In my view, the terms “film” and “movie” are not synonymous. I believe a “film” is a work that prioritizes metaphor, analysis, symbolism, etc. above entertainment value, while a “movie” does the opposite, striving to put entertainment value above all else. 2001: A Space Odyssey is my all-time favorite film, but 2010: Odyssey Two is a better movie. In 1982, Ridley Scott set out to make a film, and the studio tried to turn it into a movie. I would say the original Blade Runner is a nearly perfect film, both in the Director’s Cut and the Final Cut, although it’s a deeply flawed movie. Now, 35 years later, Denis Villeneuve teamed up with Blade Runner co-writer Hampton Fancher and Michael Green (Heroes, Logan, American Gods) to produce this sequel. I use the term “sequel” loosely: watching the original will enrich this experience, but it isn’t strictly necessary, and characters from the original are on screen for less than an hour of the 163 minute runtime.

Cast and Crew Information

Ryan Gosling as K
Dave Bautista as Sapper Morton
Robin Wright as Lieutenant Joshi
Ana de Armas as Joi
Edward James Olmos as Gaff
Jared Leto as Niander Wallace
Andre Lukacs Molnar as Memory Child
Carla Juri as Dr. Ana Stelline
Barkhad Abdi as Doc Badger
Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard
Sean Young as Rachael

Screenplay by Michael Green and Hampton Fancher. Story by Hampton Fancher. Loosely based on characters created by Philip K. Dick.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Premise

Officer K is a replicant, tasked with bringing in Nexus 8 models who have open ended lifespans. On the way, he uncovers a secret that has the potential to change the world.

High Point

Villeneuve has created a work that belongs right alongside the original from 35 years ago, exploring many of the same themes in a story that does not ignore the passage of time, but still stands on its own. It’s an extremely difficult line to walk.

Low Point

It’s not catching on with audiences. I fear that the underperformance of this film may prove the studios right: the portion of the audience that wants highly intellectual films to analyze and study is not large enough to support such films when they need large budgets. If you want more intelligent movies out there, support this movie in theatres. It’s got a budget of $185 million US, including promotions, but it’s looking at a worldwide box office revenue of $82 million in its opening weekend. To be considered profitable these days, it needs to bring in over double its budget, so we’re looking at $370 million US. Opening weekends for the top 5 performers this year typically account for 37% of the final worldwide revenue, so if that holds here, it will take in a total box office below $221 million, falling well shy of profitability.

The Review

This feels original despite being a sequel. It feels less like a sequel and more like a new story set in the same world 30 years later. The themes explored are the same, but a completely new approach is employed to get to them. I give it 5 out of 6.

The effects are nearly flawless. It’s hard to fool a Canadian with fake snow, but the rest was fantastic. There are shots that need to be CGI, but I have no idea where the physical ends and the digital begins, and can only pick out CGI because it’s impossible that it was a physical effect. For many effects, I haven’t got a clue if they went physical or fantastic CGI, and that’s the way I like it. I give it 6 out of 6.

The story is a little more direct than the original’s, and more accessible. Officer K’s journey is compelling, and the mystery is more intriguing. The original film was more manhunt than mystery when viewed as a movie, and viewing it as a film is where the mystery was involved. The manhunt itself wasn’t all that compelling. Here, we have a different manhunt wrapped in a mystery as our plotline on a movie level, but it’s loaded with other messages and social commentary on a film level. Like any good mystery, the red herrings and misdirects are very effective. I give it 6 out of 6.

The acting is as stiff and wooden as this world demands. It’s consistent with the original, so the characters are largely supressing any visible signs of emotion. As such, they are portrayed perfectly, though that may not play well with all audiences who want more emotive performances. I do not expect Oscar recognition in the acting category because of this, but that’s not because the actors didn’t do their jobs well. I give it 6 out of 6.

The production is spectacular. That’s a huge part of the (eventual) success of the original, and it was preserved here. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response is great. I was worried that a sequel to one of my favorites films would merely be a movie, until I saw the director credit and hope was restored. As a film, this is as successful as the original. As a movie, this is more successful. I give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, this is a fantastic film. I expect those who love the original will love this one, and those who didn’t care for the original might actually like this one anyway. It’s slower, but the movie-level story works better. I give it 6 out of 6.

In total, Blade Runner 2049 receives 41 out of 42.