Ben Kuiper–Contributing Writer
“You’ve never seen a miracle.”
Dave Bautista’s line to Ryan Gosling in the opening scene of Bladerunner 2049 resounds throughout the rest of the film. As Officer K. (Gosling) unravels the mysteries of the world and his own existence, the audience witnesses miracles of cinematography, acting, writing, special effects and virtually every other aspect of filmmaking.
The film is a late-made follow-up to the 1982 Neo-Noir Bladerunner, and 2049 is meant to take place thirty years after the events of the original. Set in a world inhabited by humans and synthetic “replicants,” side by side, tensions are just as high as ever between human beings and their artificial counterparts. Replicants are used as an expendable, exploitable workforce, inviting comparisons to the abuse of slaves which many civilizations have hidden in their history.
Personally, I was not a huge fan of the original film for some relatively minor reasons, but I found 2049 to be an absolute triumph. Ryan Gosling is subtle but dazzling as always, Roger Deakins delivers shot after shot of jaw-dropping cinematography, the story is nuanced but comprehensible, and Denis Villeneuve knocks it out the park as director.
One potential issue that the film faces is trying to acclimate audiences to its ponderous pacing. Where many other Sci-Fi films go for breakneck speed and hectic editing, 2049 prefers to let viewers marinate in the moment, dragging out climactic moments from ten seconds to twenty, thirty, sometimes even a full sixty seconds. There are a few high-intensity moments where the film operates more like a traditional action film, but they are few and far between and rarely last more than a few seconds. It’s definitely an exhausting film to watch, but each moment is so packed with technical excellence and cinematic weight that it’s worth all of the nearly three-hour runtime.
Despite glowing critic reviews and the dedicated fans of the first film, 2049 had a disappointing opening weekend at the box office. With its obscene $155 million dollar budget, the film has only earned back $60 million in the past ten days, a critical period for blockbuster films to earn back a majority of their budget. For comparison, It earned $123 million in its opening weekend alone, multiple times more than its $35 million budget.
Numbers aside, Bladerunner 2049 didn’t get the mass audience appeal required for big-budget, high-brow movies like it to survive. Artistically, it was a victory for quality cinema. Financially, it might be awhile before we see such an ambitious project again.
Bladerunner 2049 cannot be recommended highly enough. Even with its slow, deliberate pacing, the film still grabs your attention in a deep, philosophical way that very few other blockbusters can. On top of that, the production design makes every frame a delightful work of art. If you have time this weekend, grab some friends, buy some popcorn, go to your local movie theater, and check this film out. You may come out questioning your entire existence, but hey, you got to see Harrison Ford punch Ryan Gosling to the soundtrack of an Elvis song. What more could you want?