Movie Review: Blade Runner (Original and 2049)

I first saw the original Blade Runner when I was a kid on what used to be called the SciFi network. Or did I?

Either way my memories of the movie were fuzzy, so before seeing the new Blade Runner 2049 I decided to watch the original for comparison. Unfortunately what I watched was apparently the original cut and not the director’s cut which I’ve heard is much better. So if you’re a big Blade Runner fan keep that in mind before reading this review.

Blade Runner Synopsis

In the futuristic year of 2019, Los Angeles has become a dark and depressing metropolis, filled with urban decay. Rick Deckard, an ex-cop, is a “Blade Runner”. Blade runners are people assigned to assassinate “replicants”. The replicants are androids that look like real human beings. When four replicants commit a bloody mutiny on the Off World colony, Deckard is called out of retirement to track down the androids. As he tracks the replicants, eliminating them one by one, he soon comes across another replicant, Rachel, who evokes human emotion, despite the fact that she’s a replicant herself. As Deckard closes in on the leader of the replicant group, his true hatred toward artificial intelligence makes him question his own identity in this future world, including what’s human and what’s not human. Written by blazesnakes9 on IMDb

Blade Runner 2049 Synopsis

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years. Written by Warner Bros. Pictures

The first thing that struck me watching the original Blade Runner was the quality of the effects. The bad quality to be blatant, though I’m sure they were very impressive at the time. It was also pretty interesting to see identical ads running in both movies — most notably the Coca-Cola ads

Blade Runner 2049’s visual effects were quite stunning at times, but ask me in 30 years if they hold up.

As far as the plots for both movies go, I’m also going to have to side with 2049. The original movie, I felt, was too unorganized and even had scenes that felt out of order. Aside from the 80s’ cliches of “one last job”, bizarre chase scenes, and oddly likeable “villains”, the original movie just felt shallow — especially when all I could think about was the superiority of the original Ghost in the Shell movie that came out closer to when I was born. And yes, I know the concepts of both franchises predate them, but GiTS just popped in my head first. The new movie also flushed out it’s characters much better, giving them actual backstories and making it seem like their lives held some significance outside a rushed plot.

Now there were a few things about the first movie I thought were done better than it’s sequel. The unicorn dream sequence, the villains, even the biblical allegories were all far superior than in 2049. I partially blame Jared Leto’s character for two of 2049’s shortcomings there, but to be fair the dream sequence of 2049 actually does prove to be more significant to it’s plot. I just feel the original did the scene in a more interesting way.

2049 also had some similar scenes to the original I couldn’t help but love such as the romance scene between the Blade Runner and his companion. Where Decker has his rape scene in the original, 2049 has a bizarre relationship where K’s AI hologram girlfriend uses the body of another woman to simulate having sex with him. Maybe it’s just the times, but this strange relationship still sounds better than the awkward and uncomfortable scene between Decker and Rachael. Now I already feel like I’m spoiling too much for anyone who hasn’t seen the new movie yet, but I’ll end with saying the sequel has a much more satisfying ending as well which actually offers a little closure. Though still not enough.

Honestly I feel this review is being put together a little too lazily, but I don’t want to dissect each film in too great a detail. The truth is I’m not a huge fan of either film. I would give the original (again not director’s cut) a 5/10 and the sequel a 7/10. Both movies had 10/10 moments and moments I’d rather not think about. Neither made me think too hard about what it means to be human, but both also did a decent job of portraying racism or “othering” in a form that might make people think.

But hey I’d like to know what you think about the Blade Runner franchise. Am I missing some glaring point that has you grinding your teeth? Or maybe you’re in my camp and think it’s been a little over-hyped by 80s’ nostalgia? Let’s talk about it in the comments or over on Twitter. Or hey if you catch me during a Twitch stream we can talk about it in real time!


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