Impeccably, masterfully crafted; somewhat confusingly told.
* * * *
Visually, sonically, thematically and tonally, Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi masterpiece is absolutely spot-on, mimicking the very particular look, sound and feel of the earlier film with eerie specificity. As with J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens, which felt like Star Wars: A New Hope, this absolutely feels like Blade Runner, including buying into that film’s more ponderous aspects, and certainly into its very lofty ruminations. It’s a serious cinematic work, Villeneuve’s best film, and generally hugely enjoyable.
This is the third major (read: expensive and Studio-backed), “hard” sci-fi, intellectually ambitious examination of cybergenetic A(rtificial) I(ntelligence) this year. As such, it trumps Alien: Covenant and Ghost In The Shell. Both those films were rather terrific in their own ways – and both certainly were not afraid to wade deep into questions of where real life ends and artificial life begins – but Blade Runner 2049 is simply a bigger, bolder work of art. This is the one of the three that will be nominated for Oscars, and it will win Cinematography for Roger Deakins. His work here is sublime, masterful, faultless, jaw-dropping, incredible. It’s the most beautiful film of the year bar none. (It will also be, a la Mad Max: Fury Road, a potential Oscar sweep winner in all of the design categories.)
It is not the easiest film to follow; the story-telling is its weakest aspect, and the long third act (of a very long, though never boring, film) has elements that are simply incomprehensible. It’s a big problem, or was for me, because despite the way the film had ravished me with its visuals, its phenomenal production design, and its uncompromisingly elegant mise-en-scene, I walked out of my screening confused rather than sated. One character – played by Jared Leto, sprouting some seriously fruity dialogue – had me flummoxed and frustrated. Blade Runner 2049 admirably raises big, big questions, but less admirably refuses to provide some simple answers.