Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 (2017) perfectly captures the mood and atmosphere of a post-apocalyptic, dystopian environment — including the fact that dystopia is as tedious, mundane and trepid as the film is.
Blade Runner 2049 is a collision of its underwhelming narrative, and its gorgeous production design — perhaps, a practical vision on what exactly post-apocalypse could be, when everything is visually fiery, but ultimately empty of human connections. Villeneuve gave a hybrid of realism and post-modernism as an authentic take on the outlandish textures of the future. The balance on how equally real and surreal the film’s overall vibe proves to be a directorial intelligence in creating Blade Runner 2049’s ecosystem of gloss and grunge.
The film is just wonderful to look at. It’s almost impossible to take your eyes off the screen, as its visuals are impeccably hypnotic. The tones of its gradient colors and play on lights and shadows, with touches of punk-rock, Japanese street style, and a bizarre combination of 1950’s old Hollywood glam will set you in for a nostalgic but futuristic joyride. The level of sublimity with its cinematography is art to the highest order. Villeneuve gave us endless stunning shots and eccentric art direction, making the film’s production design as its main, and perhaps only star. All the characters felt secondary to the set, as every name and face pales in comparison to the smog of orange hue that Ryan Gosling walked into. The movement of the story heavily relies on its visually rich hurricane of picturesque backdrops.
I have always been a fan of Villeneuve’s choice of scores, and Blade Runner 2049 is no exception. Its sonic music and electric sound mixing is literally the audio translation of the film’s eerie visuals — definitely a surefire contender for this year’s best original score, probably as close as Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which was also scored by Hans Zimmer himself.
That being said, how the film was elevated in its art department gave a painstaking crash-and-burn with its narrative. The story is as monotonous as a lifeless city set after the apocalypse. The tone of its screenplay is as monochromatic as every dead man’s tale for every perished replicant in the film. That being said, maybe this was intentional, as Villeneuve purposely went for the realist-story, surrealist-visuals approach — even so, the fun-meter of the film is disappointingly sub par.
Nevertheless, how Harrison Ford’s character was written is a great tribute to the film’s prequel by director Ridley Scott in 1982. It is just the right amount of homage and relevance to the new age version of Villeneuve without coming across as overbearing. It was a respectable salutatory gesture to Ford and Scott, the same way as it is a celebratory baptismal to Ryan Gosling as the new hero, and Villeneuve as the current visualizer.
Overall, Blade Runner 2049 is a visual feast. The film’s an eye candy, and perhaps it’s best to remain as an eye candy alone — you can simply forget about knowing the film for what it actually is and just focus on how gorgeous it looks. It isn’t as fun to watch as it is incredibly gorgeous to look at.