Blade Runner 2049 seemed destined to fail. For one thing, the movie was a sequel to a film that was over 30 years old – and one that mainstream movie audiences likely never watched anyway. Second, it is cerebral science fiction, something that today’s mainstream movie audiences are not used to or even seek out.
The fears resulted in expected results. With a $150 million budget, the movie made $88 million domestically but did eclipse $200 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo). That is a “flop” by financial descriptions, but the movie remained highly rated as evident by an 88% at Rotten Tomatoes by critics and 81% by the audience.
So, what happens when a movie like Blade Runner 2049 after failing at the box office while remaining a positive experience for moviegoers? Blade Runner 2049 is a film that was tailor-made to become a cult classic, and the appreciation for the movie should grow over time.
Blade Runner 2049 starts 30 years after the events of the first Blade Runner movie. The new society has begun using replicants again – and this time around they even employ them as police officers deployed to kill renegade replicants from the original rebellion.
From the very start of the movie, Blade Runner 2049 has made it clear that this is not a happy story. Ryan Gosling portrays “K,” a replicant working for the LAPD as a Blade Runner, hunting down renegade replicants and eliminating them. There are also scenes that show how other officers and the general public hate even replicants like K, despite him working for the “good guys.”
The first replicant he finds is Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), now living his life out as a farmer. Trying to defend himself from extermination, Sapper and K battle and the fight ends with Sapper “retired.” However, before he dies, he tells K that he has seen miracles, an interesting quote that brings back memories of Roy’s “tears in rain” speech from the first Blade Runner movie.
Blade Runner 2049 then spends its running time exploring the themes of what it means to be human as we see that miracles do exist that completely shatters everything the society built in this movie believes.
The first thing I want to touch on here is the score. This movie matches up well with the original film, which speaks highly of Hans Zimmer who turned in one of the most striking compositions of his career. The score from Blade Runner 2049 delivered more heart-pounding moments than any movie I have seen since Ex Machina. Honestly, the music plays as large a role in this film as the effects and cinematography.
The story itself is similar to the original except that Denis Villeneuve goes a lot further when it comes to expressing his beliefs on who is and who is not a replicant. While the first movie refused to answer the question about whether Rick Deckard was a replicant or not, K is introduced immediately as a replicant here, hunting down his own kind.
There is a lot of work done showing how even the new model of replicants are second-class citizens. K only has a meaningful relationship with an AI named Joi (which was shockingly touching considering the fact she was an AI creation). It was also distressing to learn that the LAPD will “retire” him the minute he shows any emotions.
The best part of the movie is the mystery of K’s past, which Villeneuve leads us through in twists and turns, with dreams, flashbacks, and clues strung throughout. Villeneuve constructed this film masterfully as a mystery tale
The one area the movie fails is with the side characters. Robin Wright’s Lt. Joshi is the closest we come to getting to know anyone outside of K, Rick and the AI Joi. Even Rick receives little character development outside of some conversation with K in Las Vegas (but he does get a fitting end).
However, the entire point of this movie is to put the audience in the shoes of K and keeping us there. While there are a few moments we leave him, those are really just to see what the bad guys are doing. On that note, while the main antagonist of the movie gets what is coming to her, there is a massive gap at the end where we never see the real villain again.
Maybe that is the point of the story – this isn’t about solving the problem of replicant rights. Blade Runner 2049 is a story about K learning his place in the world and finally achieving his purpose in “life,” as well as proving that – despite being engineered to serve – he has free will as much as any human born to a woman.