The only movie I saw in theaters in October was Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049.” Apparently, a lot of people did not like this weirdly brainy blockbuster, as its poor performance at the box office may result in as much as an US$80 million loss to producers. Ouch.
“2049” is certainly not without its problems, I’ll admit. And yet I still found it almost entirely satisfying, a worthy sequel to Ridley Scott’s original which of course was also a tepidly received financial disaster. That one just happened to go on to become one of the most beloved and influential science fiction films of all time. In fact, I re-watched the so-called “Final Cut” of the 1982 original in preparation for the sequel and was astounded by how much more I liked it than the last time I watched it—I’ve probably seen it five times by now. And, if I’m honest, I enjoyed it substantially more than the very first time I saw “Blade Runner” in the 1980s, on home video. It has never been hard to appreciate the beauty of the original but the totality of Scott’s aesthetic vision, while undeniably impressive, was so well executed that it invited suspicion. A film that gorgeous couldn’t also be good, could it? Turns out, the answer is yes.
Villeneuve’s sequel is also an almost indescribably gorgeous piece of filmmaking, thanks in no small part to the contributions of its cinematographer, living legend Roger Deakins. (It should be noted that Deakins is one of the very best visual artists working today, in any medium.) Beyond that though, I was as impressed as ever with Villeneuve’s idiosyncratic staging and pacing, and the unique way he is able to coax candidly off-kilter performances from his cast. He could make a short film about something as mundane as a mailman on his daily route and it would be something nobody has ever seen before, if not an artistic revelation. There is so much good stuff in “Blade Runner 2049” that I can’t imagine it hasn’t been doomed to the same fate as the original: initial failure followed later by widespread acclaim. Then again predicting the future is a great way to be wrong, which is how most sci-fi films end up.