Ian Fastert’s review published on Letterboxd:
So anyways, after a day of thinking about this while grinding through a 9 hour shift at Panera, I've come to the conclusion that "Blade Runner 2049" is a beautiful story with lots of beautiful characters portrayed wonderfully by top notch actors and contains lots of symbolism and themes to keep you swept up in the world long after it's over.
It's also the most lifeless film I've seen in forever.
And that sounds fine, right? Because isn't that what the world of Blade Runner is all about? The first one also has this lifeless air to it most of the time, and the future that we see in both films is as bleak as it gets, filled with blacks and neons and smoke. So why is this a problem in this movie and not in the original?
The thing is, the original knows when to come alive. The scene where Roy Batty dies in the original is filmed with this beauty, and the camera really takes in his last words, his last breaths, his final expressions. That scene, one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen filmed, is why that movie works where this one doesn't. 2049 has many emotional moments! Some might even have matched that scene if captured perfectly, but...every moment is filmed with the lifelessness of the big scenery shots, and that just doesn't work.
For an example (and if this sounds vague it's because I wouldn't DARE spoil any of this for you for reasons I'll go into later), there's a scene where Ryan Gosling's character learns something that changes the whole way he perceives life and the way he must live. You can see Ryan's face tense up, ready to explode, you hear the soundtrack get really big and loud, but the camera does...nothing. It just stares at him, not emphasizing any emotion in particular, letting the scene speak for itself, like the camera is on auto-pilot. So what could be this scene that digs into your very core is just a loud scene of Ryan Gosling's angry face.
And the cinematography is beautiful, at least when it shows the world off! What they've created here is a bleak, dreary, wonderful world that deserves to be seen to be believed. But the camera never transfers away from "staring at 150 million dollars in action" mode, and that makes all the human stuff not as emotionally powerful. There are so many scenes in this that should have just ripped my heart out, that should have devastated me. Which is not to say some don't, but when they did it was solely because of the strength of the characters they wrote and the actors portraying them (one character in particular is better and more interesting than anything in the first movie, which is SAYING SOMETHING). It's just so frustrating, because everyone clearly brought their A-game, and it's clearly a miracle (heh) that this even exists and I want everyone to see it! The story is an all time great in the sci-fi genre, which is wonderful since that's the first movie's biggest weakness, the acting is phenomenal all around, the score is beautiful (though I long to hear what Jóhann Jóhannsson had cooked up), and the sets and design of everything is awe-inspiring. But it just stumbles where it needed to succeed, and that sucks.
I'll go see it again, multiple times in fact, but that disappointed the hell out of me. If we just wanted an excellent story, we would have asked for a book.
Go see it anyway though it deserves success