OPEN POST: Movie Therapy for Blade Runner 2049

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brian-mcgee - January 21, 2018

Welcome back to Movie Therapy. Catch up with the concept in our first two columns on The Last Jedi and Rogue One. This week, we're tackling another divisive piece of recent sci-fi cinema Blade Runner 2049. It's been out on Blu-ray since Tuesday and I hope you've had a chance to catch up with it. If not, beware as there be spoilers ahead...

The calendar now having clicked over into 2018, it seems a good time to reflect on the best spectacles of the year. The summer was full of them from Guardians 2 and Wonder Woman to Spider-Man: Homecoming and Baby Driver, it was a great time to go to a movie theater and drink in a tale of sound and fury. Then October rolled around and Blade Runner 2049 ground big budget cinema to a halt to make a $200 million art film.

The critics went nuts for it and rightly so. It's an expertly crafted film with jaw dropping cinematography and production design. It's an old fashioned detective story wrapped in a dismal future that's both repulsive and endlessly fascinating to watch. It was a thing of beauty. But I didn't really like it all that much, and felt like I never needed to see it again. 

You see, here's the core problem with the Blade Runner franchise, such as it is. Both sides of the core argument are right. It is self-indulgent, overly long, light on incident, heavy on letting a moment play out. You either love that or you don't, and that subsequently factors into your verdict on the film. 

I call this the Led Zeppelin paradigm. I can appreciate their place in music history and completely understand why people are gigantic fans. It's just not for me. I can't stomach more than three of their songs. Total. But I get why people dig them. Same with Blade Runner. Re-watching the original probably six months before I saw 2049 helped to rearrange my expectations for the sequel.

I knew it was going to be long and methodical and there were moments when it all comes together and makes a brilliant and beautiful work of art, but I have no interest in revisiting it. It leaves me hollow when I should be feeling something. BUT! I don't regret seeing it for a moment. I find that three hours of my time to have been worth it to see this work of art in the best format possible. Same with Dunkirk, another film from this year that I completely understand those who fawn over it, but I never want to see again.

I admire the Blade Runner franchise for having a fairly united fan base. They are protective of something they love very much and were likely hesitant about a sequel of any kind, but when they saw the finished product, they knew it was made with love and reverence for the original. We've now seen the Star Wars fan base divide into "true fans" and "new fans" again and again. We're witnessing the latest cycle of that—and thanks to the internet, it's the most brutal yet—but they can't unite behind a film to save their lives. 

Blade Runner fans, on the other hand, recognized a work of art that is only best admired through multiple viewings and lengthy, philosophical discussions. And I'm all for those discussions, which is where I open it up to you. Were you an instant devotee or do you think they killed the franchise for good? Or were you somewhere in the middle like me, in awe of the spectacle but disconnected from the film on a gut level? Is it okay to admire this film and not like it? Let me know in the comments section below...

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