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Review: Blade Runner 2049

1982's Blade Runner has always been a fun but odd film for me. I can't remember when I first watched it or even which version of the film I first saw, but I remember Harrison Ford giving a very noirish monologue at the beginning.

I remember being confused by the ending, and I would go back and watch it every five years or so, hoping to gain a little extra insight with each viewing, but I think the various versions have hindered my quest for understanding. Part of this was the unanswered question of whether Deckard himself was a replicant, something Ridley Scott has confirmed to be the case, but Blade Runner 2049 muddies the waters a bit. Despite this, I enjoyed the film and found it much easier to digest than the source material, Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I've always preferred Heinlein's work over Dick's, a subject I once spent hours debating with the head of the English department at South Dakota State University.

But enough of that. Let's talk about 2017's sequel Blade Runner 2049.

I'll try to keep this brief and as spoiler-free as possible as I prefer to let others form their own opinions on art (be it visual, musical, literary, or otherwise) rather than bash them over the head with my thoughts. But... I was asked my thoughts, so here we go.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie but found it to be overly long. Visually, it manages to be brighter than the original while being much more bleak.

So. Much. Orange. I found the Vegas sequences to be particularly hard on my eyes, as well as the interior of Wallace's sanctum. While the original film's palette gave it a nice gritty noir feel, 2049's is just oppressive at times.

I liked K's character and found him believable as a Replicant while also being relatable as a human. Of course, this is the entire point of his character. The film actually threw me for a loop that I didn't see coming, which doesn't happen often. It's the writer's curse; stories and films rarely surprise us, and it drives our spouses/partners bonkers. So my hat's off to the writer on this one. Any movie that can surprise me automatically gets a thumbs up.

Speaking of spouses, one thing that cracked me up was K's holographic domestic companion, Joi. Again, I don't want to post spoilers, but when Joi goes to great lengths to ultimately please K, I couldn't help but giggle. It made me think of Krieger's "wife" on Archer. All joking aside, I did find their subplot to be simultaneously sweet and tragic.

Now let's move on to the original film's returning star, Harrison Ford. This was the moment we were all waiting for, and sadly I found it a little lacking. After playing Han Solo and Indiana Jones for so long, I think Harrison Ford forgot how to be Rick Deckard. I just didn't feel any of the old Blade Runner in his performance. Not even a glimmer. As sad as it makes me to say it, I think Harrison Ford was the weak link in the chain. His performance wasn't bad, and I realize Deckard has been through hell in the past thirty years, but I came to see him, not a trigger-happy, alcoholic Han Solo. That said, Deckard did deliver a few lines that brought a smile to my face. Classic Ford.

Overall? I'd give Blade Runner 2049 a solid 4 out of 5. It was compelling, visually beautiful, and included enough nods to the original to keep fans happy. Aside from some painful color choices and a bloated running time, I found it to be very enjoyable and would happily watch it again.

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