Being a hardcore Blade Runner and science fiction fanatic, I felt deeply compelled to write this review. I love Ridley Scott's original 1982 Sci-Fi classic. It is my all-time favorite movie. It had mystique and infused my imagination. It was a unique experience; hypnotic & surreal. The sequel, not so much!
My initial reaction of BR 2049 was that it's a gorgeous film. I was mesmerized by the striking cinematography and couldn't take my eyes off the screen. I will go as far saying that it's one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. The rich visuals are so glaring it's hard to take it all in and grasp what you are seeing. From the opening shot you know you're in Blade Runner world. The overall look is instantly relatable to the first film and it's an amazing continuation in that regard. Also, the acting was excellent. The entire cast did a great job. However, once I settled into the film I realized that it is mainly a self-indulgent visual feast containing a weak story that lacks clarity & wisdom. There are obvious cliché moments and in certain aspects the story is comical and naive. The movie delves into complex philosophical themes and asks important questions but seldom explores them. It's all over the place. You get the sense that the film is not sure what it wants to be? It's clearly style over substance. Lots of homage is paid to the original through awesome images but the plot is paper-thin with a few subplots & twists added to make it seem intelligent. But is it? Well, not really! I think the movie tries too hard to be smart but fails to engage due to its long running time & fuzzy story/script, which may end up confusing and distancing the viewer.
BR 2049 has been most widely criticized for its length, and rightly so. It's overly long with some unnecessary scenes & dialogue whereas the first film was more subtle. BR1 was also slow-paced but in a different way. It had suspense and gradual progression to climax whereas BR2 is forced and even distracting at times. I love slow-paced films don't get me wrong! I can watch a film all day as long as it leads to a point and has tension. Certain films are deliberately made slow to establish a specific mood (e.g. Kubrick & Tarkovsky films). They draw you inside the film and make you feel like you're part of it. BR1 does this perfectly while the sequel is stretched out for the wrong reasons. It comes across as an excuse to showcase impressive visuals which is great if it moves the story along but not for the fun of it. BR1 had long takes and brief dialogue but it drove the story along smoothly and its characters behaved realistically. There was a seamless flow to it. It's humorous how BR2 tried to mimic this technique from BR1 yet failed because its characters talk & move super slowly unlike real life.
Although it's a visually stunning film, I found it to be almost void of emotions and musicality. The characters were uninteresting and lacked emotional depth. In other words, I didn't care about them. I was not sure about any of the characters' motivations. In the first film, all the characters shined with charismatic personalities. They were unique in their own way and I truly cared about them. They embodied everything that makes us human. This was a vital element that made the original so special. BR2 on the other hand has sad and forgettable characters. It is a very sad film whereas the original had moments of happiness to mix up feelings and lighten the mood, which made it more realistic.
The music in BR 2049 was the biggest let down for me. It just didn't make sense because there was no music. A strange mix of very loud noises with faint echoes of original Vangelis tones interlaced (I listened to the entire score to be sure!). The musical score by Vangelis in the first film was one of the key elements that made the original my favorite film of all-time. I love atmospheric films that are visually & musically driven to tell the story. The music creates different feelings that make you fantasize. It makes you feel the movie and think about it long after it's over. The music in BR1 was incredible. It set the tone of the film perfectly. There was a haunting eerie atmosphere that along with the images created a hypnotic feel. Vangelis mostly used an electronic sound but he also incorporated piano & saxophone for melancholic effect. Not so in BR2. They messed up enormously this time. I know it's not possible to recreate Vangelis but they could have at least tried to create similarly-styled music by using the original score as a foundation. Even better, they could have perhaps made a completely original soundtrack all together. Blade Runner is an atmospheric film that is about feel and therefore must have a perfect music to visual ratio. Sure, they brought back one Vangelis theme for nostalgia but it wasn't enough.
To conclude, I enjoyed the film but unfortunately cannot say I loved it. I simply cannot fathom the enormous praise given by critics & moviegoers. I don't think they understood what made the first film brilliant. BR 2049 does contain the main elements required for a true Sci-Fi film but fell flat at further exploring its themes. The original film on the other hand is a masterpiece. It felt spiritual & spellbinding whilst the sequel did not. Should you go see it? Yes. I would still recommend fans and anyone curious to go see this film in theaters despite its evident flaws. But as a huge fan it left me disappointed. Maybe I had high expectations!
I gave it a generous 7/10