Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
The key to the future is finally unearthed.
I'm going to be honest, like at some point during these I'm not. It's been a little while since I watched the last Blade Runner movie - and I couldn't even tell you what of the thirty (exaggeration) versions I watched. I can tell you that although I can appreciate plenty of scenes within it, and some of the finer moments of the setting and pitch I largely wasn't a huge fan. I enjoyed it, but it didn't resonate with me in the manner that some do where it becomes heralded as one of the best movies ever and I feel compelled to dig into subtext that may not even exist so that I can prove "but this character is totally a robot too!" All of this in mind, when the new one come out my first thought wasn't really why - true, I didn't think it was necessary to follow up on anything from the first but the setting itself merits plenty of other stories to be told - but rather if I should eventually get around to it. That all brings us to today. Get your bathroom breaks taken care off, it's time to get dark with light hints of neon and color grades and chase some blades.
The biggest thing I can recall about the first Runner was that it was very much this sort of detective movie. There wasn't a lot left to the watchers imagination, largely due to following both sides of the mystery element, but it played out much like I would have expected a noir story to play out. With that came a little bit of slowness, as though things would be marinating on screen as they were being revealed and played out - such as the filmmakers wanting you to stew on things and really mull it over. In that manner, this sequel rings a similar bell and follows in those footsteps - however, whereas the first only felt as though it was simmering a bit, in actuality it wasn't all that long. Here, They tack on about an extra hour to that first and despite not feeling painful, it certainly feels like the movie can be taking a long while when it starts hitting all those moments of basking in it's own sticky progression. This won't bother others as much as it came onto my radar - surely anyone whose more into a mystery or character drama where the pacing can be a bit spread out won't even notice it, although arguably someone looking for a fast paced action flow may end up being further agitated than even I.
The characters aren't to blame for the slowness however. Actors do a great job here, even when part of that acting is "you are a robot, so don't show too much emotion while still being something more than a door mat." I know it's going to annoy people that I keep saying robot instead of replicant, but quite frankly most of these "new series" on show in this come off far more as robots (intentionally I assume) than what we experienced in the last, where their super-humanity was pretty much why they were being hunted down in the first place. There are some fine moments over the course of things where the actors really get to shine a bit, acting more through expressions and movement than straight up delivering lines, and I'll give it to the main Gosling in that he plays the part better than one would expect, with the understanding that the initial "all business" is in fact an intentional direction of the character.
The sound design really allows you to hear the actors quite well. The soundtrack is... alright. There are a few actual songs in there - be it in pieces - but largely audio in the background fits largely into almost just ambient noises. It's fitting of the setting, and occasionally we do here those savory synthesized tones, and maybe it's even just the length of it causing me to simply loose track of the finer parts beyond the few horn minimalist segments. On the flip side of that, there are actually a few moments of audio that (hopefully) were put there to be unpleasant, because if it wasn't intentional than someone in the sound department is just a jerk and I don't appreciate it. There's also a mix of languages going on in here, similar to the first, so it's nice that in those moments they give us some nice clean subtitles hard-baked into the screen.
The effects department has some fun here. There's a moment or two of things looking shoddy, but the larger portion is all anywhere from nice to impressive. It's not all blown-out obvious effects either, as can be best seen in the holographic companion of our main, who always has this very subtle transparency to her. Subtle enough, in fact, that at times it feels as though something was just a bit smudged until you realize that it's a light that's behind the hologram. Violent effects - such as blood - come off looking largely fine as well, although again there is a moment or two where you won't be quite as impressed as others. Backdrops are also quite nice as far as details go, and the costumes all allow people to look rather distinct form each other - at least enough that you aren't ever confused as to who you are staring at.
On the flip side of that. a lot of the movie can feel as though it just had one big color-grade applied to it. Moments seem almost desaturated, as though everything came out of some of the more modern DC movies, a bit void of color with everything looking quite samey. On the other hand, another scene might be just slathered in orange, again resulting in a little bit of feeling samey. It can work a bit in the favor of "artistic" for some of the scenes, and at other times can make some of the sets feel a bit bland. The few shots we get where things look incredibly vibrant are probably more countable on one hand, but certainly invoke thoughts of the few street-sides and fancy clubs from the first - granted a lot of the darker color-washed blue scenes also strike that same reminiscence. Something with a nice contrast of darks would potentially lend itself to seeing more details in certain scenes, although potentially it could ruin some of the mysterious vibe some of those scenes set up, so I'm at an impasse over that one.
Lastly, I feel like I need to talk about the plot a bit. I don't want to go into too much details, because in all honesty I've long since cherished my ability to either boil things down to such a base level that it's obvious enough to still enjoy the story, or otherwise just leave the large part of watching a movie open to the people who want to experience it. In this case though, there is a mystery at foot and given my earlier point of it feeling a bit slow, I only feel its fair to elaborate on this a bit more than usual. That mystery largely boils down to "who is one character" - although there's other questions that arise here and there as well. To be sure, the movie ends up pushing one path so hard that the average mystery fan will probably reject it like rotten fruit, whereas the less prone will look at it and just go "i mean, how could it be any other way?" More than that main story point though, my main mystery resolves around the hologram, and how it can seemingly interact with things like rain at times. I'm sorry, but for such a small moment that thing had me baffled for most the rest of the movie.
The movie isn't bad, but to be totally honest it's a bit long for my taste. It feels like it really pushes one thing for it's mystery element and in turn it feels as though there really is no mystery element - which is strange - but it feels as though it continues with thoughts and concepts from the first. It's arguable that one wouldn't need to watch the first to enjoy this one, despite a character or business making an appearance or reference, although it's not like it would hurt either. If you enjoyed the first one, I assume you'll enjoy this more than someone who didn't, but it's a bit hard for me to lean one way or the other as far as recommending this - given that mystery dramas aren't generally my main cup of tea, but I can at least say that it's certainly not bad.