, but remember that I am always up for discussion.
However, there will be a part of the article that will talk about various things that simply cannot be discussed unless someone has seen the movie or at least is told of some things that happened in it. Therefore, I will provide a line at that point called “Spoilers in the next paragraphs” before you actually go to the next page. So do not worry, as it will be near impossible to get spoiled by accident.
First thoughts on it
So, I walked into the cinema thinking that I will be watching yet another visually stunning cyberpunk film, made in a way to satisfy the needs of both the general public as well as those of the ones that have been loyal followers of the whole cyberpunk thing, either through literature or other means. I must say I walked out of the theatre stunned and with a lot of existential questions in my head.
Let’s talk about cinematography though and other things first, before we go over the deeper meanings of what is in Blade Runner 2049.
The visuals were most certainly breathtaking. Easily comparable to the amazing ones that we saw in Ghost in the Shell, which masterfully depicted all the parts that make up a cyberpunk story. High tech, all sorts of low life depicted in various ways and forms and last but not least, gritty characters whose personas we get to understand through not only the story, but also their various surroundings.
Blade Runner 2049 tried to live up to what Blade Runner had built and was so admired for and it definitely did a really good job at it. That does not mean though that it will have the same effect as the first one did, since the first one came at a time that made the making of such a movie something revolutionary and extremely groundbreaking. So, even though it will not inspire as many artists, it still stands as good proof of how artists manage to depict the cyberpunk universe today and how far we’ve come since then. Definitely inspiring on its own for sure in many ways.
The movie stayed very simple for its most part direction-wise and played around with very common mechanics usually found in European art house movies, like scenes of people just walking on a set camera view for entire minutes or scenes of a character just standing in one place, contemplating. It was very “art house” for sure and I am not even surprised a few people walked out because of that, even from the very first moments of the movie.
The contrast between the busy parts of a futuristic town and the more wasteland kind of places in other parts of the world was very apparent and it gave a good feeling to the viewer as to what this whole world was about and how “broken” it had become. The character felt very much the same by having a constant identity crisis due to their surroundings. There were not that many characters in the movie that had a very clear purpose and even they, had arrived at that point in their lifeline for a reason that was made clear to the viewers through various incidents in the movie.
Personally, I found many parts to be very awakening, since they made me start questioning everything that was going on. Take for example the very simple scene where the camera slowly zooms in to an outside cafeteria that has tables filled with people, a few sitting alone and a few others sitting with company. The zoom in was going slowly on Ryan Gosling character’s back and it took me more than 10 seconds before I myself realized that he was even there. Even when I did realize he was in the center of the image, I understood how he looked just like everyone else and how not-special he was in a world like the one he lives in.
Apart from all of that, the movie plays various tricks on our minds too, such as the one of showing us a fictional character (yes, a fictional character inside the fiction) which is basically an AI that is programmed to keep company to lonely people. One of those is Ryan Gosling’s character and we slowly get to realize various things about her. I will not spoil anything, but this is pretty much a subliminal message kind of thing that we get throughout the movie and not really that important of a part in the main storyline.
Can, just about anyone enjoy this movie?
The movie was not as action-filled as you would expect a sci-fi movie to be and although that does not make it any less good or bad, quite a few questions are raised from this. My personal concern, as soon as I walked out of the viewing room, was how are people going to be able to appreciate something like this. I am not saying they will not like it and I am not saying that there are no others like myself who have a deep appreciation for these kind of things (cyberpunk, art house movies etc.) but at the same time, I cannot help but wonder how the generic viewer of our time is going to be able to appreciate something as deep as what Blade Runner 2049 was. It sounds a bit entitled to say something like that and remember that if you are reading this, you are probably already as interested as I was in it, so you liking it just makes you one of the people on my side. The people I am referring to in this case are people that are not very close to films or other such forms of art and are thus also not used to watching films like Blade Runner. I do not blame them for not knowing how to enjoy such a film but I also cannot stop wondering how such a huge budget was given for such a movie to go in the cinemas. It does have Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling (and a bunch of other expensive cast members) and that is mostly the reason why most people would go watch it (along with the hype of it being something very “cult”) but that does not mean they will be able to fully appreciate it too. They will understand it, but not “get it”.
I get that making Blade Runner 2049 was somewhat a way to continue the legacy that Blade Runner started, but at the same time, consider this; what if the first Blade Runner came out now? Would people understand it or appreciate it? Would it do well in the cinema?
I personally believe it would not. It was a ten times harder to understand movie and it had so many abstract concepts in it that it made it somewhat tiring to even watch at times. Some even dare to say that “the new one is better than the old one.” I won’t spend any energy telling you how stupid that sounds and how invalid that is as a comment to start with, since those two movies are from different times and something very differently. It does raise questions though. The fact that people “feel” like the new one is a better movie gives a lot of pointers. Do people like more because of the better visuals or just because they were able to follow it in an easier way?
I personally still like the first one more, mostly because of its abstract nature and the messages that it has hidden in every corner of its cyberpunk world. I find it that the first Blade Runner was actually as gritty as a cyberpunk universe needs to be and the fact that it was made the year it was made only helped with making it look the way it should. The new one was obviously able to give us a lot of the other digital shenanigans of the cyberpunk world through the movie’s visuals that older movie-making technologies weren’t able to give us. That does not make it any “better” though as this is not the reason why Blade Runner became the “cult” art item that we all came to know.
Either way, I do not mean to sound negative about all of this, so I am just going to say that I am glad it was made and I am even more glad to see that it was adapted in a way that it made it easier to follow, thus attracting even more people to the lovely worlds of cyberpunk and all the hidden meanings that those have. Next page will focus on some aspects of the movie that I wanted to talk about, but cannot be discussed without going over things that would be considered spoilers for people who haven’t watched the movie.
I do have to say though that, as much as I do not like Jared Leto as an actor, he did a fine job portraying the stone cold replicant creator in the movie. I suggest you watch the short-movies before you go watch the movie itself at the theatres, since it sets the tone quite nicely for what you are about to watch later.
Next page ~ SPOILERS!