Reviews: Blade Runner 2049

Appealing on a Primal Level, Less so on an Intellectual One

Blade Runner is as perfect an example of Seinfeld Is Unfunny as anything I can think of. It was Seinfeld Is Unfunny long before Seinfeld had chance to be unfunny. It is a movie so spoiled by its many imitators, any sequel is going to have a massive uphill battle trying to hash anything new out of so many now familiar cyberpunk tropes, let alone impress the movie's fans (you think Star Wars and Star Trek fans are hard to impress? Pfff).

And as much as it tries, it still sometimes looks a bit too familiar. We are shown a world of city blocks and giant holographic women, much like those in the Ghost in the Shell movie that came out this year. Fortunately, it has a lot more going for it, with orange dustbowls, foggy districts, golden halls and crashing waves; it is a movie that takes visual cues from the original, but has more than enough to be a true sequel with its own vision and identity. Blade Runner 2049 is a visual feast where every moment is lingered upon, and every image is meant to be soaked in. On top of that is some amazing music, combining the synth of the original with lots of primal, mechanical noises that trigger some primitive instinct in my brain. Even the special effects are pretty special; one of the characters is a semi-opaque hologram who literally blends through things and people, culminating in one of the most unconventional looking threesomes I have ever seen in a movie.

So technically it's a marvel and worth seeing on that basis alone. Story-wise, it makes some good decisions, but also some bad ones. Without going into any spoilers, our protagonist has a fascinating perspective that carries us through the movie. Opposing him is a pair of unfortunately two dimensional villains that never really work. In the original, there isn't really any actual villains (Deckard is the closest thing we get to one), and that's part of what made that such a human and appealing story. This time around we have a straight up megalomaniac and his moustache twirling dragon. Jared Leto is thankfully understated and much less awful than he is in Suicide Squad, but he's still a waste of a character and not an entirely convincing one here.

If the original was a story about a human becoming humane (whatever the evidence, Blade Runner doesn't work with Deckard as a replicant), 2049 is a movie about love, intimacy, sexual impotence and childbirth. There is more than enough to 2049 to give its finale the emotional clout and make it worth the investment, but people will notice the limitations of this rather conventional and occasionally under-developed story.