“Blade Runner 2049”: a concise, spoiler-free review

Let’s keep this review short and sweet, because I have already dedicated five and a half hours to watch this film…twice. All in the span of one week.

The themes of this film seem particularly timely. Maybe it is because I think constantly about the evolution of Artificial Intelligence as part of my day job. Or that I read Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence a few months ago. Possibly it is because I come across articles about real androids in our midst. I am not sure.

All I know is that I enjoyed Blade Runner 2049 a lot. It is a well-conceived film noir with some great performances throughout. It feels like less of a movie and more of a novel, to the point that I did not mind the long running time. Nothing happens here without method and pause. The glances that characters share with each other say more than the words coming out of their mouths. Fortunately, there is nary an awkwardly constructed line of dialogue to be found.

The question of “what is real” stands out as a central theme in the narrative. If someone/thing is programmed to feel emotions, does that make the emotion any less real? Can machines feel true jealousy? And what are memories, anyway? The movie manages to raise such questions without being overbearing.

The replicants in the film certainly steal the thunder from the “human” characters — as they should. Constant references to the “real” — of replicants with tactile sensations versus holograms with emotional attachment — gave me pause and reflection. The movie takes its time to build up some emotional arcs, which pay off towards the end.

The “villain” of the film is nuanced and may not actually be a bad guy at all. As is made clear from the beginning, he saved mankind from certain destruction/extinction. It is hard to argue against his motives, even if a few heads hit the proverbial chopping block. I enjoyed this conceit a great deal.

Watching the original movie is not a necessary condition for enjoying this sequel. I watched Ridley Scott’s creation once and was not particularly impressed with any of it — in the same way that watching The Godfather today, in a post-Sopranos world, loses its mystique. The story here stands on its own, with or without some returning characters.

As the folks at Red Letter Media said, Blade Runner 2049 is a continuation of the original film done right. The pieces fall into the right spots and I can’t stop thinking about it. I think this is worth your time.







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