Yes I know I'm a little late on this one, but there's a very good reason I didn't see Blade Runner 2049 earlier: I'm not a fan of the original.
Well, actually that's not true. I've never even seen the whole thing. A few times I've tried to watch the 1982 version, and I always get thrown by the Harrison Ford voice over in the beginning. I get it, it's science fiction noir, but that's not necessarily a genre I care about. At all.
Indiana Jones in the Maltese Millennium Falcon
Now to the present.
Blade Runner 2049 puts Disney's Ryan Gosling (TM) in the lead role of runner of the blades. I still don't know what the title means.
My wife would watch Gosling read the phone book.
Before I go any further, let me say this about soft reboots. I'm not a fan. If you don't know what a soft reboot is, it's when they try and restart a franchise under the guise of pretending to be a sequel (see Force Awakens, Ghostbusters, Oceans 8). I get it. Movies are expensive. Existing vehicles have cachet, intrinsic value. Why make Super Robots, when you can call it Transformers 12.
Although some characters deserve to be retired.
So returning to Blade Runner 2049, I'll boil down my thoughts into one four words: I loved this movie.
And I went into it kind of expecting to hate it. I was expecting a lot of callbacks which wouldn't land with me since I'm not familiar with the original (other than the general premise). I was expecting Harrison Ford to hand over his running blades (still not sure about that title) or whatever. There'd be a shot of some actor or character from the original and I wouldn't get the reference. Actually, Edward James Olmos had a cameo in this one and I'm pretty sure he was in the original by how shoehorned the scene was.
Neither stood nor delivered anything in Blade Runner 2049.
Does Blade Runner 2049 have problems? Sure. It's very long. The pacing is, by Star Wars standards, very slow. But, there's something about a slow burn that's kind of refreshing and missing from modern movies. This film has some well written monologues that go on for several minutes. Ryan Gosling, who plays a replicant (a synthetic human--not a spoiler), plays his role stoic and emotionless. And it's perfect. The pain is behind his eyes. Or is it?
Blade Runner 2049 is dark, miserable, and disturbing. And I mean that in the best possible way. I was thinking about it more after the credits rolled. That's the ultimate compliment for a movie. You know what film I haven't thought about since I saw it? The Last Jedi.
Operation: Pointless Side Quest
Where The Last Jedi is a sugar coated breakfast cereal of social justice nummy nummies created by a committee of executives who look down on people's intelligence, Blade Runner has the courage to create a world where you pity the people who live in it. You don't want to be a Blade Runner. From the very beginning, we see Gosling tormented by replicant and human alike for what he does. His relationship with the hologram, Joi, is tragic and you know it won't end well.
When she calls him "Joe" I got the reaction Batman v Superman expected us to have for "Martha"
Without getting into spoilers, the other great subplot in this movie is K's (Gosling's character) story arc. If you consider where he starts, where he thinks it's going to go, and where it ends...that's some pretty fantastic writing.
The other thing that's great about this movie is that it is absolutely gorgeous. This is something I've been screaming about lately. Movies are horribly ugly these days. Even Solo was noted by some for its dark (lack of illumination) and murky look.
Pop quiz: how many characters are in this muddy, under lit scene?
Contrast this with Blade Runner 2049 where every set piece feels like it was created with care and is part of the story itself. Rain and snow even have meaning.
Remember when set design used to be a thing? Blade Runner 2049 does.
Worth noting too is Jared Leto's villain is played with great restraint. He's not evil because he wants to watch the world burn. He has a motivation and is actually interesting. Which here's a note to Disney for your next Star Wars film.
Make your villains likable.
Not like this.
And your heroes flawed.
Founder of the Rebellion, really?
To summarize. Blade Runner 2049 is absolutely in love with its characters, set pieces, and story. Sometimes we don't even think it knows where it's going, but it spins its tale with confidence. And it does get there. Eventually. With that slow burn of a great epic. It doesn't get hung up on nostalgia or love of its own franchise musk.
Maybe there are more callbacks to the original than I'm aware of. But I didn't see any swinging smuggler's dice. Its a story that stands on its own, completely separate from the original or the franchise.
Director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival) is on one heck of a hot streak. Sadly, Blade Runner 2049 didn't perform as well as people probably hoped at the box office, and this movie looked 10 times more expensive than Solo (although I'm sure that's not the case). But a sequel is not needed. This story is perfect.
Blade Runner 2049 is a modern masterpiece. It's one of the best science fiction movies ever. And it's better than the last 7 Star Wars vehicles combined.