Some thoughts on Bladerunner 2049 – or, why it worked for me

SPOILER-O-RAMA!

Bladerunner 2049 has split people and polarised reviews, much as its predecessor did. Everyone has their own reasons for loving it, hating it, or falling asleep to it. These are mine.

I love that it’s long. Now, duration isn’t something we’re strangers to these days as the ninety-minute flick has become a thing of the past in favour of two-hour epics and multi-film franchise universes. However, where BR2049 differs is that it uses the extensive time limit in a different way. Its contemporaries use it to hammer us with frenetic action whilst BR2049 uses its time to immerse us in its world. Tracking shots go on whereas in another genre movie they’d cut away or be interrupted by a piece of snappy dialogue. The director has the confidence to leave us alone with the soundtrack and the visuals to tell the story of LA in 2049, the Wallace Corporation and the wastelands of Las Vegas.

I love the pacing, which is stately. Some might call it slow. But I think it allows the characters to grow so that even the minor ones feel like people we’ve met and got to know by the end. Sapper Morton’s demise would have taken place in half the time, with more puns in the dialogue and twice as bombastically elsewhere. Lt. Joshi would have been a barking stereotype if the scenes between her and K weren’t allowed to linger long enough to become tense, uncomfortable, to suggest another layer to their relationship beyond that of fellow officers. Luv and Joi would have been compressed into submissive love interest and bad-ass henchwoman without the extra time to give them nuance as beings who feel lesser because of their artificial nature and so desperately want to prove themselves – to be equal, to be more.

Finally, I love its ambition. It could have been more generic. It could have been a poor retread of past glories – see this year’s Ghost in the Shell remake and Alien Covenant. It could have taken a safer path and leaned more heavily on the star power of Harrison Ford and Jared Leto, as The Force Awakens and Suicide Squad did respectively. Instead it chose to try and match the original in every way. Maybe, they knew they’d gone over the top with their faithfulness to the legacy. They made those excellent and distinctive prequel short films to whet our appetites. We were given a poignant cameo of Rachael. Those water-ripples were there again. Every minute of BR2049 was sown with love and respect for what had gone before – and that’s why it worked for me.

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