Blade Runner 2049.... Beautiful, Elegant and cinematic, but lacking the soul of the original movie. It's seemingly an 85 page script expanded into a 2hr and 47min movie, thanks to long shots/takes, exposition and meandering dialog, tries to mimic the original film, but misses the mark.
The story is about suppressing the idea that replicants can reproduce, meaning they can be considered sentient. This would cause havoc because they would get rights and not be slaves anymore. This in of itself is a cool idea (been told many times), but the film focuses too much on it and not enough on what the characters do outside of that particular story. This is what made the first movie so great, there was so much depth to the characters and what they did outside of the A plot. Not the case with this new movie and it really causes some trouble because you expect more and it's just not there.
Of course, the other major issue outside of it's extreme length, is that you know the outcome way before it's revealed. The plot is so paper thin, when the "twist" happens, you're like... yea I figured that out 2 hours ago! They just keep feeding you pretty shot after pretty shot, thinking you'll forget, giving you some action in between the dialog that's meaningless. Plus, without spoiling the plot, the movie feels like the beginning of a trilogy, rather then a one off. I felt the filmmakers were setting the stage for a much bigger project, which barely explored, but left me wanting a resolution, rather then a big open door that leads to nothing. I mean don't get me wrong it's well made, even more so then Arrival, which I really liked.
Deakins did a masterful job, it looks stunning. You can tell Deakins worked really hard with the set designers to integrate as much lighting into the set (practicals) as possible, which was a nice look. It appears he stuck with his usual roughly 35mm focal length, but on the bigger imager I'm sure it's more like a 50mm. Most of the lighting setups were amazing, I mean flat out beautiful. Very inventive stuff from lighting through what appears to be water and onto walls, so you can see the water/wave action on the walls. To lights that follow characters as they walk through the set. It's very clever stuff and took a lot of prep and I'm sure testing, to make it right. I love how Deakins shoots action scenes, he doesn't go for those shaky cam close up shots, he uses the same focal length, a lot of times even keeps it on the dolly still. It's just the way movies should be made and I wish he would shoot more action films, he brings a breath of fresh air to the genera.
I did think some scenes looked a bit "videoesque" probably due to a lower shutter speed in dark moments. It did break me out of the story a bit in some cases because it seemed like something was wrong but it was just a decision. I was also upset Warner didn't release it in 2.20:1 aspect ratio, that was a fail for other cinematographers because I would have loved to have seen the full imager instead of it always being cropped.
In terms of the other aspects, the music was reminiscent of the original movie, which was nice. I did feel some moments were too strong, but over-all the score worked well. I'm a stickler for a good score and Hans Zimmer did a great job. The effects were also stunning and I hate VFX, but man did they do a good job. The entire time I was saying to myself, what if they had this much money on Arrival, how much better would it have looked. I loved the mix of practical with models with CG, it was a perfect blend. Where I wasn't a fan of the CG characters in the movie, it was more because they weren't necessary, rather then the quality of the finished product. The effects crew can be proud of this achievement and outside of Christopher Nolan movies, I can't think of another filmmaker who has done such a good job bringing all these elements together in modern times. It great to see and I truly hope they're rewarded with their stunning effort.
Now.... there wasn't a lot of good news to be said for the acting. I wasn't impressed at all with the cast or the direction of them. They all felt very stale and flat to me, my friend used the word "dull" and I would agree with her. Harrison felt distant, there were moments he and Ryan Gosling could have conversed about the past and really become friends, but those never happened. Ryan Gosling's character is also very flat and even though he has a relationship with a CG character, it's uninteresting and should have been deleted. It's as if they tried to make him so emotionless to make it more realistic, but it didn't play well at all. The other supporting characters were ok... but as my friend put it, you don't see anyone else BUT the lead/supporting actors. No extras, no bystanders, nothing! It's a city of millions, you see dots in the overhead shots but none near the actors. Oh well...
When leaving, I said to my friend, this thing isn't going to make it's money back. It's too damn long, it's too dull and frankly, people don't see serious Scifi films like this anymore. The box office for friday was miserable and I bet it stays that way. I bet it makes 30M this weekend, 8M next weekend and dies off by the 3rd weekend. The reviews are good, but the word of mouth is so-so and unfortunately, I'm gonna be another one of "those guys" giving it a mediocre review.