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7 Reasons Why “Blade Runner 2049” Is The Pinnacle of Blockbuster Cinema

24 October 2017 | Features, Other Lists | by Jethro Colmer

It might seem somewhat premature to suggest that, just a few weeks after its release, Blade Runner 2049 is a cinematic landmark that will be a benchmark for science-fiction films in the future. Yet once you have been subjected to it, immersed in it and walked out of the cinema only when you have rediscovered control of your limbs, does it dawn on you the magnitude of the film that has been made by director Denis Villeneuve.

Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi noir has an accompanying history that is as complex as the film itself, yet Blade Runner 2049 has no such issues: untampered by studio executives and with a staggering budget, Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins have been unleashed and created a film that has a respect for Scott’s original but is simultaneously interested in expanding the world of the original.

The fallout from Blade Runner 2049 will not be felt immediately. Large-scale cinema takes years to make and therefore the imitators and homage-payers will arrive within the next decade and perhaps only then can we start to truly dissect the influence that Blade Runner 2049 will have had. What can be done now, however, is to look at Blade Runner 2049 with regards to the fellow blockbuster films that it is financially competing with and to explore how it offers an alternative from the thrashing, crashing blockbuster that engulfs our cinemas all year round.

While it is recommended that you watch Blade Runner 2049 before reading this list, the list is written in a way that the most important plot points are not explicitly mentioned.


1. Denis Villeneuve’s Direction

The career of Canadian director Denis Villeneuve could be tracked on a graph with a single upward trajectory, and perhaps Blade Runner 2049 suggests there is a dip in form to come as it is hard to imagine how any filmmaker could reach higher than this. The consistency of his work is remarkable: considering the scale of some of Villeneuve’s films, his desire to tell a complex, intertwining story is never distracted by a need to add unnecessary action to keep an audience engaged.

Villeneuve’s thought process seems to be that a blockbuster audience is as smart as he is, and nothing will be dumbed down to curtail to anyone- he allows scenes to take their time to play out, not wishing to rush anything, but to let the central themes and ideas grow in the mind and settle before then pressing on with the story. Exposition is a rarity in Blade Runner 2049, particularly regarding the information that K has to travel to his next destination: the smallest of details have the largest impacts on the story.

Time will tell as to how many big-budget directors will learn from Denis Villeneuve’s approach to Blade Runner 2049. Perhaps Villeneuve has taken inspiration from Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar- a similarly budgeted film that prioritises focus on ideas and concepts.

Villeneuve has taken this a step further and added the emotional weight that felt all too forced and manipulated in Nolan’s films. Should Blade Runner 2049 be a financial success, perhaps it will show directors that there is an alternative way to make blockbuster cinema rather than the perceived crowd-pleasing series of explosions and simple story-telling.


2. Roger Deakins’ Cinematography

There could possibly be nobody in the world of filmmaking who deserves an Oscar more than Roger Deakins. His skills at cinematography have been mesmerising audiences for years and yet he has never been garnered with awards on the greatest of stages. Regardless of personal views on the Oscars, it is the moment in the film calendar where the eyes of the world turn to see the winner, and nobody is worthy of such recognition more than Deakins.

Perhaps the most important film that Deakins has shot that relates to Blade Runner 2049 is Skyfall. In that he took a similar approach of working with a director best known for more dramatic films (Sam Mendes) and managed to create a James Bond film that was primarily about the relationships with those closest to Bond as opposed to the conventional routes that had placed the Bond franchise in a quagmire.

Deakins takes the same approach here, managing to balance the detail of the scenery with the presence of the characters on screen. Empty space is never put to waste; Deakins ensures that the lighting of each shot makes a spacious corner of a room come alive, putting absolutely nothing to waste. While it is most certainly a cliché to say that every frame is a painting, very few films will rival Blade Runner 2049 in claiming this statement to be true.


3. Pacing

Blade Runner 2049 clocks in at an astonishing 163 minutes, meaning audiences were preparing themselves for an over-three-hour stint at the cinema, which is a daunting prospect in itself. Often films take liberties with their runtimes and include sequences that do not add anything to the narrative but are simply there because they might look somewhat flashy.

How wonderful it is then to be able to declare that Blade Runner 2049 not only puts substance into every minute of its runtime, but that never feels like it is dragging. There are no dips in interest, moments of twiddling thumbs; Deakins’ camera makes certain every shot contains weight, while Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch have created a score that balances intimacy with the strangeness and the sheer scale of the world in which we are in.

Villeneuve understands that for drama to be as effective as it can, it needs time to play out- the opening scene between K and Sapper Morton might, in any other film, have been cut down to the bare essentials, but in Blade Runner 2049, everything plays out in real time from K’s arrival to his cautious entrance and interactions with Morton.

Characters do not seem hurried to rush out their lines of dialogue; dramatic pauses or extended moments of silence are utilised to add intrigue and tension, everything feels strangely slowed down yet not for one second is it boring. In this regard, Ryan Gosling is perfect to play K, as there is a magnetic presence about him that demands attention. He is an actor that can say so much without ever opening his mouth, and indeed this plays into his hands throughout the film.



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  • Mortimer

    Jesus f****** Christ…

    • ArmitageX

      I second that.

    • grootrm

      Haha, the salty tears from the amateur fan boys who HATE CHANGE


      • Mortimer

        Change ? Where ? Lol. You lost all credibility when you called this replicant of a movie “groundbreaking” (lol).
        “Groundbreaking” in what ? Stealing scenes from other, better films ? This feels less like a sequel to ‘Blade Runner’ than like an adaptation of collected critical essays about Blade Runner; everything intriguing has been dragged to the surface and rendered inert.

        Please go back watching ‘Rocky 4’ for the 1534. time. That’s real movie territory for right-wing morons like you.

        • grootrm

          Haha, no all that happened was that you revealed your lack of understanding the movie making process.

          You have credibility with neither myself nor many others who you have made it known to be more informed.

          What you said in how the movie made you feel is obviously not being investigated at all because you’re clearly just communicating your beliefs prior to watching it.

          Everything intriguing dragged to the surface? Tell me, did you not even notice the new set of “intrigues” in 2049? Clearly not! For you were too busy jealously protecting in your own mind all the prior “Mortimer backstories” that by the nature of all such cases will necessarily be met with differences due to creative chaos that arises from many individual minds coming up with many new individual ideas. 2049 is loaded with subtle themes and potential story lines that we anti-fanboy movie lovers look for and notice.

          We appreciate it when those intruiging stories are brought to bear, to the surface, where we can experience a version of possible stories unfolding that you need to be of the movie type to know how to appreciate and to pause in one’s own priors and ask and compare and analyze and then just accept the entertainment. You just copy hollow catch phrases from B list movie critics.

          • Mortimer

            Haha…you are flattering to yourself way too much. This is actually the same response I’m getting from your group of so-called “anti-fanboy movie lovers” (I presume – your typical virgin Sci-fi fanboys who judge movies depending how much “complex” plots are) on YouTube. Stuff like: “Oh you don’t understand the genius of Denis Villeneuve ! Oh there are so many incredible, subtle themes you didn’t get ! ” When you confront them with obvious flaws of this movie their response is something like: “There is so much I disagree with your comment” and “I strongly disagree on a ton of what you said , I can have a field day refuting all of these”. But they never come back to provide any reasonable evidence for their claims. Because, there isn’t much to tell, I guess ?

            Also, your comprehension sucks. You say: “you need to be of the movie type to know how to appreciate and to pause in one’s own priors and ask and compare and analyze and then just accept the entertainment.” Like… seriously ? Let me guess… plot is exciting, full of mystery, with mind-blowing twists that leave you disturbed, the most fascinating movie experience of the year ? No, it’s flat and monotonous. The new, existentialist, sad and helpless persecutor of replicants, his already very tired victims, the perverse continuum of genetic engineering, sinister industrialist villain and his implacable lakey, all the characters seemed devoided of nerve and aura, computer-made. I didn’t care in the least what they do or what they say.

            I’m still waiting for you to tell what exactly is “groundbreaking” and “revolutionary” in 2049 ?
            You said that the “atmosphere and visuals in 2049 have set a new standard in cinema”. How ? By copy and paste the atmosphere and visuals of the movie from 1982 ? Ah yeah, I forgot…because “given the saturation of movies in 2017 as compared to 1982, that is a more impressive feat.” (???)

            Do you really believe in this nonsense or you are just naturally arrogant and shallow ? I understand if you are virgin teen but if you’re grown-up person that’s big problem. The original, by far, is amazing because it proposes a very particular futuristic universe that had not been seen before that year in the cinema: uncontainable chaos, cultural diversity, stifling technology, existentialism in the midst of it. That mixture made sense of that movie at one point – the early 1980s – when the planet was still living in the Cold War, a context where two great ideologies of humanity were still being debated and confronted without knowing which one was to be imposed. Scott came to the referents of the film noir: his story is that of a detective with the air of Sam Spide or Phillip Marlow, a rude representative of the law that runs into a woman in trouble and a much more complex plot behind of it that involves it (it was like futuristic version of ‘Chinatown’). In Villeneuve sequel (reboot) there is not a vision of the future, but it follows the mold traced by the genre from the Hollywood desks in recent years. Repeat what has already been said a million times before, reconstruction of the rainy streets of Los Angeles) and get, if anything, small contributions (the fight with holograms in an old casino, which is worth it). And worse, it rescues without sense situations and characters of the original film, like the one of Gaff (Edward James Olmos) in a completely pointless, de-mystifying cameo, or that of Rachael, two characters who should have been allowed to die in peace. The same thing happens with Deckard who at least makes the film interesting, because all in the previous 100 minutes is flat and boring.

            “For you were too busy jealously protecting in your own mind all the prior “Mortimer backstories” that by the nature of all such cases will necessarily be met with differences due to creative chaos that arises from many individual minds coming up with many new individual ideas.”
            You’re talking about ‘2010’ from 1984, right ?

            What an unrelenting and unfortunate mania to seek business at the cost of desecrating the classics.

  • Bruhhh Runner, dudes, you literally JUST dropped the “….Why It’s A Masterpiece” piece

    • colonelkurtz

      Wait, it’s the same author? Damn, he needs to just go watch it again with some real-life friends and talk about it for an hour afterward to get it out of his system.

  • AmazingAmy

    Dennis whateverneuve in the way to become one of most overrated director….
    I don’t think this film deserved to be called as pinnacle. Ryan Hosling tryhard to be cool, Jared Leto tryhard method and only saving grace of this film is cinematography

  • colonelkurtz

    I know folks disagree (see comments), but I enjoyed the film. I’m a fan of the original, and I didn’t expect this to top it or be profound, but I expected a good, if not interesting film, which is what I got. It wasn’t a pure fanboy homage or a money-grab (after 35 years, most people weren’t lining up for the next BR to be released), but was made with respect to the original while still giving us some interesting aspects of the “what makes us humans” philosophical question (mostly achieved through Joi).

    That said, it’s not perfect:
    -The music was more atmospheric than the original’s melodic entries, and I really wanted this one to end with the resonating Vangelis theme, but no, Hans Zimmer had to synth/atmosphere it up. (It was a good soundtrack for a movie, but could have added more melody and nostalgia.)
    -Dialogue was hit and miss. Some parts were fine, other parts were dumb (“this will break the world”), and Jared Leto was just annoying (yes, we get it, he thinks he’s god and therefor must speak in obviously-planned poetic monologues). This stupidity with dialogue is a horrid trend I’ve seen in just about every Hollywood film of late, and I’m seriously crossing my fingers that PT Anderson will not fall in that trap with his upcoming film.
    -The religious themes were a bit overbearing. Yes, Luv is your angel, and you’re god, and we get it. That said, the references to The Trial and Pale Fire (beyond obviously waving the book around) were fun to decipher.

    I’ve heard plenty of complaints about the casting of certain male leads in this film, but Ryan pulled it off well. I may be biased (I like him), but he achieves a strange expressionless face that’s full of expression. The dullest characters were his police boss (archetype hard-line female boss) and Luv (basic bad-guy). And it’s not like the original didn’t have issues . . . like six versions of issues. (And, personally, things added in the Final Cut make parts of the original painfully boring. I don’t need another two minutes of establishing shots here and there. Takes away from the experience more than the pigeon’s bright sky does.)

  • grootrm

    Blade Runner 2049 is attacked because of the scared fan boys who can only hang on to the original as a means to be relevant in their own minds

    2049 is not just a masterpiece, not just the pinnacle of blockbuster cinema thus far, but it is going to influence generations of movie makers.

    • Mortimer

      “2049 is not just a masterpiece, not just the pinnacle of blockbuster cinema thus far, but it is going to influence generations of movie makers.”

      Man, its been quite a while since I last laughed so hard. Thanks for this (un)intentional comedy ! Please more.

      • grootrm

        Tell me when I am supposed to be concerned about the laughter of the cinematically challenged.

        Laughter, if it is a derision to you, well, you’re again only communicating your prior beliefs here.

        • Mortimer

          My prior beliefs aren’t important in the context. It’s a rightful, fun mockery of your unbelievably pretentious sentence above.

    • Vincenzo Politi

      Well, I am not a scared fan boys but I think that this movie is a huge overrated bore with a plot which seems to be out of a Latin-American telenovelas: the secret son, the secret daughter, the lover who was not there, the revolution. Honestly! The plot makes no sense at all, and you don’t need to be a “scared fan boy” to point the finger to boring and sloppy writing and pretentious direction.

      • grootrm

        “pretentious directing”

        Well if you’ll excuse me and if you’ll pardon me, I must say THAT is a pretentious comment.

        I know I could not do what Villeneuve did.

        • Vincenzo Politi

          What kind of reasoning is this? I know I could not cook like a great chef, but if I great chef prepares a bad dish I am allowed to say that I didn’t like that dish, am I not? Beside, I wasn’t only talking about Villeneuve. My comment was mainly concerned with the ridiculous script. If you are a desperate fanboy of Villeneuve, you will never allow yourself to see all the flaws of this movie. And please: don’t tell me that when they resuscitated Rachel and Deckard said “her eyes were green” — don’t tell me that that wasn’t pure soap-operatic trash!

  • Tyo

    //Enjoy easy in the movies, with varying subtitles