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Blade Runner 2049 (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Blade Runner 2049 opened in the fall of 2017 to critical raves.  However, the whole way along, many were concerned with the almost three hour runtime coupled with an R rating. The film also was the sequel to one of the biggest cult favorites of all time, but a notable box office bomb as well. And, like father like daughter (hehe), the film had a very low opening weekend leading to a box office disappointment. Had the film not cost 150 million, maybe it doesn’t hurt so much. This was a split juncture, with Warner Bros only being able to rake in the domestic take and Sony handling the overseas.  As such, we are in the US and I’ll be here reviewing the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray of the film from Warner Bros. They wow’d me last year with their presentation of the original, so I’m hoping for more of that here in this picture. You’ll be able to compliment the 5 cuts of the original film on Blu-ray with just this one theatrical version on January 23rd.

Film 

Three decades after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard, a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

With the film behind me now and having seen it twice, I still get why I originally didn’t want a sequel to Blade Runner.  Relieved and all fears behind me now, I feel silly for even having them at all and not being a little more trusting in the creative process. Along the way, every hire and direction on the film as well as the trailers, the production photos, the art, I agreed with and thought were fantastic choices. My mind felt Ridley Scott’s film had told me everything it had or needed to tell.  Little did I know, I was very wrong.

Blade Runner 2049 is such a strong follow up and piece of this world that it holds on its own and is its own complete work and story from start to finish. While it is very much tied to characters and events of the first film, Hampton Fancher’s script is one able to have its own complete story that really could be seen by a novice an easily followed along, just as effective. While there are some beats and callbacks to the original, they are weaved in such a way that they aren’t distracting and are very much in service of this story. One of the great triumphs of Blade Runner 2049 truly is being its own film and complete story top to bottom.

Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins have beautifully crafted both the world we remember along with the extension of it as well. Outskirts, abandoned and forgotten areas and maybe one of their biggest visual splendors; the fallout of Las Vegas.  2049 also boast a little bit more of scope than the original, which allows for our gaze and aw of such a beautiful marriage of costuming, set design/construction, lighting, framing and visual effects that made such an appeal from the original. We go to some uncharted territories and are able to experience them with K as he looks to solve his case.

Our latest story of Blade Runners and Replicants is set 30 years into the future and thus brings about a whole new array of characters. Some old faces pop up,  but they aren’t an extreme focus and only the crux of something that happened in the past. This is the tale of these characters living in these times and the story never forgets that or panders to just giving you your old heroes doing their old thing. Hell, Harrison Ford’s Deckard doesn’t show up til we kick into the film’s final act and he’s also a different man than we’d left him. And its a fitting spot given where we last left him and the plot of this movie. Our new characters are a lot of new takes and variations on things we’ve seen before along with fresh types. While one may evoke the thought of a previous character or type, they all are fully their own.

At the heart of the original film was the theme of what it means to be human. Blade Runner 2049 is no different and in fact takes this to new heights and finds new breakthroughs with the topic. Its quite fantastic how much deeper this one delves into it.  Romantic relations are again part of it and the take here is both thought provoking and progressive. While the original dealt with a human and a Replicant, 2049 extends this to now a Replicant and a holographic interface that is visible, yet untouchable.  And both participants Ryan Gosling and Ana de Armas really pull this off with such bankability and heart while both staying true to what they are as a being.

In my second viewing of Blade Runner 2049, I found it even more engaging, beautiful and thought provoking than the first time. As I expected, more doors started to open, some things became more clear, other things I took for granted opened new possibilities. The film has given me a true companion to the first film in that it can sit alone and I can continue to return and digest it for years to come. Going back to my original stance on this film’s existence, I don’t need a third Blade Runner right now, what I want more time with this film to keep digging, analyzing and sharing thoughts with others about while also marveling in the beautiful visuals they are told by. And if they are to make another journey (I really don’t know who is going to want to fund it) into the world of Replicants, it would be very cool if they were to hold off for quite some time (At least a decade), bringing in a new director with Denis Villeneuve taking on the mantle that Ridley Scott had with this film.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: Blade Runner 2049 debuts on the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format with a fittingly lovely image that features some nice vivid color saturation and a crisp detailed picture that helps with the hauntingly beautiful imagery that Roger Deakins captured. While I can’t put my finger on it, there is just something holding me back from giving this a complete 5 as I feel the image could possibly look a hair better. Don’t get me long, the thing looks great, but my expectation might have been that the HDR was going to be at a more effective usage or factor. And it does hit quite well in many areas, whereas maybe I wasn’t expecting as much restraint. I was blown away by the original film’s 4K presenation, yet this one just has me simply at “Well, this looks great” instead of feeling the way I did about the look of the original. Perhaps that unfair or maybe I’m having a brainfart and unable to completely articulate myself. For that I apologize.

Depth:  The image features some really good depth of field and separation between its characters, holograms and backdrop. Movements are natural and cinematic with no distortions of any kind in rapid sequences. Backdrops are also always crisp and clear in view no matter if static or the camera is panning.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep, well saturated and manage to carry plenty of information without really losing any. There are some neat moments too with a scene of K hiding from Deckard in the dark coming into view like your eyes adjusting to the dark. One of my favorite things about this image is how well the blacks play against the white or light grayish backdrops and such like a cloudy day or the heavy snowfall. There is a sort of gothic beauty to the look of it which really translates well in this transfer.

Color Reproduction: Colors here looks pretty beautiful and are well saturated. Neon lighting, car lights, little red dots on blasters and more really get a nice boost from the HDR. However, I will put a caveat that due to the look of the film with heavy layers of fog, rain or snow in frame, many of the colors and advertisements within in the metropolitan sequence don’t quite leap off the screen as you might imagine. When the weather is clear, they sure do such and Las Vegas’ orange haziness looks lovely. Whites are an impressive color in this image as well as many of the regular boring grays and browns.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout the film. Facials details like make-up, raindrops, stubble, wrinkles, pores, lip texture, dried blood, bruising, burns, scrapes…all clear and very detailed from any given distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, English Descriptive Audio Service, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: Well, there is absolutely nothing wrong here with the wonderfully animate and awesome Atmos track for a Blade Runner film. From the offset with the score’s first boom, you’ll realize that you may want to set your volume a little lower. The dynamics on this thing are terrific and its a balance mix with great layering and depth on the sound effects and ambient noise. This thing is always active and makes the viewing a fulfilling and satisfactory audible pleasure.

Height: There are plenty of raindrops falling on your head in the ceiling channel. You’ll also get intercom voices, ships flying over, blasters and specific contributions from the score set there. Its quite fun and enhances your engagement.

Low Frequency Extension: Careful, your subwoofer might blow out based on the score alone! The blasters in the film are a favorite of mine in the sound design because of the punch they provide. Its just as effective as it was in the theater. Many other subwoofer rumbles are the cars, explosions, debris crumbles and more.

Surround Sound Presentation: In no surprise, every channel is super active with unique contributions. They ambiance here is unreal as everything feels fully lived in, from the louder populated city streets to the quieter office of Robin Wright. Movements are expertly traced and naturally produced from front to back, side to side and even above.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are very crisp and clear, well captured with their full diction intact.

Extras 

Blade Runner 2049 comes with the Blu-ray edition and an UltraViolet digital copy. All bonus materials are found on the standard Blu-ray disc. Unfortunately, the three prologue short films were not included as a part of the 4K Ultra-HD disc and will have to be viewed in 1080p.

Designing The World of Blade Runner 2049 (HD, 21:55) – Join the design team as it confronts the monumental challenge of creating a film that both honors the original film’s spectacle and envisions a bold new world. While they don’t need to sit and bash on CGI while doing so, this show the impressive amount of construction and set design this film went through to really bring this world to life in brand new ways.

To Be Human: Casting Blade Runner 2049 (HD, 17:15) – We start with a big study of both K and how Ryan Gosling was on the minds of everyone for the part from the earliest points of production. We then go through the new characters and talk about what makes them and also why each specific actor was chosen. There is some audition footage in here too.

Prologues – Unfortunately they aren’t presented in 4K, but still, these are pretty fun. They aren’t necessary but do a little cool bit of filling in, plus it gives a little more for Bautista to chew on. My personal favorite is the anime one called Black Out.

  • 2022: Black Out (HD, 15:45)
  • 2036: Nexus Dawn (HD, 6:31)
  • 2048: Nowhere To Run (HD, 5:49)

Blade Runner 101 – These are really brief, sort of EPK pieces selling where the film picks up and is after the first one.

  • Blade Runners (HD, 1:33)
  • The Replicant Evolution (HD, 2:07)
  • The Rise of Wallace Corp (HD, 1:50)
  • Welcome To 2049 (HD, 2:04)
  • Jois (HD, 2:21)
  • Within the Skies: Spinners, Pilotfish and Barracudas (HD, 1:23)

Summary 

Blade Runner 2049 is the sequel I said I didn’t want but didn’t realize I actually needed it. Its beautiful in both look and its thematics. Almost clocking in at 3 hours, it never once felt that way to me. What I may love most is how much this movie is its own thing while also working as a sequel. This 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray release has a terrific presentation and a decent slew of extras. After having 5 cuts, a few commentaries, a 3.5 documentary, interviews, cut sequences and just a LOAD of supplemental material from the original film, what’s supplied here feels ultra light and almost underwhelming. However, it does get the job done and the 2 featurettes feature a lot of good minds discussing the film with some depth. Will we get more than this down the line at some point? With how the home video landscape is changing, nothing is a given. But, this release will more than work and its a must have for fans of Blade Runner.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

2 Responses to “Blade Runner 2049 (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Geoff D

    this is a 100GB disc bro

  2. Brandon Peters

    Thanks for catching that, sis!