This is probably the first film I’ve seen where I can say ALL reviews of it are true. Positive, negative, all of them are accurate.
It’s a bit of a riddle when you think about it. Should a sequel stand alone or should seeing the previous film be a requirement? Make it too much like the first and people complain about it being a repeat. Make it too different and we wonder why the film wasn’t just made it’s own original piece. In theory there’s a very precise sweet spot for sequels to aim for.
So on one level Blade Runner 2049 (BR2) hits that spot. You don’t have to have seen any of the myriad versions of the first film to follow the story in this one but you will get a lot more out of it. The sequel does continue that world and build upon the foundation of what the first created.
I must confess, Blade Runner never quite “synced” with me. Oh I recognize it as visually beautiful and acknowledge that it has a place in sci-fi history, but it just doesn’t grab me personally. (or at least, none of the cuts I’ve seen yet) Certainly not like Inception or Interstellar did. The sequel? Eh… a bit more.
Part of the issue is that the movie has many long, slow moments, which are great for atmosphere, but also invite my mind to wander and start analyzing the world. Then I start noticing things don’t always “sync.” For instance, the police chief in the film talks about a “wall” with civilization she’s trying to maintain. Yet when the main character goes home, we see that he lives in a building with regular humans, not in a separated section with other replicants. The “wall” is more implied by the racist terms tossed out by faceless extras – but then we have the xmen problem where the difference between a replicant and a normal human isn’t readily visible. How can racism work in a society where one race can pass for the other? It just doesn’t seem functional.
My other problem is that the main conflict of the movie (no spoiler, you’ve seen this in trailers) is that the main industrialist wants to make replicants that can self-breed. But… how can he not? Reproduction is not some great mystery to us NOW and we regularly have technology that works to solve couples’ infertility. If you’re a company who can create entire humans from scratch – AND make them better – how can you have trouble making them fertile? It would take a bit more effort to render them infertile. Heck part of the movie revolves around implanting memories – which is HARDER than breeding! So for much of this movie I kept wondering where the central problem was coming from. It’s like watching the head of microsoft, while building xboxes, complaining that he can’t construct a tire-swing.
Still, the movie is well made all around. You can follow it well enough on its own but it does pay more dividends if you’ve seen the first film. I would say that it nails the sweet spot for sequels. Of course the irony is that it does this with a film that never really needed a sequel.
The question of “what is Harrison Ford” from the first movie is… left open. It’s heavily implied Deckard is a replicant, but never outright stated so there are still places the “Deckard is human” camp can weave their case*.
The writing is quite good in its competence, and I enjoyed how it assumed and played on the audience’s expectations. The film is beautiful to watch, worth the price of a big screen viewing (but avoid 3D, it’s very dark). It’s one of those I don’t regret watching it.
Objectively the movie is about a 4 out of 5 – it is good scifi. But for me personally, it is about a 2.
Base whether you should see it on how you felt about the first one.
*I’m a bit more on the “Deckard is human” side, especially since it could change the problem in this sequel to trying to interbreed humans and replicants could be workable.
Also I can’t help but wonder how “the child” – if she had an autoimmune disease, lasted any amount of time in that orphanage/workshop we saw in the film. Just… how???
I do really respect the writers for setting up the twist by using the expected twist of “Ryan Gosling is Ford’s child” to misdirect the audience. That was a masterstroke and writers everywhere should probably take notes.