Blade Runner 2049 is something of a tragic film. Now, I’m not talking about its content (although there is that, too), but rather, its Box Office returns. The film earned $260.5 million worldwide but needed $40 million to break even. Unfortunately, the film was on track to lose $80 million at the Box Office. But the real tragedy is that the film is damn good – and the diminishing returns only discourage Hollywood from investing in such artsy, creative ventures.
Haven’t watched 2049 yet? Well, here’s some free advice. Go and watch it. Oh, but make sure to watch the 1982 original first. The extra context makes the movie even more enjoyable. Thus, here are 10 reasons Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best films ever made.
10) The Actors Own Their Roles
So, let’s just put it out there right now. The acting in Blade Runner 2049 is top-notch brilliance. Acting in a film set in a dystopian, speculative future is surely no easy task. After all, you’re essentially performing characters and situations that don’t exist in our time and feel almost fantastical in nature.
Regardless, the actors pull off their roles convincingly and realistically. Ryan Gosling is truly convincing as a replicant through his physical expressions and interactions with other characters – yet, like many replicants, he manages to inject a slithering of humanity into his role. This particularly comes into play when Joe begins to suspect he may not actually be a replicant. It’s amazingly multi-layered.
Likewise, Ford delivers a commendable performance as a jaded Rick Deckard. You can easily believe this is a man who has lived in hiding and seen some awful things in his time. He and Gosling manage to generate some good chemistry as co-stars.
9) A Fitting Tribute to the Original Blade Runner
Blade Runner 2049 is evidently a labor of love – it is, after all, directed by Denis Villeneuve, who claims the first film ignited his passion for filmmaking. In some sense, therefore, you are watching a big-budget fan film. But you don’t need to know the Director’s reverance for the first movie to see how it’s a fitting tribute to its predecessor.
It’s not only seen in the movie’s further exploration of the replicants, Walter Corporation and Rachel, Rick’s former lover. It’s also seen in the film’s hinting that Rick may be a replicant. Rick’s friend from the previous film, Officer Gaff, also gets a small but significant cameo in the film. In both big and small ways, the film respects the legacy of the original.
8) Tense Action Scenes
While BR2049 isn’t the most action-packed sci-fi film in existence, when it does break out into action, it really delivers. These scenes are tense and powerful, intelligently edited to keep you on the edge of your seat. More so when you have a good surround sound system installed – you can literally feel the tension in your skin.
Oddly enough, the small number of action scenes actually works in the film’s favor. Not only does it make way for the narrative, but when the action starts, it actually matters. The attack on Deckard’s hideout, for example, is so unexpected that it makes the adrenaline rush that follows even more edge-of-your-seat.
7) Its Undercover Optimism
Although Blade Runner 2049 is set within a dystopian world, it leaves the audience with a sense of hope. You see, one of the questions the film explores is whether androids are truly human. Are the experiences of replicants as valid and real as those of natural-born humans? Or does their artificial nature mean they are merely products designed to mimic human nature?
Oddly enough, the movie answers this question optimistically. Although the ending is somewhat bittersweet, it does prove that replicants can feel and act as humans do. They can also fight for the same values that humans uphold. In conclusion, they can affect their world in the same way their natural-born peers do. All in all, BR2049 embodies the triumph of the human spirit.
6) The Blade Runner 2049 Soundtrack is Awesome
BR2049‘s soundtrack is pure brilliance. Composed by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer, the film’s soundtrack is comparable to such giants of ambience such as Jonn Serrie and Brian Eno with its otherworldly feeling. It perfectly accommodates what’s occurring on-screen, musically narrating the film’s downtrodden universe.
And of course, the composers honor the original film by reviving ‘Tears of the Rain’. Needless to say, this short but profoundly beautiful ambient score is used to great effect in the film. It’s used to mirror the last film’s events, putting the cherry on top of an already brilliant score.
5) Takes its Time to Develop its Universe
Many have criticized BR2049‘s intimidating 2-and-a-half hour runtime (including the original film’s director, Ridley Scott). And hey, they may have a point, particularly when it comes to cutting down some of the establishment shots. But the runtime also allows the film to properly flesh out its universe alongside its intriguing narrative.
The city of dystopian Los Angeles is beautifully melancholy and downtrodden. You can feel its nihilism reek off every street corner. From the eye-catching billboards advertising advanced AI systems to the seedy slum bars, BR2049‘s setting is unusual among sci-fi films in that it feels lived-in. And that’s just the start of how the film creates its unique universe.
4) Thought-Provoking Themes Abound
Blade Runner 2049 further explores the profound themes of its 1982 predecessor. Most notably, the question as to what it means to be human. And, on top of that, what makes a real human being different from an artificial one. Given the philosophical nature of the movie’s questions, it’s no wonder its universe is based on Philip K. Dick’s work.
It also poses the question as to if anything is truly real at all. Before meeting Rick Deckard, Joe’s most meaningful relationship is that with Joi, an artificial AI designed by the Walter Corporation. And later, it’s apparent that Joi is a consumer product anyone can purchase, not something unique to K. For example, branding K with the name ‘Joe’ is simply one of her standard functions, making his romantic experience feel even more illusory.
3) The Mystery of Ryan Gosling
Blade Runner 2049 is remarkably good at producing intrigue through its narrative. It achieves this by making its own protagonist an enigma. As an audience, we aren’t even sure who this man is. Is he a replicant or a human being? Is he the son of Henry Deckard or not? We are left asking these questions until the end of the movie.
The veiled truth of Joe’s identity is a major plot hook of BR2049. It’s the reason why we sit through the film as we are eager to find out who he really is. What’s more, Joe’s existential crisis concerning his identity is deeply human and relatable and helps us connect and relate to him throughout the film.
2) It Sucks You Into the Blade Runner Universe
Many argue that Blade Runner 2049 has shots that are far too long. And to some degree, that point is understandable. For viewers who are impatient or possess short attention spans, it’s easy to find long constant scenes of Ryan Gosling walking glumly through a dystopian world rather tedious.
But oddly enough, these scenes add to the film’s atmosphere rather than detract from it. The shots emphasize how lonely and disconnected Joe is from his surroundings. They also demonstrate how lifeless and synthetic Blade Runner‘s universe is. This is further empowered by the film’s beautiful melancholy soundtrack and overall ambiance. Due to this combination, the film becomes more engrossing than many of its science-fiction movie peers.
1) It Doesn’t Stick to Sequel Conventions
The Powers-That-Be could easily have just brought Harrison Ford back for Blade Runner: The Further Adventures of Rick Deckard. But they didn’t – and this works to the film’s advantage. By having us view the narrative through Joe’s eyes, we get a fresh look at Blade Runner’s unique dystopian universe. We learn about its new rules and conventions at the same time as Joe does while tackling the familiar subject matter.
Rather than merely give us a fanservice-filled sequel complete with a returning cast, the movie focuses on the themes that made the first so great and then expands upon them. While BR1‘s Rick and Edward return in various capacities, they aren’t merely shoehorned in for nostalgia’s sake. They actually serve a purpose to the story, which is arguably the best kind of fanservice you can lend to a movie.
So, what do you think? What do you think makes Blade Runner 2049 such an awesome film? What are your favorite parts of the movie? Share your thoughts in the comments below.