RSS Feed

Review – Blade Runner 2049

 With Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Jared Leto. Written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green. Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language. 163 minutes.

blade_runner_twenty_forty_nine_ver4Easily one of the most anticipated films of the year, BLADE RUNNER 2049 is a mixed bag. It has moments of brilliance, encompassing everything from its art design to the futuristic concepts it develops. Alas, it is also a slow-moving, overlong film in which most of the cast was encouraged to underact to the point of sleepwalking. It’s a must-see for fans of the 1982 original film, but there will be heated debates to come between its advocates and its critics.

It’s thirty years after the original story and the Tyrell Corporation, which created the near-human “replicants” is no more. It has been supplanted by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), who has developed a new generation of replicants who are more compliant to human control. Still, there are many of the Tyrell replicants out there and so “blade runners” like K (Ryan Gosling), are still needed to track them down and “retire” (i.e., kill) them.

One of the conceits of the film is that not only do the replicants seem human, but the humans seem robotic. K has no name. It’s the start of his serial number. He is repeatedly tested to see if he’s at his “baseline,” and yet–unlike the Voight-Kampff test for empathy in the original film–it’s utterly unclear how this new test is supposed to work.

K is given a new assignment, to track down a child that has gone missing and is now an adult. In the tradition of “noir” detective stories which the original followed, K’s journey takes him on an exploration of his world. It is a world of massive sets that seems decidedly underpopulated. Eventually it takes him to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), the blade runner of the original film who took off with a beautiful replicant at the end of the movie and may – and this has been debated for years – be a replicant himself.

The problem here is that, besides the leaden pacing, it’s not clear what this movie is about. “Blade Runner” asked what it means to be human and, more, what was the meaning of life in the face of death. This film has a few tricks up its sleeves, but they’re plot twists, not something to think about afterward. Indeed, in learning about a potential new rebellion of the surviving replicants, it’s not clear what that would mean for them or for humanity. Do they want liberation or do they want to overthrow the established order and put themselves in charge?

There are moments of invention that are standouts. K’s sole emotional connection is with a hologram (Ana de Armas), and in a surreal moment that is both touching and creepy, the hologram merges with a prostitute so that he can have a physical connection as well. It’s moments like this that make the film worth watching and thinking about, yet there are more set pieces like a fistfight between K and Deckard that go on pointlessly while providing some clever visuals.

“Blade Runner 2049” is less than the sum of its parts, although some will overlook or defend its flaws and embrace it. Perhaps going in with lowered expectations will make for a more satisfying experience.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.




About Daniel M. Kimmel

Film critic, author, lecturer.

6 responses »

  1. Absolutely a crap movie,so dissapointing,not remotely like the original

  2. SPOILER: Um,, Dan, K is a replicant, which is clearly revealed in the first scene, when Sapper Morton confronts him with the fact that he is willing to go after “your own kind.” His subsequent interactions with his boss make no sense without this fact, which is alluded to again and again. The test he’s being given is a test to see if he will still obey his orders without question, which is to say, whether he has acquired free will, by seeing if the answers and their manner of delivery are predictable.

    Really, you should erase this entire review and replace it with a placeholder saying “Oops, I need to see the movie again.” It’s like reviewing Casablanca and missing that Rick and Elsa once had a thing — you wouldn’t know what that was about, either. Thanks to contemporary audiences’ greater familiarity with the basic concepts of AI, the movie is able to draw much more from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep [1], and as a result is thematically deeper than the original.

    [i] Like the “chickenhead” J.R. Isidore in the novel, K is a being regarded as less than fully human who demonstrates his humanity by his empathy for beings regarded as even less human (androids and robotic animals in Isidore’s case, digital holograms in K’s).

    • Daniel M. Kimmel

      Yes, I know what the test is SUPPOSED to do, but it doesn’t succeed in doing it. It’s incoherent. Him repeating words doesn’t reveal much of anything which is why we have to be told that he is or isn’t at “baseline.”

    • Daniel M. Kimmel

      Just watched it again. Yes, K is a replicant. That doesn’t gainsay my point that the humans in the film are utterly robotic. Indeed, on a second viewing I’ve decided I was much too kind to the film. It is long and boring, and the director clearly lacks the ability to tell a story or even get to the point as was already apparent in “Prisoners” and “Sicario.” The fact that “Arrival” worked seems to be an aberration. If, as you suggest, I was to re-reivew the film I would lower its rating to 2 1/2. The art direction and the few standout scenes are not enough to overcome the bloatedness and emptiness of this movie, where the almost total lack of population belies the whole nature of the future that the original fllm presented. This is, at best, an interesting failure.

  3. The first Blade Runner had memorable characters who at least compensated for its lack of pace. This one has nothing or no one you could care about. Ryan Gosling is a Blank with all the charm of an empty cardboard box. Ford as usual is much better but has very little to do. The problem with the film is that nothing is resolved. By the end of it we have more questions than when it began. I just got the feeling i was being set up for a sequel which has become the curse of the modern movie.

  4. A five-star, unforgettably gorgeous film to satisfy intellects, “Blade Runner 2049” certainly, candidly, without a doubt, is a worthy successor to the original movie. Never straying into prefab motifs, fanboy virtue signals subtle to the visions of bleakest dystopian Los Angeles holotisements, it rains true like a noir, like tears in rain. The old Blade Runner was lost to time in the Blackout, and the new one is similar, perhaps better, better in the way a replicant is more human than human. It moves slowly, so if you need to, better download And if you want to, watch “Blade Runner” again and try to see how this one presses against it like a holographic lover.

    There is so much here. Loneliness without feeling it, in the drone aspect of the Spinner’s s/d module reaching into the ground for evidence, in the dream fabulist within her plastic bubble flipping through birthday cake objects, in the never-named ghost town of dusty, broken Supertech where Deckard makes an existence. In the light of the rooms so opulent, the nods to the hairstyles of the pleasure models reflecting Daryl Hanna heroin chic again without trumpeting this information into your eustachian tubes as to make you lose your balance. Subtle, people. Subtle is the name of the game, subtle being the exact opposite of obvious. The script is a verb, and the characters are nouns upon which it acts, not the verb of video game ultraviolence, no, detective-like, more “Angel Heart,” meandering like Westwood Arts’ brilliant adaptation of “Blade Runner,” time spent on quiet. Quiet, halls of quiet, fields of quiet such at times that the theater is reserved and you dare not breath for fear of being the one in the show who breathed.

    The smallest ideas are not necessary, like the updated Voight-Kampff, but driven to absurdly hypertense engagements in which the involuntary dilation of the iris is replaced by the nasty rasp of a goading social psychologist telling our replicant hero he’s at baseline. Even the unexpected reunited moment of the original score, which is a spoiler I cannot tell you, is well done.

    “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: