What Went Wrong with Blade Runner 2049?

by Barrett

Sometimes you’ve got to experience a movie for yourself instead of just reading everyone else’s opinion. That said, here’s my take as to why “Blade Runner 2049” failed to succeed at the box office.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (Massachusetts)… I used to write the ‘occasional’ movie review. That was before social media gave the capability of influencing public opinion to most of the planet.

Then, my patterns of life shifted. Fast forward another few chapters, and BAM! I’m a parent. And then as you might expect, I found it something of a challenge to get to the movies during the first week when a particular flick came out.
(And sometimes during the first month!)

Those delays quickly stripped me of my ability to form a point of view on new movies.
(That said, I’m enjoying life’s other priorities.)

But of course, there are exceptions…

Coming Out of Retirement
A few weeks back… I watched in dismay from the sidelines as “Blade Runner 2049” went down in flames when it premiered at the box office.

To date, this 150-million-dollar flick hasn’t even made $90 million back yet at the U.S. box office after five weeks of wide release.

I wondered what went so wrong? This positively-reviewed sequel to the iconic 1982 “Blade Runner” seemed like it had blockbuster written all over it.

As a science fiction fan, I was bummed out… It just didn’t make any sense.

Then, when Warner Brothers decided to pull the film early from its theatrical run I made a point to catch it before it entirely disappeared.

I realized I had to have my own opinion on this one… however delayed it might be.
(Plus, I really wanted to experience it on the big screen.)

So, what did I think…?

Barrett’s Movie Review
Overall, I enjoyed “Blade Runner 2049.”
A lot.
It’s solid.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, it’s definitely a ‘movie experience’ complete with rich visuals that extend the groundbreaking vision of the original.

Harrison Ford is super in his reprisal of the blade runner Deckard, now in retirement… and also missing. But this is really Ryan Gosling’s movie, and he rocks as a cool and steady replicant blade runner about to come unhinged.

If I were to oversimplify the plot of this sequel in one sentence… Gosling is in the middle of a mystery/conspiracy that eventually leads him to Ford.

The visuals. The oppressive music. The complexity of the story.
This is the way big movies are supposed to be like.

But yes… I also saw some problems.
Significant problems.

And it makes sense to me that these drawbacks kept people away.

While this is not to be designed to be a standard movie review, I want to address what I believe kept “Blade Runner 2049” from really taking off…

The Length
It’s 164 minutes. With all of the movie trailers that get thrown at you before the main flick actually begins, you’ve got to commit almost three hours of your day to watch this.

That, by itself will keep busy folks away.

It’s Confusing
Yes, so was the original. And some of the confusing elements from the first one are intentionally retained here.
You’ve got to pay attention as the plot goes through its twists and turns.
But, honestly, I missed the rationale behind a couple of big moments.

The Pace
It’s slow. It’s moody. And it’s wonderful.
But I don’t know that many people have the attention span for that anymore.
Unfortunately, that’s not the way blockbusters are made.

It’s Best to be a Student of “Blade Runner”
While you don’t need to see “Blade Runner” first, it certainly helps to maximize your enjoyment of this one. If you know the differences between the original’s theatrical cut vs. the director’s cut, even better. The problem is that removes a huge swath of the movie-going population who weren’t even born yet when “Blade Runner” came out.

A Sequel 35 Years Later
So, when you talk about a sequel’s appeal being fueled by the original… again, much of the audience wouldn’t have this opportunity, unless they sought it out on DVD decades later.

The Music Gives It Away
To continue the theme of inside baseball, the music track joins the club. And apparently, if you pay close attention to the music, you’ll figure out major plot developments, because certain pieces of music mirror similar themes from the original at pivotal points.
(I missed this entirely.)

Thumbs Up Anyway
So, “Blade Runner 2049” isn’t perfect.
Or maybe it would be more perfect if you come really prepared to watch it.

Will it become a classic, like the original?
Hmmm… hard to say. “Blade Runner” created its groundbreaking world from scratch. This one has the advantage of building on that.

But the more I think about this movie, the better I feel about it… flaws and all. It’s ambitious and bold. It takes a lot of chances, the way many blockbusters don’t.

Perhaps the most important realization I’ve had is that “Blade Runner 2049” has stayed with me. It didn’t evaporate the way so many other lighter and inconsequential flicks have done right after watching.

That says a lot.

On a five-point scale… I‘d give it a solid four.
“Blade Runner 2049” is definitely worth seeing, and now I understand why it underperformed.

And there you have it… a few tardy insights on a flick that’s still worth the attention it never got…

Any other thoughts out there…?