Famously, the original Blade Runner began with a test. It was meant to see if a large, brooding character was in fact a replicant, but the series of seemingly innocuous questions about tortoises upside and feelings about one’s mother were meant to expose more, to see what emotional or physical triggers such interrogations would bring.
The Voigt-Kampf test is central to Blade Runner lore, but it also speaks to how our reactions to things are dictated often by our own expectations, be they overt or subliminal. It is our dreams and our memories that shape us, that guide our passions and processes equally, making for the messy mockery of the notion of self-control that dictates human behaviour.
It’s these same inherent and subliminal reactions that help dictate reactions to Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049. It’s a film that’s as beautiful as the original, with a sumptuous visual look by master Roger Deakins that’s easily the best of the year. There’s a story that’s both mystical and maudlin, mixing up sci-fi tropes with noir aesthetics that characterized the original film, regardless of which cut you were first introduced to. It’s a film that’s too long and too slow and yet it’s these dream-like qualities that give the work its power, the very flaws that make the thing paradoxically near perfect.
This is a film that reflects upon its past, makes its own move forward, and during its journey both complicates and replicates the themes of what’s come before. In other words, it’s a perfect sequel, one of the best of many years to truly build upon in intelligent and subtle ways what had been laid down prior. If you hate this film, you probably should feel the same about Ridley’s work and leave that tortoise on its back in the desert after all.
Warner has released Blade Runner 2049 in several packages. The first, a 4KUHD release, includes as has become usual a “regular” 1080p Blu-ray disc that includes the film as well as the supplementary materials.
From a dark screen comes the closeup of an eye, and in 4K it looks bonkers. The images were captured by Deakins on an Arri Alexxa and presented in the regular theatrical aspect of 2.39:1 rather than the more square IMAX 1.9:1 that opened the top and bottom. Like Nolan’s films as good as the image looks it’s still a far cry from the majesty of seeing this film projected on a 6 storey IMAX screen, but that takes nothing away from this absolute reference presentation. It’s an image that practically makes one weep with its beauty, and thanks to the benefits of properly calibrated HDR OLED display the work looks particularly glorious.
The other release includes the 3D presentation of the film, one that played in theatres but not in IMAX. The post-conversion is effective, and many scenes do greatly benefit from this added dimensionality. It’s nice to have both on hand depending on mood, and while 3D dies a slow death just as it got great (4K UHD doesn’t even support it) it’s nice to be able to add to the collection of terrific films that use this format. The stereography is particularly effective during the flying scenes and the wonderful amber stochastic reflections that drape the walls in one of the main locations.
The non-3D 1080p looks excellent, but in contrast to both the immersive 3D and sumptuous 4K it’s easily the third best of the lot.
While video formats differ both releases include the same audio tracks. From the first note you know you’re in for something impactful as the bonkers bass note practically ripped apart a newly renovated home thanks to a newly installed 16” subwoofer. Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer gleefully channel Vangelis’ analogue synthesis with their retro score that swirls beautifully in the ATMOS soundfield. Explosions boom, dialogue is clear, and just like the picture this is pure reference material.
We’ve been spoiled in the past with Ridley’s wonder, with the original Blade Runner having near-definitive releases for home theatre that incorporate a myriad of documentaries, commentaries and even full-on disparate cuts of the film.
The regular 1080p disc includes all the additional material, beginning with the trailer for some video game that holds little interest. There’s a 22 minute “Designing the world” featurette, an 18 minute piece on casting, a series of “prequels” that served as teases for the film, and a “Blade Runner 101” made up of EPK interviews that are useless to anyone that’s seen the film. Nothing particularly amazing in all of it, but still a nice inclusion while we can wait the same number of decades it took for Ridley’s film to go from theatrical disaster to beloved classic.
Easily one of the best films of 2017 (and one of the best sequels made, period), we’re treated to a fantastic audio and video feast that wonderfully captures Villeneuve’s film for the home environment. You’re not going to be swimming in supplements on this one, but for a picture perfect disc whose soundtrack will mess with your insides you’re looking at an absolute must own. For those with 3D and 4K display capabilities, I’m afraid that both versions are equally important to your collection as each in their own way provides an important facet of this film’s wonderful visual style.