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Greatness, Within Reach, Goes Unrealized

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Greatness was in reach with Blade Runner 2049, but Denis Villeneuve wasn't quite able to seize it. It's a technical marvel and the film has some truly jaw dropping, standout moments, but in the end it does not coalesce into a coherent, meaningful narrative.

The film dazzles when it introduces us to the technology of its dystopia, fixating the audience with innovations that capture the imagination and immediately make sense in the context of its devastated environment. Even more-so than the science, the landscape tells that tale of Earth in 2049. No dialogue is required as we move from a protein farm to the dingy, neon-lit, overcrowded city to an endless wasteland of junk metal and garbage. The sights and sounds convey all the background information that is necessary, eschewing exposition and trusting in the intelligence of the audience.

Unfortunately, by the end of its 2 1/2 hour run time, the story arc of our new main characters is sacrificed on the altar of old ones. The ending of the original Blade Runner is a piece of cinematic perfection due to its emotionally powerful climax followed by a conclusion that's equal parts tragedy, hope and intrigue. 2049 has an uninteresting climax and contains no such intrigue in its final moments; just some unresolved plot threads and a heaping dose of sentimentality.


Like the story, the soundtrack is hit and miss. It often rises to the occasion and provides a powerful and fitting audio accompaniment to the visual feast on screen, but at other times feels overbearing and lacks the subtlety and ethereal quality of Vangelis' original Blade Runner score.


I don't mean to sound overly harsh because I did enjoy this film, especially during its first two acts, but the bar for a sequel to classic cinema is high. Perhaps I'll have a different take upon subsequent viewings, but as I watched the credits roll for the first time, I couldn't escape the thought that the story needed more work to discover its own message and formulate a resolution that reverberated with its many magnificent pieces.

Pros
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Amazing visuals
Creative technologies that immerse and delight
Excellent setup that prompts many thoughts / questions
Setting and backstory feel like an authentic continuation of Blade Runner
Thoughtful film making that's more show than tell (most of the time)
Harrison Ford has one really good line

Cons
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Weak third act
Underdeveloped antagonist (who's not even part of the film's resolution)
Harrison Ford becomes baggage very quickly
The wrong elements become the focus (much like Ghost in the Shell earlier this year)
Soundtrack spiked to gratingly high levels at times
Plot becomes more muddled near the end rather than more clear
Science fiction should never rely on a "miracle" as a plot device

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Despite its final act shortcomings, Villeneuve did what few directors could have: make a Blade Runner sequel that did not disgrace the original.

7/10
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Added by Hereticked
1 week ago on 11 October 2017 22:52



Comments

Posted: 1 week, 1 day ago at Oct 12 0:39
"Main character's story arc ends 20-25 minutes before the movie does" do you at least get the movie? The arc of K at the end is that he finally find a purpose: give his own life for a mayor cause. Also, why the miracle is wrong? You just said is wrong but never explain anything, K is looking for some meaning to his mision, and find it in that, i dont know, but through the whole film is pretty obvious.
Posted: 1 week, 1 day ago at Oct 12 0:57
Helping Deckard re-unite with his daughter is not what I would call a "major cause" and Ana would have been safer if K and Deckard had never found her. Since Wallace is still out there, they will be hunted down relentlessly. So in the end, even if K did sacrifice himself, he did nothing but endanger Ana and help Wallace get closer to his goal.

My problem with the story is that from the point that Joi gets smashed and K learns the truth about himself, the story becomes more about older characters (Deckard, Rachael and the events they set in motion) than about any of the new characters the sequel has given us. I would rather have a story that was centered on K, Luv, Joi, Wallace and Madam directly, but it all becomes subordinate to having Deckard in the film as an excuse to have the re-animated corpse of Harrison Ford in the picture.

Also, finding out that K is not Deckard's son breaks the logic of the plot. If K is not the special progeny that we thought he was, that means he's an ordinary Nexus 8. If he's an ordinary Nexus 8, than how is he disobeying commands, lying and going off and following his own whims? He shouldn't be able to do any of that. Not to mention, what's his motivation at that point? Just revenge? Helping the guy who he just met an hour ago? And yet he knows that helping Deckard puts Ana in danger and endangers the future of the "resistance" replicants. If Nexus 8 are breaking free of their programming and creating the resistance, why isn't humanity freaking out about this? Why isn't Wallace concerned? Why was this not a bigger part of the plot? The whole thing is a mess.

As for the "miracle", I was merely pointing out that relying on one as a plot device is lazy story telling and not really in line with what makes good science fiction.

I suppose, in one regard, I should have chosen my words more carefully. It's not so much that K's story arc ends early so much as it stops making sense 20-25 minutes before the end. I will amend my review to reflect that.

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