Ian Fastert’s review published on Letterboxd:
It's the lack of emotion.
Blade Runner 2049 has fantastic visuals and a damn fine story, one that is stuffed full of ideas and concepts and things to chew on for hours after its over. It's subtle (most of the time) about it's themes, it's meticulously crafted, and it's a movie where you can feel the effort poured into every frame.
But it doesn't fully work for me because of the emotion.
Yes, there are lots of emotional scenes. Harrison Ford's scene with Jared Leto, while suffering from Jared Leto being in it, is a powerful scene. The end is powerful. Everything with Dr. Ana Stelline is wonderful, and her character is beautiful and might be one of my favorites ever created. These scenes are written with emotion pounding through them!
So why doesn't what I'm looking at sync up with that emotion?
Why is it when I'm looking at Harrison Ford cry over hearing the love of his life talk for the first time in YEARS, the shot needs to show off the cool water lighting tricks of the room he's in? Why, when I'm watching the scene where K get's to touch Joi for the first time, do I feel it's more focused on the blending of the bodies than the actual sensuality of the scene? Why does every single shot feel like it needs to...show off, I guess? I guess show off is the phrase I'm looking for here, which sounds childish, like me telling the movie that it doesn't need to keep telling me how much better it is than me, but it really does feel like the movie's urge to show off all that effort they put in and all the "aesthetic" it has gets in the way of conveying all the power the story has.
I understand that the world of the movie is supposed to be cold and unfeeling, but there are clearly scenes where the inhabitants of that world, as joyless as they may be, DO have feelings. And I want to feel those feelings too, I just wish the movie would turn off cold-lifeless-world mode for just one second and let me take it all in. This isn't entirely the cameras fault though, as the score has the same problem; it's this loud, unfeeling entity that blasts in your ears, and yeah, I like that, just like I like aesthetic, beautiful shots, but there also needs to be a time for quiet, intimate moments.
It's just so frustrating, because there are so many great things going on in here, from the acting to the subversion of the "Hero with a Thousand Faces" formula they have going on with K to all the cool future stuff and how lived-in the word feels, but I just can't get into it that much because of that one problem. And clearly I'm in the minority here, and I'm glad, because I'm glad people can find a lot of joy in a piece of art and be impacted by it, but I'm just left feeling frustrated.
It's like listening to an audiobook and staring at screensavers. It may be a really great audiobook, and really great screensavers, but they aren't going to mix, no matter how hard you try to make them sync up.