I didn’t love Blade Runner 2049 as much as the critics

Warning: contains spoilers

I was really excited by the prospect of Blade Runner 2049, like any fan of the original.

Especially after reading the early critical superlatives about Denis Villeneuve’s sequel. “Masterpiece.” “Better than the original.” “Mesmerising.”

So I was surprised that I didn’t leave the cinema last night with the kind of I-need-to-watch-that-again-right-now excitement that often follows such cinematic ‘events’.

And I’m having a hard time figuring out why that was.

The visual poetry of cinematographer Roger Deakins was even more spectacular than his groundbreaking 1982 work, from the dusty, abandoned ruins of Las Vegas to the more familiar rain-soaked neon wonder of future-LA.

I marvelled at some of the effects-driven subplots and asides: the flickering warmth of K’s AI-girlfriend, the jolting hologram Elvis show in Deckard’s deserted casino, and the evocative street scene in LA as K is propositioned by the working girls.

The performances were mostly fine, with Harrison Ford’s late appearance injecting his now trademark grizzled emotional depth into a film full of non-human characters.

So I think it must be the central storyline that didn’t completely hook me in.

It seemed narratively convenient, and more than a little far-fetched, that Deckard and Rachael would have conceived a child, and that Wallace, the master bio-engineer, would not be able to copy Tyrell’s scientific feat without tracking down this miracle in the flesh.

The philosophical question of what separates humanity from the replicants was certainly a worthy central theme, and relevant to our age of increasing genetic engineering.

But it was the narrative execution that didn’t quite hang together for me, and the largely underwater fight scene between K and Luv was a surprisingly non-climactic climax to such a cinematic spectacle.

I’m also no fan of flashbacks as a rule. That might just be personal taste, but they take me out of the story when I’d prefer the screenplay to convey the past in more imaginative ways.

Finally, I was looking for more call-backs to that sumptuous Vangelis score. There was a fitting snapshot of ‘Tears in Rain’ at the end, but the mostly atmospheric soundtrack didn’t have the same dripping romanticism of the original.

I think what I’m getting at is I enjoyed the experience of the film, if not its substance.

But I am still slightly baffled why I’m not dishing out the same kind of superlatives as the critics today. Something about Blade Runner 2049 just eluded me.

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