Blade Runner 2049 Blu-ray, 4K, DVD Review

Since its release in 1982, fans of the iconic and influential cyberpunk movie Blade Runner have been wondering what happened after Deckard drove off with Rachael. Now some of those questions have been answered, and in grand style, in one of 2017’s smartest and best movies, Blade Runner 2049, which is now available in a Blu-ray, DVD, digital combo pack, a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack, and on DVD. It’s just too bad the home versions, especially the DVD, leave some important questions unanswered as well.

 Blade Runner 2049

Set thirty years after Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049 is a noir crime story set in a bleak, dystopian, and rather polluted world where artificial humans, called Replicants, still sometimes need to be “retired.” But after removing one from a remote farm, LAPD office K (Drive‘s Ryan Gosling) finds the remains of another, which leads him to investigate a mystery that could shake society to its core…and probably lead to more questions.

In other words, it’s like if Ghost In The Shell director Mamoru Oshii did a remake of The Maltese Falcon.

Well, except that Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t look like an anime; it looks like a continuation of the original, albeit one set thirty years later. This is thanks to director Denis Villeneuve, who directed the similarly smart Arrival, but is more importantly a fan of the original and its director, Ridley Scott (who served as this film’s executive producer).

What really makes Blade Runner 2049 a true continuation of Blade Runner, though, is the movie’s inventive and unexpected script, which, like the original’s, was co-written by Hampton Fancher, albeit with Logan co-scribe Michael Green taking the place of 12 Monkeys‘ David Peoples. And while that does mean this is as slow and deliberate as the original, it actually works well here given how visually stimulating this movie can be. Sure, in the thirty years since Blade Runner, we’ve seen a lot of dystopian cyberpunk stories (the anime Ghost In The Shell, the video game Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, etc.), but Blade Runner 2049 still manages to be as much a feast for the eyes as it is the mind.

Though it also helps that Blade Runner 2049 has a solid cast to deliver all that smart dialog. Robin Wright is as commanding here as she was in Wonder Woman, Jared Leto (Suicide Squad) plays a CEO with a god complex like he really believes it, while Ana De Armas (War Dogs) does a great job of making K’s VR girlfriend Joi feel both alive and artificial at the same time.

 Blade Runner 2049

As for how well Blade Runner 2049 works on disc, the Blu-ray, 4K, and DVD editions all have have six very short featurettes under the heading “Blade Runner 101” that explain different elements of the story. I’m just not sure what purpose they serve, since they’re not making-of featurettes or behind-the-scenes featurettes, but are instead short primers on aspects of the story. Aspects, mind you, that you’d learn about from watching this movie or the original. Granted, they’d be helpful if you’ve never seen the original Blade Runner, or haven’t seen it in a long time and want a refresher course before watching this sequel, but in both cases, you’re still better off watching Blade Runner instead.

Sadly, that’s it for the extras on the DVD of Blade Runner 2049. The Blu-ray and 4K versions, however, have a few more extras, starting with two self-explanatory making-of featurettes: “Designing The World Of Blade Runner 2049” and “To Be Human: Casting Blade Runner 2049.” As these things usually do, both mix cast and crew interviews with behind-the-scenes footage, and are informative, though thankfully not in a film school-ish way.

More importantly, the Blu-ray and 4K editions have three short prequel movies. In “Blade Runner 2036: Nexus Dawn,” and “Blade Runner 2036: Nowhere To Run” — live action shorts that were written by Fancher and Green, and directed by Ridley’s son Luke — we get the backstory on two of the movie’s more interesting characters and, in the first one, an important event in the history pre-Blade Runner 2049. But the most intriguing is “Blade Runner 2022: Black Out,” an anime written and directed by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop) that makes a compelling argument for an animated spin-off series along the lines of The Matrix anime series The Animatrix.

As interesting as the extras on Blade Runner 2049 may be, though, these collections, even the Blu-ray and 4K ones, are irritatingly incomplete. For starters, there’s no commentary track, nor any of the movie’s original trailers. It doesn’t even have a commercial for the recently released 4K version of Blade Runner: The Final Cut.

More annoyingly, the Blu-ray, 4K, and DVD editions of Blade Runner 2049 don’t have a comprehensive making-of featurette, something that explains how it came to be, why it took so long to happen, how it was made, and how it connects to the original film and the Philip K. Dick’s short story that inspired the original, Do Android’s Dream Of Electric Sheep?

Blade Runner 2049

Even with these glaring omissions, though, Blade Runner 2049 is still worth getting on Blu-ray or 4K, even if it just serves as an excuse to finally upgrade your television. The film is a worthy successor to the original, even if these collections do come up a bit short on the special features.

Score: 8.0/10

 

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