Film Critic Luis Freijo offers an alternative opinion on Blade Runner 2049
Warning Major Spoilers Follow
Let’s start by pointing out the tremendous talent of cinematographer Roger Deakins and the ability that Villeneuve possesses in order to create stunning images, powerful symbols and meaningful visual metaphors. Blade Runner 2049 is a delightful piece of filmmaking for the eyesight, a string of sequences aesthetically perfect, shot with delicacy and wisdom, that remind the spectator about the old Blade Runner movie, the cyberpunk genre and even the classic film noir. I’m saying this because, first, I wanted to run out of nice things to say about Blade Runner 2049. Now, I have.
This sequel is, for starters, a waste of money and talent, because if the unbeatable combination Villeneuve-Deakins is capable of performing their trade with this efficiency, their skills should be applied on an original sci-fi tale. One of the arguments that have been made to defend the movie is that it creates a new contribution, independent from the first film but integrated within the Blade Runner universe. Therefore, following this reasoning, we cannot judge both movies together, or compare them, because they are just different. Well, I disagree. If they are using the name “Blade Runner” on the title in order to take my money more easily, the least I can do is compare them. Otherwise, it’s cheating. Sorry, if you wanted your movie to be considered original, you should have made an original film.
But let’s follow for a while the independence idea and weight the characteristics, virtues and failures of Blade Runner 2049 itself. We have already praised the visual excellency of the film. The problem is that the sequel is a beautiful but hollow carcass. There aren’t any main ideas behind K´s journey. His quest for answers essays to be transcendent and significant, but it gets lost in its own pretension. The film does not really pose a question, even if it attempts to make us believe so. It twists the original question of humanity by showing us a replicant who might not be such, instead of the other way around, but it’s fruitless as a philosophical premise. Hampton Fancher, the original screenplayer, wrote the story but it doesn’t work. The plot is coherent in the first half of the movie, during K’s investigation, because it really follows the pattern of the old Bogart’s movies. But the minute our old friend enters the show, it gets completely lost. Some decisions seem arbitrary, stupid, like a shortcut: the appearance of Gaff for one minute, the fight between K and Deckard, the sudden acquisition of a conscience by the first, the replicant rebellion that we only see for thirty seconds…
Characters have also been built with clumsiness. Ryan Gosling puts on his Ryan Gosling face and it works because he is a robot and all, but it doesn’t really say anything. The same happens with the exchangeable female characters: Robin Wright’s police boss and Sylvia Hoeks Terminator don’t have any kind of depth, and that has raised the question about female depiction in the film. Niander Wallace motivations are also very unclear (what does he look for, and why? Why does he killed the new-born replicant?). And the worst issue, of course, is Rick Deckard. He is in the movie because he has to, for commercial reasons, but he doesn’t do anything relevant, and actually, Blade Runner 2049 falls flat with his appearance. Harrison Ford (as well as poor Edward James Olmos) is terribly underused, and his desires and needs are very confusing. Only the hologram girl, Joi, portrayed with subtlety by Ana de Armas, has something interesting to express, the growing love and sexual relationships between men and machines but, then again, Spyke Jonze already did that in Her. It’s very telling that the most interesting aspect of the movie is a hologram: beautiful, but empty.
The main problem (and now I’m going to start comparing) is that Blade Runner is already perfect and there was no need to spoil it with anything new. The film by Ridley Scott not only took some cultural references (Metropolis, the noir genre, the synthetic music composed by Vangelis) and blended them to create a vital and lasting model. It´s also one the most philosophically accurate movies ever made. It speaks about what makes us humans, about the meaning of death, about individuality. And it does so with the touching, emotional, completely beautiful scene of Roy Batty´s death. Rutger Hauer is superb there and his words mean, basically: “I am here, alive, and everything that I’ve seen and experienced make me irreplaceable”. There´s absolutely nothing like that in Blade Runner 2049, only Ryan Gosling putting on his Ryan Gosling dying face (exactly the same as in the rest of the film).
VERDICT: An insult to the audience. A money-grabbing device that thinks too much about itself. You will get stunning visuals and an excellent score, but that´s that. It doesn’t live up to its predecessor. It couldn’t from the beginning, but the result is just too far from even being a good movie. If you want honest filmmaking, go watch Wind River. You won´t find it here.