Why Blade Runner 2049 isn’t actually that good…
When this long awaited sequel (35 years) to Blade Runner arrived, I was moderately excited. I enjoyed the visual flair of the cult classic, the music and deep themes. Yet I was left curiously cold by Harrison Ford’s grumpy performance and by the end, I didn’t really care if he died or not. I felt more sympathy for Rutger Hauer’s ‘Roy Batty’ character and Rachel.
Strangely, exactly the same happened to me again with Blade Runner 2049. I was looking forward to seeing this in the cinema, and the bombastic trailers were brilliant too. The visuals are indeed staggering: Wallace’s gold chambers, the monolithic cities, the orange hued city… And yet, after two and a half hours, again I didn’t care if Ford’s character were to die. Gosling does a respectable job as Officer K but I honestly felt more for his AI girlfriend Joi when she got killed. I enjoyed Jared Leto’s performance as Wallace, his rambling monologues had an elegant menace to them; his demented assistant Luv is superb as a psychotic killer; and kudos to Robin Wright as the steely police lieutenant.
But, the pace is so languid and excruciatingly long that any sense of momentum leaks out of it. What’s left is an almost classic Hollywood art film. Scenes go on for so long, I often forgot how they started. Not to mention massive plot holes: how on earth would Officer K, who has just been discovered way off Base Line, be allowed 48 HOURS to escape?! If uprising replicants are such a threat, that would never be sanctioned. Also, Wright’s sacrifice feels a tad generous. Perhaps if she had died whilst saving K in custody. But nope she just dies to slow Luv down by literally a minute before she uses her computer anyway. Then after when K’s AI lover is killed, he’s just left on the floor. They don’t bother to kill him after all the trouble he’s caused?!
My favourite scene was when Deckard met Rachel again in a visually stunning chamber with a flawless CGI recreation of Rachel. That was truly outstanding. But was it worth the wait of two and a half hours? The film is critically hailed as a masterpiece, with very few complaining about the long run time. I wonder if they are being 100% honest with themselves…
Conversely, the Ghost in the Shell remake starring Scarlet Johansson was harshly criticised, and yet I found that to be a far more enjoyable and speedy experience in a similar universe. The Netflix TV series Altered Carbon too shares many themes and I had very little problem spending 12 hours in that world. I should think for anyone new to the Blade Runner universe, they would have found 2049’s pace tortuously slow. The scene where Ford and Gosling take forever to ‘ask a few questions’ is punctuated by massive gaping silences that sap the pace further still. It’s also largely humourless.
I found the above irritants very distracting and gone the 2 hour mark I would have been happy for it to end. Had it been edited tighter, the cameras closer, it may have picked up the pace. It’s telling that in the Blade Runner 2049 making of documentary, the well intentioned director Villeneuve gushes over Roger Deakins’ very impressive cinematography, more than once. And therein I think is the problem: with the director too in love with the visuals, a tighter focus on the story was lost.
My approach would have been to focus on the Blackout period, show the uprising to inject some action right at the start and then continue with the story we have in the film, but much tighter. Wallace’s excellent interrogation scene (one of the three shorts) should have been part of the main film too as it is a brilliant, tense sequence.
Visually 5/5, the ominous soundtrack is great.
Overall, I’d give it 3/5, but you won’t be likely to watch it again… But then what do I know? I’m only a writer.
(I respect those who enjoyed the slow, atmospheric pace, it just isn’t for me.)
P.S. What sort of name is WALLACE for a megalomaniac anyway?
Fancy some cheese Gromit? In fact Deckard mentions cheese to K when he first sees him…