By Mario Ricciardi
Most people will say the original “Blade Runner” is a sci-fi classic. Robots, apocalyptic scenery and a Shakespearean narrative questioning what it means to be human, even Han- I mean- Harrison Ford; it’s all there and people will tell you they love it.
I don’t get the appeal. As the Beatles did (and yeah, I get backlash for this too), “Blade Runner” marks a new age for its medium. I can pick out a handful of good things about it, but then I call it a day. The pacing is too slow, the story falls flat on its own ambition and Harrison Ford in true Harrison Ford fashion never really acts. I guess I’m more of an Elvis guy anyway.
For a classic that has enough alternate cuts to warrant a suspicious mind, it makes sense to make a sequel that will one, make the studio more money, and two, try to get the film right the first time. Hence “Blade Runner 2049.” If there’s one thing to say about it, it’s that it looks amazing.
Each shot in this movie could hang in the Butler at an exhibit for neo-noir atmospherics. Director Denis Villeneuve makes the viewer fully aware that movies are art in the sequel. “Blade Runner 2049” follows Blade Runner, Ryan Gosling’s Agent K, as he (literally) unearths a secret meant to stay buried that has the potential to throw what’s left of the post-apocalyptic society he lives in into chaos.
His discovery leads him on a dangerous hunt for answers about his own mortality, a face-to-face with the enigmatic owner of the world’s most powerful corporation, and Rick Deckard himself. Sharing similar visual influences to Villeneuve’s other films “Prisoners” and “Sicario,” it is clear he and cinematographer Roger Deakins are creating unique images coming from a visionary mind.
For a seedy, noir color palette, there is a lot to look and marvel at. The sets are sleek and the lighting design is truly something special. You can’t help but wonder about the symbolism each shot holds because the painstaking preciseness from the first shot on is very apparent. Think Edvard Munch but with the crisp image of digital 4K resolution.
Now I know most of that was film geek ranting and means little on a personal level to most. I know why you’re really here. You are all waiting for one particularly burning topic to be discussed – no, Kylo Ren does not kill Harrison Ford in this one.
Honestly, Harrison does little acting, but he’s good at carrying a screen presence. This is something he and his spiritual predecessor Ryan Gosling share in “2049.” Neither have much to flex their acting chops with, but they do a job of it that keeps your attention.
In fact, supporting actors Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Ana de Armas and Lennie James also pack a lot of meaning into the minimal material they are given and earn your attention. This is necessary for “Blade Runner 2049” because overall it is a very long, drawn-out film. It clocks in at about two hours and 45 minutes, and although you know there is a plot revolving around subject matter of great importance, it is difficult at times to see clearly what that is.
I do not trust the “Blade-Runner 2049” lengthy run time, challenging plot and ambiguous meanings to deliver something worthwhile and meaningful for life outside of the theater. For myself, that is what makes science fiction great. Good sci-fi shows you a deeper look at humanity through fantastical means. If the new “Blade Runner” did that, I am still searching for it.
Overall, “2049” hits the same highs as the original (color-palette, set design, casting), but hits the same lows as well (pacing that is too slow, overly ambiguous plot, too little meaning for so much substance). This one will probably hang around, but for me it will most likely fade away like tears in the rain.