Blade Runner 2049: Visually stunning but unnecessary

By Ezra de Leon

Philip K. Dick, the author of the novel that inspired the original Blade Runner, often dealt with heavy themes in his books, such as the nature of truth and reality. Blade Runner 2049 raises a lot of questions too, such as:

  • Why was this movie made?
  • If millennials are the ones most likely to go to a movie theatre, why make a sequel to a movie that came out before they were even born?
  • For someone who’s been in countless action scenes, why does Harrison Ford not know how to throw a punch?

I can only provide answers for the first two and guess at the third – it’s because Ford is ornery and doesn’t listen to stunt directors.

The first movie was groundbreaking and ushered in “futurism” in sci fi. It was film noir in a dystopic Los Angeles, full of pollution, neon lights, and a moody atmosphere. Clocking in at nearly three hours, 2049 ditches the neon but doubles down on the atmostphere. There’s a constant feeling of loss and sadness which is hammered in by the arresting visuals. Who knew grey skies and garbage dumps could look so beautiful? Quebec director Denis Villeneuve certainly did amazing work here.

As you may remember from the original, human-like “replicants” are used as slaves in the future. Ryan Gosling plays K, a replicant who “retires” his disobedient compatriots. Without going into too many details, in his duties as a “Blade Runner”, K unearths a mystery surrounding some long-escaped replicants, a mystery with disturbing implications. Jared Leto has a suitably creepy cameo as the owner of the corporation that makes replicants.

K’s investigation eventually leads him to an irradiated Las Vegas and to the original’s Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). The first movie ended on an ambiguous note, with many interpreting it to mean that Deckard was himself a replicant. 2049 leaves this question unanswered but it brings up many callbacks to the first movie. One doesn’t need to have seen the original to understand 2049 but certain scenes gain more poignancy if you can understand the callbacks. However, that still brings up why someone shouldn’t just watch the original instead.

You may have seen articles saying that box office earnings have been going down and this past summer has proven especially dire. Because of the economy, people are less willing to spend money on entertainment. Fearing for its profits, the movie industry has been producing works they consider “safe”, such as remakes, reboots, sequels, and adaptations. Blade Runner was a game changer and a movie executive probably thought nostalgia would bring in the big bucks. (And it was probably a man, considering the gender breakdown of Hollywood). Unfortunately, no one was exactly clamouring for a sequel, especially one that doesn’t bring in anything new.

I’ll end on the question that all reviews must answer: Is the movie worth leaving the house for and paying $12 ($18 for 3D)? Not really. Wait for it on Netflix if you must.