Blade Runner 2049 is by all measures a tremendous achievement in film. Its world is rich and deep, it is stunningly beautiful to look at, the score and script are both on point. Artistically, the film is a triumph, but is it a good movie? Of that, I’m less sure.
That sounds like a preposterous question. If it’s a great film, of course it’s a great movie. They are synonyms, after all. Let me explain what I mean by that.
When I say Blade Runner 2049 is a great film, I mean it is a true piece of art. Believe me, it genuinely is. It wrestles with complex ideas and causes you to wrestle with them, as well. It’s evocative and affective. Take any of the individual parts of this film and it’s genuinely difficult to pick it apart. So much of what they did here sings.
That said, after a certain point I was checking my watch. If I recount the story to myself, there’s a clear narrative and it is an interesting one. There is a moment in the film that just absolutely pulls the rug out from under you; many interesting things do happen. There’s just something about it that makes it feel every bit as long as its two hour, 45 minute runtime would have you expect.1
Maybe I’m just losing my attention span, but I need a movie to keep its pace up or I have a hard time sticking with it these days. After a while, I had the feeling I knew exactly where the movie was going and it was taking too long to get there. Now, truth be told, I was wrong, and a certain plot point towards completely blindsided me, but I’m not sure it made the languid pace seem worth it.
Listening to the /Filmcast review after the fact made me wish I’d not seen it alone and instead went with a small group I could discuss it with over drinks when it was finished. I do think this is a film that is meant to be poked and prodded, unpacked and picked apart. Like great art should, it’s a film that demands engagement.
Is Blade Runner 2049 a great movie? Yeah, it is. But it’s definitely not for everyone.
Some people can go to a gallery and stare at one piece for an hour and find meaning and depth there that others can’t hope to unlock. Those are the people this film is for. There are unquestionable riches to be had if you’re willing to do the hard work of meeting the film on its terms and wrestling it down until it spills the beans.
That said, many people go to the movies not intending to have to be that active. We tend to go for escape and entertainment more than for art. That Blade Runner 2049 was outperformed at the box office by Happy Death Day is all the proof you need.2 If you want to just go get lost in a story for a couple hours, this probably isn’t the one you’re looking for.
Would I see Blade Runner 2049 again? Yeah, I think I would.3 I’d love to give it another viewing where I already know the story and can better absorb every little thing it’s doing. Surprisingly, I think I’d probably buy the bluray, as well. While this wouldn’t be a movie I’d want to sit down every Saturday and devote my full attention to, this is a fantastic background movie. It’s marvelous to look at, it sounds amazing, and you can just chill out and vibe to this film.
Really Liked ItIt was really good, but something is holding me back from going the full five.
If you’re willing to put in the effort, there’s a lot to be appreciated here. If you’re looking for something easier to digest, this is not the film for you.