I saw Blade Runner 2049 last weekend and the first thing I want to address is the weather of the world in 2049 (mostly because that’s probably the only thing I can talk about without spoilers).
2049 is only 32 years from now. I hope/imagine that I’ll be around to see it, but I just can’t comprehend — even with climate change — how there can be drenching rain constantly soaking a city while elsewhere in the city (at least I think it was the same place) it’s gently snowing. I mean, obviously, the director wanted certain visual-emotional backdrops for the scenes that took place in each of these disparate ecosystems (driving rain is dark and dismal while soft snow is light and peaceful). But then 100 miles away, you’ve got San Diego where it’s just a gloomy haze, and a little further in the other direction, you’ve got a desolate Las Vegas which apparently hasn’t seen a drop of rain in the thirty years since the events of the first movie took place.
Again, I realize this was done for visual effect, and when you look at the colors, it kind of makes sense in the transition from blue and gray LA to gray and orange SD to pure orange LV. My creative mind is more than willing to ignore climate continuity issues in deference to making a movie that looks as cool as BR2049, but my logical mind kept popping in every time K went to a new location to say ‘How is that possible?’ At the end, I was like ‘Are they actually on Kamino? Is this Obi Wan and Jango Fett fighting right now? Surely Denis Villeneuve is old enough to remember Attack of the Clones?’ (He is) And if the Pacific has risen to the point where it laps at the edge of a wall around LA, then wouldn’t the same thing be happening in the scrap heaps of San Diego?
Okay… enough of that…
In lieu of expounding on what anyone who’s seen the movie knows is the best part (and thereby spoiling it), I’ll point you to this fairly succinct article: https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/10/9/16433088/blade-runner-2049-spoilers-review which is basically what I would have written but probably less coherently and in twice as many words.
Now, I liked Blade Runner 2049, mostly for the reason explained in the article above, but also for the visual direction and the slower, more introspective storytelling. However, I can see why it hasn’t done as well as expected at the box office because audiences these days are conditioned for action followed by action followed by more action. Which brings me to the second thing (and I think the only thing besides the weather) that bothered me about the movie: Joi.
Blade Runner 2049 is 2 hours and 43 minutes (not counting the twenty minutes of previews at the beginning). A lot of that time (it seemed to me, at least) was spent building up the relationship between K and Joi. I thought this was kind of interesting and I didn’t really mind seeing more of Ana de Armas on screen, but when I think back, I can’t recall a single plot point in the movie impacted by Joi’s existence. This subplot took up a lot of room in a long movie yet seems like it could have been completely eliminated, or at least replaced with a much shorter exposition of K’s character, without affecting the rest of the movie at all. It almost makes me wonder if there was a version of the script that didn’t have this and Hollywood said, ‘No, if you’re going to make this, you need to have some sort of sexy love interest that we can promote in the trailers.’ Or maybe there’s a version where Joi does something with more of a direct impact but it got cut because the movie was already too long and no one realized taking that part out made her completely irrelevant?
I tried to mentally review the movie and see if she was somehow responsible for K’s motivation, or helped him grow as part of his character arc, and I can kind of see how you could be fooled into thinking so if you were making this movie, or maybe if you were just really attached to the idea of Joi and wanted her in the movie. (Like any good scifi geek probably would be) But really, K is motivated by the fact that he’s a replicant police officer in the beginning and then his motivation shifts to something else external (avoiding spoilers) which isn’t related to Joi. She’s just kind of there as arm candy and as a marginal effort at humanizing K (which, again, I think could have been done in less time just as effectively).
Sorry – I don’t want anyone to think I’m not recommending the movie, because I do think it was good. I mean, if you like scifi, it’s a must see just because. But if you don’t, it can still appeal to people who like their movies a bit more literary than the usual summer blockbusters (while still on a blockbuster budget).
Was it better than Denis Villeneuve’s other recent hit Arrival? No way. That movie was great. Blade Runner was just good. And again, it sounds like tepid praise. And sure, if you search for ‘thought-provoking science fiction movies’ on your favorite search engine, all of those will probably be better than BR2049… but the list of movies that are worse is a lot longer than the list of those that are better.