So Blade Runner 2049 hit theaters locally last weekend and the hype train that preceded it made sure it was one film I couldn’t possibly skip. One sumptuously cooked-hastily-consumed roast chicken later, I found myself sitting in an IMAX auditorium with a small group of friends, expectations already through the roof from what I’d read/seen. Luckily Denis Villeneuve, the director of the film had specifically stated at press screenings to not reveal details about the plot, and to let us the audience form our own opinion of the film. For the first time, in a very long time, I knew nothing about the movie I was sitting down to watch.
Blade Runner 2049 is oh so beautiful.
After having steamed over it for a couple of days, I can safely say Blade Runner 2049 is probably my favorite film this year. It’s a beautiful looking film with a slow burning narrative that allows the viewer to sink into the world it is so effortlessly setting up. Roger Deakins, who has somehow managed to not win an academy award in his lifetime inspite of his stellar line of work, is phenomenal here. There aren’t enough adjectives out there to truly describe just how good the film looks. It is to 2017 what the original Blade Runner was to 1982. From a film-making perspective, we’re witnessing a defining moment in cinema here. Rarely do films look this good.
As mentioned, the narrative does take it’s time. Ryan Gosling’s K is a Blade Runner who’s out eliminating replicants when he happens to run across something that technically should be impossible. This investigation further leads him down a rabbit hole, an almost Pinnochio-esque journey that touches upon themes of existentialism, loneliness and much like the original, invasion of privacy. This is storytelling at it’s best, with some great performances from nearly every single cast member. Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford are stellar as it has come to be expected of them, but it’s Ana De Armas who shines in what could possibly be a career defining role. From what seems to be a minor part in a sequence that was personally a very unnerving experience, she grows as the film progresses, playing off Gosling to serve as one of the film’s many standout facets.
Which brings me to Villeneuve. It’s been two years to the day since I walked out of Sicario, having thoroughly enjoyed the film. Arrival was another I really sunk my teeth into and Prisoners was absolutely fabulous cinema. However, I do believe BR2049 is undoubtedly my favorite out of the lot, a film that world builds oh so casually whilst hypnotically drawing you in. It’s certainly not for everyone as was evident by the number of people who’d walked out, expecting it to be an edge-of-the-seat action thriller. That is not Denis Villeneuve style. It never has been and in all likelihood, it never will be. He’s the closest thing we’ve had to a Tarantino/Scorsese/Coppola, in a while and he should be cherished for what he is.
Which sadly doesn’t seem to be the case.
Blade Runner 2049 opened to a paltry 32 million domestically, far far short of it’s rumoured 170 million budget. It was predicted to open at about 51-52 domestically but it seems to have fallen short of the mark by a significant margin, which is a worrying sign for properties like these. What this does is essentially tell the studio to churn out more of the formulaic dross and shaft films that dare to be a little different much like this one. Studios like Blumhouse have found an ingenious way to circumvent this problem and are raking in huge returns on films that are made on shoestring budgets. That’s not the case with WB. A studio that big has to gamble on properties that aren’t guaranteed success, and 2049 is a very very rare example of it. 2049 is in it’s second week and has dropped by 56%, collecting a paltry $14 million in the process. It is essential that a film like this gets all the support it can get, cause all signs point to Hollywood going down the Bollywood route; A formulaic big budget blockbuster that makes no sense but rakes in insane amounts of cash. It sets a bad precedent for arts. That’s why the indie scene is what it is. That’s where the visionaries, the storytellers are. It’s time the industry put it’s money in the right place. Before it’s too late.
P.S: Go watch Blade Runner 2049. Be patient with it. Allow yourself to be immersed into it’s world. You won’t be disappointed.