What Happened to 'Blade Runner 2049'?

The film has polarized fans, who think it's either the most brilliant film of the year or a pompous, heavy-handed, (nearly) three-hour slow burn.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Blade Runner 2049.]

Blade Runner 2049 was one of the most anticipated films of the year, the sequel fans of the 1982 original have been waiting decades for. After it received stellar reviews, it appeared the film would be a home run.

Yet the $150 million tentpole underwhelmed at the domestic box office with $32 million ($82 million so far worldwide) and has divided fans more than any other blockbuster this year. Heat Vision's Ryan Parker and Aaron Couch dig into what happened.

Parker: Reaction to the film, via comments on our pieces, has been so polarized. From that sample, it seems those who saw the movie thought it was either the most gorgeous masterpiece they ever witnessed or they thought it was a pompous, heavy-handed, (nearly) three-hour slow burn.

Couch: It's not like a Kingsman: The Golden Circle, which audiences saw as something to enjoy at face value — they watched it, let it wash over them and felt like they had a good time (few left saying that movie was either the best ever or the worst ever). But with something like Blade Runner 2049, there was so much to unpack, it's like it's unfashionable not to have a strong opinion one way or the other.

Parker: I was somewhat worried that film would underperform its initial opening expectations. The mainstream appeal was somewhat narrow. If you're a fan of the first, you're seeing this one. If you're a sci-fi fan, you're seeing this one …

Couch: But if you're neither, perhaps you wouldn't know what to make of it and just stay home instead? It's disappointing, because aside from Christopher Nolan and Matt Reeves, not many filmmakers are able to give us big, ambitious blockbusters like this. It's possible this is just another signal to studios that taking a risk and giving fans what they have been asking for isn't the way to go. That'd be a shame. At the same time, 2049 director Denis Villeneuve has plenty of work lined up, as he should. The movie more than exceeded my expectations. It's one of my favorite sci-fi movies of the last 10 years, and probably the most beautiful film of 2017. I've only seen the original once (I think the director's cut), and I just didn't get the hype. This one helped me understand why people love the world so much, and I'm definitely going to give 1982's Blade Runner another chance. You're a huge Blade Runner fan. How'd you take it?

Parker: I enjoyed the film, but I did not love it as much as I thought I would. It got so much right, but the parts it got wrong (and there were only a few) really rubbed me the wrong way. For starters, I hate the idea of a robot underground working to protect "the one." All I could think about was The Matrix. Just didn't work for me. It wasn't needed and would have shaved some time off the film, which does require a bathroom break if you get concessions.

Couch: But K's sacrifice proves that the underground replicants were right. The daughter ("the miracle") lets these people realize they are better than what humanity has made them for. There's a point to those characters.

Parker: Harrison Ford's performance is one of the best he has ever given. I felt like he truly cared about the character, as opposed to feeling like he is just in this for the paycheck, which he has been open about (just cashing in) in the past. When Deckard listened to audio of himself interviewing Rachael from the first film, Ford's reaction/performance was magnificent. It was touching to see him be so damn good. I think fans have become a little cynical about him revisiting these characters at an older age, but he was brilliant here. It all fit into place.

Couch: I was surprised by how moving his performance was. This wasn't Harrison Ford, this was a character. Like Will Smith or Tom Cruise, it can be hard not to see Ford the celebrity ... but I really did believe this is a man who has been in exile for decades and has suffered great loss. But can we talk about the production design, cinematography and score? Top-notch. What movie this year can top it?

Parker: The film itself is stunning aesthetically, and I love how much of the original feel they captured with a futuristic, dank, hopeless Los Angeles. I also very much enjoyed Ryan Gosling's character and performance.

Couch: Gosling was famous (and even had an Oscar nom) before Drive, but to me Drive is when Gosling became Gosling. He was great playing a stone-faced force of nature — not a lot of emotion there. This role feels like it's coming full circle with Drive, and it's so perfect because he's a replicant and doesn't need to show a lot of emotion. The one scene in 2049 where he really loses it after learning the memory at the orphanage was authentic just worked so well because it was the one time he lost it.

Parker: Now, with all that said, I think the film really dropped off after the Las Vegas scene. Up to that point, it was perfect, but the ending was a bit of a letdown, save for Ford's performance in Jared Leto's office. That fight scene in the car/water was borderline obnoxious. It was way too long and so anticlimactic.

Couch: You are the Blade Runner expert and I didn't quite get everything. For starters, do you think K is a replicant? I subscribe to Ridley Scott's view, that Deckard is a replicant. But I was surprised the movie didn't offer clarity — it actually teased us with Leto's Wallace mocking Deckard about whether he was real or not.

Parker: He is human. That is what Ford thought when the first movie came out. And that is how he played the character here, in my opinion. Still, I do really like that they left it up to nerds to argue.

Couch: Do you think K was a brother to the "miracle" child? Personally, I think K was just another replicant, and Deckard's daughter sold a real memory to the Wallace Corporation and it ended up in K's mind. Deckard himself didn't seem to even realize K thought he might be the miracle child. He asks him near the end something along the lines of "What am I to you?"

Parker: I think K was the other baby used to throw others off the trail, which would explain why he had that wooden horse figure memory. I mean, Dr. Ana Stelline told him it was illegal to implant real memories, so it must have been done for an important reason. Also, she gets so emotional when viewing it, I feel like she realizes that is her "brother."

Couch: What about K? Is he dead? I think he's gone, but I also think they kept it open for a possible sequel.

Parker: He's dead. That moment had the same feel (and music) as Roy's "Tears in the Rain" speech given right before he died in the original.

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