‘Blade Runner 2049’: Is It Worth the High?Jeremiah WilhelmOctober 11, 2017
Product Enjoyed: LeafWerx Ultra-Refined Sherbert CO2 cartridge
High Experienced (1-10): Initially 7.75, which dipped down to 3.5-4 by the end of the film
Before you hit the cinema, watch the original Blade Runner. While Blade Runner 2049 can exist as a standalone film, a little background will only improve your understanding of the storyline and the connective tissue shared by the semi-robotic appendages of both films. Plus, the updated visual effects and outstanding cinematography of Blade Runner 2049 are underpinned by an unwavering deference to the iconic steampunk styling and immersive visual landscape defined by the original.
For those who desire to dig even deeper, the original Blade Runner was modeled after Philip K. Dick’s book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1962). Pick it up and give it a read.
If watching the original Blade Runner is too much of a commitment, watch the three short Blade Runner 2049 “prequel” films instead. These short vignettes depict pivotal moments in the history of man and machine that occurred between 2019 and 2049. (Anime fans should check out Blackout 2022 from Shinichirō Watanabe, director of world-famous animes Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo.)
Blade Runner 2049 Takeaways
Blade Runner 2049 is an immersive futuristic epic that seeks to place the viewer in the dystopian, technocratic remains of the not-so-distant future. The film begins with an enormous panoramic shot of farmland outside Los Angeles. Transparent greenhouse roofs color the landscape with oblong shapes the same way grains and produce would appear from the window of an airplane. Agent K (Ryan Gosling) lands at a remote protein farm and proceeds to enter the home of Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista). Unbeknownst to me, this scene was actually supposed to be the opener for the original Blade Runner. It introduces K as a current generation replicant and Blade Runner, and represents the divide between the remarkably human Sapper Morton (a Nexus 8 replicant to be “retired”) and the fierce machinations of progress depicted by modern, subservient androids.
The tension created by the thoughtful construction of each scene elevates the movie’s slower pace. (And yes, the place is slower, with a total runtime of 2 hours and 43 minutes.) Some of the grand vistas and elongated pauses captured during the film could be whittled down, but I can understand why Villeneuve didn’t. Time is an essential ingredient in the Blade Runner 2049‘s narrative: the ceaseless lives of characters from the original film, the cataclysmic events that shaped the landscape of the sequel, and the wispy narrative thread that slowly sutures the two movies together.
The content and spectacle of Blade Runner 2049 aren’t just skin-deep, either. The social and ethical ramifications of artificial intelligence are conversations we’re having right now, in this day and age, and Blade Runner 2049 illuminates the endless possibilities of the near future alongside the deepest, darkest pitfalls of our symbiosis with technology in startlingly realistic detail.
Sure, the movie is long and isn’t jam-packed with flying car chases and Michael Bay-esque pyrotechnics, but neither was the original. This movie captures a subtle and ominous tone that realistically asks, “What will it mean to be human when consciousness is no longer solely in our possession?” All the importance we derive from our position at the center of our civilization is dismantled by the awe-inspiring vision of a world governed by humans, but controlled by technology.
Is It Worth the High? This movie is definitely worth the high and will give you plenty to smoke and think on afterwards. The duration of the film can be a challenge for some, so try and find a plush theater with reclining seats (big shoutout to Cinerama of Seattle, WA).
View this movie like you would a piece of art: every frame is a picture, every gesture or action a brushstroke, every sentence a pronouncement of the story’ true intentions. Its slow place gives way to an enormously beautiful and realized world whose scope barely fits in the time allotted to it. Enjoy the ride as it debates the importance of endings, of the finite and the infinite, and of the thin gossamer that separates a sufficiently advanced technology from magic (or, as some might say, a miracle).