Review by Will Long
When I first saw the original ‘Blade Runner,’ I was quite young; I remember thinking that if it was science fiction and it had Harrison Ford, then it must be an awful lot like ‘Star Wars.’ I remember being disappointed back then, but that was before I learned to adore phrases and ideas like ‘cerebral’ and ‘speculative futurism.’
This time around, having aged significantly, the beauty of the Blade Runner universe was not lost on me. ‘Blade Runner 2049’ is a magically, wondrously, beautiful film. Yes, it revolves around a dying, dystopic earth; yes, people in this vision of the future are still greedy and manipulative and hateful and impoverished; yes, life is hard and then we die, but the beauty of the film cannot be denied. I know I’m biased, and I know that the imagery in this film won’t press everyone’s buttons as deliciously as it presses mine: sprawling, neon-lit cityscapes, neo retro-futurism (a freshly coined term) in the designs of costumes and cars; androids in serious relationships with digital holograms, strange mental tests, discordant fragments of language and music pressed together, all of it grim and stark and fantastic… say no more, I’m way, way sold.
It definitely feels ‘Blade-runner-y,’ which is a great strength of the film; it is also, I think, its deepest flaw. Clocking in at nearly three hours, ‘Blade Runner 2049’ drags its feet in places, and it drags most when dredging up the old history of the original film. As much as I love Harrison Ford, the plot lines he was involved with were the least compelling, the least necessary. We’re talking about androids that give near-organic birth- why slow that down with sentiment and nostalgia that doesn’t really connect any dots?
Maybe it worked for some people. I am absolutely titillated by androids and subterfuge, and the last act of the film felt like a missed opportunity. Yes, this is a Blade Runner film, and would it be so ‘blade-runner-y’ without Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard? I certainly think so. That universe is so fully realized already; I wanted more Jared Leto, I wanted to see the “nine new worlds” that he colonized with replicants and humans. I wanted more androids, more holograms, more Japanese and Russian splattered in gigantic print all around broken, colossal Los Angeles.
All in all, a beautiful film. Well-crafted, well-realized, the sound and style and imagery, the concepts and characters and crises of the future all done masterfully. If the film had simply been a three-hour stroll through the streets of a dystopic and futuristic megalopolis, I would have been satisfied, but then again, I have always sort of wanted to be an android myself, and perhaps my base-line is way off.