Thursday, December 21, 2017

Review: Bladerunner 2049

Finally made it out to see Bladerunner 2049 last night. Everything I'd heard about the movie had given me mixed feelings, so I didn't hurry to spend my theater dollars. All the same, I *did* want to see it on the big screen, so hurray for second-run theaters!

If you want the TL; DR, I think I agree with everyone else: it's neither as bad as I feared it would be, nor as good as I hoped it would be.

I'm a big fan of the first movie, Director's Cut (the one without the voiceover and with the lovely ambiguous ending). I hesitated to even see this one because if Deckard was still alive, that meant he wasn't a replicant, spoiling that lovely ambiguity. But in the end, I wanted to see what they did with it.

The second movie is definitely proof that more isn't necessarily better.

Both movies are gorgeous to look at, but the new one is just too slow. I never saw cinematography so in love with itself outside of an art house. Every second was lovingly filmed . . . which meant that it felt static. I can't stay interested in watching someone walk up stairs for more than a second or two, no matter how artsy and weird the lighting is. And why would anyone (even Jared Leto with creepy cyber-eyes) choose to light their space like that?

In the original film, there are images that have stayed with me, like the blood floating in Deckard's whisky glass lit from behind. That image is one of my favorite in all of film, and it stays with me because it said so much about the character and the moment and the world all at once, yet was so brief. It also wasn't one of seven "wow" images in a row, each lessening the impact of the others.

The ending image in 2049, by contrast was so overdone! We saw K looking down at snow on his hand (an image we'd already used repeatedly earlier in the film) in an obvious echo of Roy's death at the end of film one. Then we watch him lay down in the snow, at peace. Then, we switch to an above view to watch him lie in the snow. Then, we switch to the side. So, I get that Ryan Gosling is pretty from many angles, but for goodness sake, choose an angle, decide what you want to try to make us feel and stay there.

Nearly every moment in the movie could have been cut by 30 seconds without anything important getting lost, and the pace of the whole thing would have picked up considerably.

I give the writers cred for the main twist in the story. It surprised me and had good emotional impact. I won't spoil it for you here, in case you want to see it, too. But that was some good storytelling with a long build that really paid off.

Our villainess, Luv, fell into two tropes that I am completely bored by: androids go mad when confronted with emotions AND the woman scorned gets violent. Bleah. Joi, K's cyber-girlfriend was an interesting idea, but felt tacked on and didn't impact the story as much as she might have.

The big bad boss, Wallace, is a weak substitute for Tyrell (the man behind the curtain in the first film). While Tyrell felt complex and interesting, a man with many motivations for his work, Wallace was just a one-note creepy dude out to grab power through slavery.

Most disappointing were the attempts to bring back things from the first movie. Edward James Olmos's cameo didn't add a thing to the film. Revisiting dialogue in playback felt tacked on. Worse yet, the new version of Rachel to manipulate Deckard with. Not worth the screen time. Come to think of it, neither was Deckard really. The whole movie could have left him out of it and we'd have lost little.

I think I'll stick with the first film. Thanks.


Post by Samantha Bryant, another bookish fangirl. You can learn more about her and her work at