Blade Runner 2049 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
When the original BLADE RUNNER was released in 1982, it was met with very little fanfare. It got lost in the mix of other, bigger budget sci-fi movies released around the same time, including E.T. the same year and RETURN OF THE JEDI the following year. Passed off as a box office dud, the film found new life on the home video market and today is thought of as one of the defining sci-fi films of the era. In today’s big budget, mega-movie world, where everything gets over marketed and talked about incessantly, I didn’t think we’d see another situation where a big budget film would be released to disappointing box office returns despite being a great film. And then they released BLADE RUNNER 2049.
The world of Blade Runner hasn’t changed much since we last saw Deckard (Ford). But Deckard hasn’t been seen since he ran off with Rachael (Sean Young) and the replicants are now being hunted by K (Gosling), who is himself a replicant. Through a routine investigation, K discovers the skeletal remains of a replicant and upon closer examination, discovers this replicant has scars from giving birth, meaning there is now evidence replicants have been able to procreate. He is tasked with tracking down the offspring of the replicant, which leads to a conspiracy of sorts involving Wallace (Jared Leto). Of course, he eventually meets up with Deckard, but the film is really focused on K’s emotional journey as he begins to believe he’s the offspring off the replicant.
Everything in BLADE RUNNER 2049 moves at a very slow pace and there’s very little action. Methodical and hypnotic are the two adjectives I’d used to describe the pacing and you don’t have to look any further to understand why this film didn’t do well in theaters. After the initial fight, the audience has to go a long time before anything “exciting” happens. For a film that sold itself as an action sci-fi film, that can be frustrating to audiences. If I were to run an advertising campaign for BLADE RUNNER 2049, I would try to highlight the deeper themes explored in the film and I’d bill it as a moral drama set in the future. While the original BLADE RUNNER touched on some of the deeper themes about what makes someone “human” or “alive”, BLADE RUNNER 2049 tackles them head-on and those deeper themes become the focus of the film as opposed to an afterthought.
Credit goes to director Denis Villeneuve for wrapping all of those themes in such a beautiful package. It’s hard to make a film about deeper themes such as mortality and life, but I imagine it’s even harder to do it when your lead character is essentially a robot that doesn’t have feelings. It helps that he casted an in-his-prime Ryan Gosling, who gave a great performance, conveying a surprising amount of emotions with nothing but his eyes. And virtually every frame of BLADE RUNNER 2049 is an example of excellent cinematography and incredibly set up shots. Roger Deakins is the best cinematographer working today and BLADE RUNNER 2049 is another example of how brilliantly artistic he is with the camera.
When it comes to sci-fi, people want and expect Star Wars, Star Trek, Aliens and other blockbuster type films. But I felt like audiences had moved past that with the recent success of films like INTERSTELLAR and GRAVITY. BLADE RUNNER 2049 is a slow burn, but it’s a beautiful film that touches on several moral themes and is as technically brilliant as you’ll find in a sci-fi film.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: BLADE RUNNER 2049 is why you bought your 4K player and 4K TV. I don’t know what Warner Bros. is doing different with their 4K transfers compared to other studios, but between this and DUNKIRK, they have clearly hit their stride with the new format. Roger Deakins puts on a cinematography master’s class with BLADE RUNNER 2049 and this should only be viewed on 4K Ultra HD. The darker scenes have a whole new depth and level of detail to them and the brighter (that’s a relative term in BLADE RUNNER 2049) scenes look even better. When K and Deckard first meet, virtually everything has an orange hue to it. On the Blu-ray, some of those colors blended together, but on the 4K, you can see the details and level of colors that changed the entire scene. You can say the same kind of thing about virtually every scene in the film, as the 4K makes significant improvements across the board.
Audio: The same Dolby Atmos track from the Blu-ray is included on the 4K and it’s a great track. Maybe surprisingly, BLADE RUNNER 2049 isn’t the kind of film that will blow the speakers off your wall, but the Atmos track kicks in when necessary.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
There are no special features exclusive to the 4K, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which includes the following special features:
Prologues (28:05): Three short prequels to the film fill in some of the gaps between the original and the sequel. The first covers the blackout that is referred to throughout the film, the second covers the lifting of the replicant manufacturing ban and the last one focuses on Sapper (Dave Bautista) settling on the remote planet.
Blade Runner 101 (11:20): Six mini featurettes cover details in the film and touch on some making-of elements. You can play them all at once, but they’re still too short to amount to much.
Designing the World of Blade Runner 2049 (21:55): The cast and crew talk about the new settings in the film and what they mean and represent.
To Be Human: Casting Blade Runner 2049 (17:15): Denis Villeneuve and the producers talk about how great the cast is and why they chose the actors they did.