Note: After reading his review of “Blade Runner: 2049,” the author invites you to learn more about “Shadowlands and Songs of Light: An Epic Journey into Joy and Healing,” a new book that compares the writings of C. S. Lewis with the music of U2 in a life-changing journey through grief, joy, and longing for God. Available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
While this film is not for every Christian moviegoer because of its sexual and violent content, from a strictly film craft point of view, 2049 is worth every penny you pay for a movie ticket (and over-priced movie snacks).
From that perspective (film craft), it’s a shame that “Blade Runner: 2049” didn’t do well at the box office. (Not very many movies are, these days.) It is one of the best movies made in the last 30 years. It really is a masterpiece of film craft and storytelling, and many are hailing it as better than the original “Blade Runner,” which was considered a masterpiece of mood, set design and music.
The Blade Runner sequel also features a song by CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) singer Lauren Daigle, if you can believe it. (And I think she has a superb explanation about why she agreed to do it.)
(Observations) Entertainment Value and Film Craft
This wild movie is almost three hours long. But it feels like maybe 30 minutes long. I was sad when it ended. I wanted more.
It begins with the mood. You have to appreciate what it takes to create powerful settings and moods visually in film. It’s not easy. That’s why when a film does it really well, like the original Blade Runner, everyone notices. Well, 2049 has exceptional mood, just as good as the original, maybe better. It just pulls you in like the riptide of an ocean during a night swim, shifting your visual world back and forth with huge bioluminescent swells of atmosphere and emotion.
And then there’s the phenomenal writing and plot concept. “A young blade runner’s discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for thirty years.” That’s just the first step of a very intense journey. I can hardly tell you more without giving away spoilers (and my reviews are always spoiler-free).
I will say this: the story, all by its lonesome, is also full of powerful mood–a deep, unquenchable longing. You feel it in every storyline: K’s relationship with his A.I. assistant Joi and the longing they both have to be human and have intimacy; Sapper Morton’s desire to be left alone (and unharmed by the Blade Runner) while he cooks garlic and tries to explain to K what it means to witness the miracle of life; and the vast web of twists and turns in the plot that lead K closer and closer to what he seeks.
And the music. The wonderful music. I was a rabid fan of Vangelis and his glorious soundtrack from the original Blade Runner. I would fall asleep to it in high school. I was worried the new movie wouldn’t do it justice, but it does a nice job. It retains the Vangelis sound for the most part, even bringing back some of the original score in a scene that has one of the biggest goose-bump moments of any movie I’ve seen. (Can’t say why; no spoilers.)
(Interpretation) Worldviews, Deeper Layers of Meaning, Edifying Themes
Lauren Daigle touched on this in her quotes in the link at the top, but 2049 captures the experience of longing for God unknowingly–i.e. the seeker who knows not what is being sought, but deeply longs for it with the intensity of a homesickness for a home that has never been seen–the cosmic itch that drives everyone forward to grab life for all its worth and find fulfillment–the cross-pressures between transcendence and immanence that pushes hard against all of us in this God-haunted world.
To be clear: the movie is not overtly about God in any way. The original Blade Runner was directed by atheist/agnostic–not sure which–Ridley Scott, and 2049 is produced by him. But it touches on the God topic indirectly, on accident perhaps, as it explores what it means to be human and shows the longing of “replicants” (advanced A.I. beings), desiring the kind of life and individual worth that humans have.
The film also gives you (perhaps indirectly too) a keen sense of the precious value of life, of the “miracle” of it, and it features a stunning portrayal of self-sacrifice and the satisfaction of laying down your life for others.
Conclusion: ‘Blade Runner: 2049’ is a Film I Shan’t Soon Forget
I think many Christian viewers will skip this film because it has nudity and sexuality that falls in the R-rated category–though the sexuality does have a point in the story. In some cases it’s trying to convey certain aspects about what society has become; in other cases it’s used in the context of a replicant’s deep longing for the intimacy that humans experience. That doesn’t make it edifying to watch, but it’s not pointless as it is in, say, raunchy R-rated comedies.
But for better or worse, it’s the kind of movie that stays with you. It haunts you. It’s hard to stop thinking about the story and the setting. It is unforgettable with its stunning vistas, colors, cityscapes, surreal techno-fantasy lands, huge swells of electronic synth organ chords rumbling with angry, tired, beautiful sonority, orange dust-consumed wastelands that used to be playgrounds for nations.
And an irrepressible, almost childlike longing for life.
And the desire to live and die well.
Yes, the world of 2049 is filled with hollow lust, moral decay, spiritual death and ugliness just like our world, but there is also redemption, beauty, self-sacrifice and miracles of life.
Content advisory for this film…
Sexual Content/Nudity/Themes of Sexuality: Many scenes of nudity, mostly breasts and buttocks. One sex scene, though the camera cuts to the “morning after,” and sex in a
“replicant brothel” is hinted at in blurred shapes from a distance, though it is still strongly suggested and R-rated. Read the IMDB list for the full scope if you’re on the fence about it. It was disappointing (and maybe a little cliched) that the future world was so hyper-sexualized and included so often in the background setting of the world. It had a purpose and a clear commentary about the need for companionship and intimacy in the human heart, but it was not edifying.
Violence/Gore/Scary/Disturbing Content: Plenty of violence, almost all of it done to the non-human replicants, but they have blood and organs just like humans so it’s still tough to watch at some points. Some of the most violent scenes include a man using a scalpel to rip open the womb of a replicant, though the actual act is not shown on-camera, but the sounds of it and the aftermath of blood is seen and it is disturbing. Replicants are shot point-blank, one in the head, and we see part of their head when it happens. Other characters are stabbed to death or drowned or blown up.
Language: R-rate language, plenty of f-words.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: Some alcohol and smoking, infrequent though and more in the background.
Note: The parental guidance content advisory is written from a Christian worldview. I am a person of faith with orthodox Christian beliefs like those expressed in “The Everlasting Man” by G. K. Chesterton, “Mere Christianity” by C. S. Lewis, and “The Pursuit of God” by A. W. Tozer. That being said, I do not believe that the depiction of evil, even graphic depictions of evil or negative themes in films, is in itself always immoral. I believe it depends on the context and the worldview behind the film’s depiction of evil. All that being said, I try to report the content that gives the film its rating so that you can make an informed decision about viewing the film. Some people need to know detailed information about the content, some do not, in order to make a decision. I try to provide enough detail to give you a sense of the nature of the content. If you need more detail to make a better decision, I recommend visiting PluggedIn.com, as they provide extremely detailed reports of a movie’s content.