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Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049
Director: Denis Villeneuve

The design of this sequel to 1982's Blade Runner remains stark and tempered. Since the original survived mostly as an existential mood piece, it's hard to say whether or not this follow up works as well on its own. Most everything is ported over from the first film, and that includes music cues, water lit schemes splayed onto walls, macro iris shots, searing spinner noise over dystopian cityscapes and post apocalyptic neo noir down on the streets at night.

Rather unappealing was that the tone came off a bit mis-matched, with a good portion of the story being shot in a straightforward manner of lighting. Overhead fluorescents weren't exactly an enchanting way to let some scenes play out with interior shots. But as the film became more involved we got immersed in more atmospheric schemes that seemed to remain in place until the conclusion.

The story expands and throws a twist or two in the mix that didn't really offend me being a disciple of the first film, but it also didn't really phase me that much. Without spoiling anything, I'll say that this film was more engaging story-wise than the original, but it simply lacked the authentic poetry and refrain from the original, which is fine but, the issue is that this movie borrows so much from the first film that one cannot help but constantly compare the two. We get lookalikes for Pris, Rachael (as well as a cameo from an incredible Rachael likeness), and Gosling himself looks very much like the ruffled Ford from part 1. There are so many nods to the first film that it almost becomes impossible to see this as a standalone picture. Almost.

The music is powerful enough, but still, even with two composers, it cannot break the mold and capture the precedent set by Vangelis. This too would be fine had it not so closely mirrored the original score. I kept hearing what sounded like revving dirt bike engines used as a gritty music cue and almost laughed a little. Funnily enough, the most moving part of this film happens when a piece of Vangelis score is re-interpreted and brought back into a pivotal scene in the snow. My hairs started to stand up, but not because of the movie. It was because for once I could hear a piece of music that had soul to it. That's testament to Vangelis and Ridley Scott's collaboration. If I'm being honest, I think Ridley should have directed this and made it his life passion like he did with part one. I think Villeneuve does damn fine work here, but Ridley still should have never given up that kind of control. I felt it.

All in all, Blade Runner 2049 is a powerful picture. It was deeply moody and terrifically shot. Gosling's performance was pitched proper and Ford was capable, if not a bit thinly drawn. This sequel suffers from the long shadow looming over it, and would have been an authentic and much more honest picture had it tried harder to forge its own path, with it's own brand of hypnotic sound design and music score.

An Aside
I will watch this again once it hits blu ray. The IMAX theater I watched it in looked like it projected at least 60fps which almost tripled the native frame rate. This must have been to avoid smearing when the camera panned in a shot. However, this also added a bit of a "live" look to it that sometimes robbed the film of that slow and set pace that's part of twenty four frames per second. Also, as SOON as the credits started rolling the theater lights BLASTED on, as if to say, OK, GET OUT, MOVIE'S OVER! So, I suppose this was like paying $11.50 for Netflix.

Final Thoughts
I enjoyed this movie. I think it had a lot to offer in the way of story, or at least, an engaging enough mystery. It in no way eclipses the first film. If anything, it's a respectable homage to the original. However, if there is a third Blade Runner film, I'm hoping that the production team makes the decision to re-invent the wheel, and make something that can be its own thing, stylistically. This sequel does throw some things on the table that are unique and very well rendered, it's just that the baseline of the film is still steeped in a world that doesn't quite connect like the first world did. It's not as detailed, and not as moving, and I believe this has a lot to do with the lack of hypnotizing sound design, which seems to be only half there.

I keep having to add to this review because I feel as if another watch of this movie is absolutely necessary. It may be much better than I have processed yet. Therefore, my little 4 box of popcorn rating couldn't really indicate much of anything except that I've indexed this film as a priority. It's a really, really good movie, and now that I've gotten my grievances out of the way, I will return again to re-assess it.