Bladerunner 2049 and the curse of the dissapointing sequel
When reading reviews of the sequel to Ridley Scotts Masterpiece from 1982, Bladerunner 2049 is getting heaps of praise. It's 5 stars all around and even hard to please movie buffs like Mark Kermode called it "a future classic". And I really wonder why.
Don't worry this post is *SPOILER FREE*
Having just watched the movie I am compelled to (unfortunately) strongly disagree. After the visual dust settled and the epic soundtrack died down, nothing much of substance really stuck with me. Don't get me wrong: The production design is fantastic and the soundtrack immense. Plus you have to applaud the filmmaker to ape the slow pace of the original. Yet the question has to be: Was all this effort warranted? Did Bladerunner even need a sequel?
Without going into any spoiler territory I felt the story was very bland and obvious, the villains very cookie cutter and the set up for a sequel felt forced. I have no idea why so many reviewers praised the movie for being a standalone story whilst it's a pretty obvious attempt at creating a franchise. Bladerunner 2049 just has nothing new to add to the conversation apart from getting Harrison Ford back into the role of Deckard. Especially the last part of the movie was so formulaic that I felt I am watching a bad direct to DVD sequel. Harsh but true.
Plus: Can we please stop with all these prequel story mini-movies? Like Alien Covenant, Bladerunner 2049 has accompanying short movies on YouTube that supposed to fill in some additional info about the storyline. I really feel this added content cheapens the movie experience as it feels like crutches the screenwriters needed because they didn't find a way to flesh out the story in the actual movie.
Although the cast is full of talented actors, Leto and Ford don't actually have much to do in the film and I found the rest of the cast pretty bland as well. Even Ryan Gosling starts to grate on me, always playing the same type of brooding loner since his movie Drive from 2012. The more I think about it, the more I am disappointed that they didn't find a way to really add something new and worthwhile to the Bladerunner universe.
So why are so few sequels great? And why do so many sequels suck? Don't get me wrong... I have nothing against sequels generally. There are actually a lot of sequels I absolutely LOVE! I just feel most sequels try to fake it without actually making it.
So let's have a look at some of my favorite sequels and why they work.
Expanding the storyline: The Empire Strikes Back
Let's get the elephant out of the room first: Empire is just a fantastic sequel! After Star Wars told a pretty standard space story about good vs evil, Empire just added so many great characters, iconic moments and story twists that nothing felt like a tired rehash or simple cash grab. Yodas training, Hoth, Bespin, Boba Fett, that meteroid chase plus space slugs... fantastic! Plus it had the balls to end on a pretty bleak cliffhanger. Still the best sequel to this day.
Go BIG in a good way: Aliens
The classic sequel concept: Just go BIGGER and LOUDER! But where lesser directors fail and fail again, James Cameron gloriously succeeded.
Doing a 180-degree on the first Alien movie and turning a claustrophobic horror piece into a full-blown war movie was just a stroke of genius that totally could have backfired. Just it didn't!
I recently rewatched Aliens and it's as tense, nailbiting and effective as back in 1986.
Again, it added so much new and great material to the Alien lore that it never felt boring: The space marines, the alien queen, the power loader battle... just fantastic! Even if the final end boss gets blasted into space yet again.
Have a standout performance: The Dark Knight
Although I feel that Christopher Nolan could have trimmed the runtime of The Dark Knight a little, this was basically the Batman movie I always wanted: Dark, gritty and more of a crime drama than a campy comic book movie. And most of the praise for making this an awesome flick just has to go to Heath Ledger for his portrayal of The Joker.
There is a reason why The Joker is the best villain ever to grace the pages of a comic book: Although he is a colorful jester with a variety of bold outfits, he always was a dangerous and twisted villain that should never be underestimated. This violent, psychotic and dangerous side of the character was never played before this such relish as by Heath Ledger who deservedly won a posthumous Oscar for this performance.
So to come back to Bladerunner 2049, Alien: Covenant, James Bond Spectre and the many other sequels that totally disappointed me: Without adding new, exciting and iconic material to the foundation laid by the original, there is not much merit in doing a sequel. And that's why Bladerunner 2049 really disappointed me, despite its beautiful visuals and booming soundtrack. It just didn't add anything fresh to the formula, just really well regurgitated the style of the first.
To wrap this blog post up... let's talk about the only sequel that TRULY matters this year: Star Wars The Last Jedi! Let's keep the fingers crossed that The Last Jedi will not fall into the same pitfalls I just mentioned and just rehash what came before. I really hope the film will be able to create new and exciting Star Wars moments... May finally a good sequel be with us!