Blade Runner 2049 (4K Blu-ray) (2017)

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Released 17-Jan-2018

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2017
Running Time 163:27
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Denis Villeneuve
Studio
Distributor
SONY Pictures
Universal Sony
Starring Ryan Gosling
Harrison Ford
Jared Leto
Robin Wright
Ana de Armas
Mackenzie Davis
Sylvia Hoeks
Dave Bautista
David Dastmalchian
Carla Juri
Lennie James
Barkhad Abdi
Hiam Abbass
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $36.95 Music Hans Zimmer
Benjamin Wallfisch


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos
Portuguese DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Czech Dolby Digital 5.1
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1
Polish Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Thai Dolby Digital 5.1
Turkish Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Arabic
Bulgarian
Chinese
Chinese
Croatian
Czech
Greek
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Indonesian
Korean
Malay
Polish
Portuguese
Romanian
Serbian
Slovak
Slovenian
Spanish
Thai
Turkish
Vietnamese
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

†††† It took thirty-five years, but Ridley Scottís highly-acclaimed 1982 box office flop Blade Runner has finally spawned a sequel. At once, Blade Runner 2049 is the follow-up that Scottís science fiction classic deserved, and itís also better than it had any right to be, standing alongside the likes of Aliens, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Godfather: Part II as one of cinemaís all-time greatest sequels. Bolstered by outstanding technical specs, smart writing and immaculate acting right across the board, 2049 is a breathtaking extension of Blade Runner, overseen by visionary French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve who proves to be an ideal successor to Scott. Written by Michael Green (Logan) and Hampton Fancher, the story of 2049 is intrinsically tied to Scottís movie in ways that cannot be spoiled, but it also confidently stands alone. Be warned, however, that this is not an action-heavy mainstream sci-fi film, ŗ la Star Wars - in keeping with its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 is for a specific type of filmgoer, demanding patience as it plays out at its own pace. Itís essentially the most expensive art-house movie ever made. And if you dislike Blade Runner, itís probably best that you sit this one out.

†††† Set three decades after the events of the first movie, Officer K (Ryan Gosling) works as a blade runner for the LAPD, tasked with tracking down and ďretiringĒ the artificial beings known as replicants that have grown out of control or obsolete. Led to a farm overseen by rogue replicant Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), K discovers skeletal remains pointing to a thought-impossible anomaly. Kís superior, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), sends him to investigate, hoping to clear up the situation as quickly as possible. But the discovery attracts the attention of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), who is responsible for the new generation of replicants after the Tyrell Corporation went out of business. Hoping that the discovery can benefit his company, Wallace sends his enforcer, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), to follow K, making the blade runnerís investigation all the more perilous. In addition, K finds himself searching for former blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who disappeared many years prior.

†††† Like Scottís film, Blade Runner 2049 is a noir-ish detective story first and foremost, deepening the details of this vivid futuristic world as K pursues leads and clues, grappling with the gravity of his shocking discovery. Built upon a core of intriguing ideas and themes, the story - hatched by original Blade Runner scribe Fancher - avoids simply rehashing its predecessor and creates a more pronounced narrative trajectory, ensuring that it never meanders despite a meaty running time. Clocking in at a staggering 163 minutes, 2049 is packed with story and subplots, but not a single piece feels inessential. Even a cameo appearance featuring Edward James Olmos reprising his role as Gaff might seem like simple fan service, but it serves to make the movie feel more complete. Furthermore, unlike the original film, 2049 is imbued with emotion to supplement the spectacle - in particular, the final scene is heart-wrenching. K feels like a fully-realised character despite the coldness of this world, and shares an intimate relationship with his responsive holographic companion Joi (Ana de Armas), whose presence is announced with notes from ďPeter and the Wolf.Ē Even though both are merely artificial intelligence, this aspect of the story is unexpectedly poignant, highlighting that Joi can only satisfy K on a superficial level since nothing can quite replicate the raw intensity of human interaction despite insane technological advancements.

†††† With movies such as Sicario and 2016ís Arrival under his belt, only Villeneuve could have successfully pulled off a Blade Runner sequel, as heís one of the only modern-day filmmakers able to handle the complexity and density required for such an endeavour. In fact, itís seriously doubtful that even Scott himself would be able to so much as match Villeneuveís directorial brilliance or confident sense of pacing. It would have been easy enough to create a more action-oriented sequel for easier mainstream consumption, and to an extent that might have been enjoyable, but Villeneuve is more interested in a purer form of cinematic poetry, providing the perfect alternative in an overcrowded cinematic marketplace dominated by superhero movies. Blade Runner 2049 does its best to replicate the viewing experience of Scottís original movie, with patient pacing and a proclivity for scenes filled with silent, lingering study, but this isnít just an unnecessary homage - Villeneuve deepens and develops this hellish world, revealing that San Diego has become a trash dump and there is more to learn about replicants. Luckily, too, the minor bursts of action are brutal and enormously effective. In particular, a climactic battle is one of the most nail-biting sequences of the year, and it exists without cheapening the material in any way.

†††† From a visual standpoint, Blade Runner 2049 is unequivocally flawless, emerging as one of the most aesthetically unique and distinctive science fiction movies of the 21st Century. From top to bottom, the set design represents an organic extension of the original movie, preserving the futuristic, Tokyo-esque vision of Los Angeles filled with industrial-looking buildings, flying cars and gigantic advertisements, while the metropolis is bathed in perpetual darkness and rain. 2049 was lensed by cinematographer Roger Deakins, who has been nominated for many Oscars and previously collaborated with Villeneuve on Prisoners and Sicario. Deakins is the best cinematographer in the business bar none, and with Blade Runner 2049, he again demonstrates his astonishing talents for composition and lighting. Itís doubtful that anybody else could have made this follow-up look so thoroughly eye-catching in every single shot. Perhaps shooting on 35mm (and 65mm) film stock could have brought the visual aesthetic even closer to the original movie, but this is just nitpicking.

†††† Blade Runner 2049ís special effects deserve the highest of praises; Villeneuveís vision is flawlessly brought to life, making astute use of the monstrous budget. There is no obvious CGI to speak of - every visual element looks tangible and real, ensuring that nothing will look dated a few decades down the track. There is a brief cameo by a character from the original film who is made to look precisely the same as they did in 1982, and the illusion is seamless. Digital de-aging is nothing new thanks to Marvel, but this is next level - itís overwhelmingly convincing. Composers Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch were actually brought onto the project at the last minute, but the resulting original score is a huge asset, reminiscent of Vangelisís iconic synth-based music from the original movie, perfectly complementing the breathtaking visuals. The soundtrack also contains songs by Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, which enhances the pictureís flavour. However, at times, the score does lack the distinctive presence of Vangelisís work, particularly during sweeping shots of the city, but that presumably comes down to the style that Villeneuve was aiming for. Again, this is nitpicking.

†††† Gosling may not seem like an obvious choice for this sort of motion picture, but it seems weíve been underestimating the actor, who truly brings his A game and then some. The actor doesnít say a great deal, but subtle facial expressions convey a lot; Gosling is perpetually committed to the role and not a single moment feels contrived. Just as impressive is Ford, reprising his role as Rick Deckard. Fordís presence is certainly minimised compared to what the marketing implies, but the story itself is so spellbinding on its own merits that youíre never left yearning for his arrival during the first two-thirds of the movie. When he does show up, Ford delivers the performance of his career, bringing honest-to-goodness emotion and plenty of attitude to the role that he played thirty-five years ago. The good news doesnít stop there - Villeneuve also coaxes top-flight performances from the likes of Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Robin Wright and, particularly, Ana de Armas. Blade Runner 2049 may be a stunning visual feast, but thespian achievements are equally impressive.

†††† Perhaps Blade Runner didnít need a sequel due to the nature of its narrative and the ambiguity that Scott was aiming for, but Blade Runner 2049 continues the story in a logical way without diminishing the impact of the motion picture which started it all. In addition, Villeneuve builds upon the original movieís thought-provoking themes, with existential questions about humanity and the power of memories. And even though itís a longer movie, 2049 arguably surpasses its revered predecessor due to its understated emotional and dramatic resonance, and more sure-handed pacing. To be sure, not everyone will take to 2049, just as certain viewers did not take to Blade Runner back in 1982, but the movie works like gangbusters if you have the patience to appreciate it. This is not just an amazing sequel; itís also an outstanding original sci-fi and another winning directorial effort for Villeneuve. Blade Runner 2049 is the purest and most rewarding cinematic experience of the year.

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Transfer Quality

Video

†††† Big surprise - Blade Runner 2049's 4K Ultra HD presentation is breathtaking. The HEVC/H.265-encoded, 2160p video transfer, which is framed at the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.40:1, easily does justice to the digital source, and makes use of a triple-layered BD-100 (which it has all to itself, as the supplements are all on the accompanying standard Blu-ray) to maximise the bitrate. It's worth noting that master cinematographer Roger Deakins approved an open matte 1.90:1 edition for IMAX, but said edition currently does not appear on any home video versions - not the standard Blu-ray, the 3D Blu-ray, or this 4K Blu-ray. Although that might irk certain videophiles, it was reportedly Deakins' decision - he framed the movie specifically for 2.40:1, and that remains the only true version in his eyes. Interestingly, in what appears to be a first for a local release, the 4K disc only features an Australian ratings logo, implying that the disc was authored and pressed specifically for Australian consumers.

†††† According to Deakins, Blade Runner 2049 was captured digitally at 3.4K resolution with Arri Alexa cameras and finished with a 4K digital intermediate, making this a no-brainer for a 4K release. There is a noticeable uptick in terms of fine detail and textures compared to the standard 1080p Blu-ray transfer - every shot reveals even the most subtle of textures on clothing, sets and skin, no matter the lighting conditions. Clarity is also stunning, while sharpness is consistently top-flight - no shots look soft. In close-ups of Gosling, every pore and wrinkle is apparent. During a close-up of Ford's face at the 131-minute mark, despite the darkness you can still make out so much detail, particularly his facial hair. Throughout the presentation you can make out every snowflake, every hair, and every drop of water, even in wide shots. It is truly a marvel to behold. There is never a moment when textures look lacking, nor does the transfer ever look smeary or too smooth. Arri Alexa cameras often yield a degree of source noise, but there is no noise at all to behold throughout Blade Runner 2049's 4K presentation, which is true to how it looked in the cinema. Although this might imply that digital noise reduction was used, the earmarks of DNR are never visible - and even though noise usually accentuates the texture of the image, fine detail nevertheless pops at every opportunity here. Thankfully, too, the image never looks too artificial - rather, it feels like you're looking out of a window. I've watched great 4K releases before, but 2049 is in a league of its own.

†††† To the horror of videophiles around the world, the disc's High Dynamic Range is only encoded in HDR10 as opposed to Dolby Vision, even though the back cover actually advertises Dolby Vision and Sony discs normally contain DV. (It's worth noting that the iTunes streaming version offers DV, if you choose that route.) Nevertheless, the presentation's HDR is an enormous asset, representing a huge upgrade compared to the 1080p SDR transfer on the standard Blu-ray. Blacks are deeper and inkier, skin tones look more accurate and saturated, the neon colours of the advertisements pop even more, and there is much more depth to the transfer. See, for instance, the shots of K wandering through the scorched ruins of Las Vegas; the oranges and yellows are stronger than ever. Contrast, too, is improved. You are going to want an expensive, quality display to appreciate everything that this 4K disc has to offer. Unsurprisingly, Sony's competent encode yields absolutely no artefacts or anomalies - I could not detect even the slightest traces of macroblocking, aliasing, banding or anything else. In addition, there is no unnecessary digital tampering like edge enhancement. It's all smooth sailing.

†††† It should come as absolutely no surprise to learn that Blade Runner 2049 - one of the most visually striking and breathtaking movies of 2017 - is a reference-quality disc, providing one of the most richly-detailed, razor-sharp and all-round eye-popping 4K transfers I have ever seen. The beautiful encode allows you to take in the intricate production design, from the meticulous sets to the costumes and vehicles, while the HDR wonderfully enhances the colour palette. Could the inclusion of Dolby Vision improve the presentation at all? Sure, up to a certain point, but I have no complaints about this HDR10 edition. This is the best, most definitive way to experience this science fiction masterpiece on home video.

†††† Subtitles are included in a number of languages. It's worth pointing out, too, that there are stylish burnt-in English subtitles at various moments which look precisely how they did in the cinema (i.e. not generic and player-generated). This is rare because it can make things awkward for other language options, but it's certainly appreciated because it's faithful to the movie's theatrical exhibition.


Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

†††† Blade Runner 2049 was designed to be watched with Dolby Atmos audio, and you are going to want the best possible surround sound system to take advantage of this incredible aural experience. In terms of directionality, prioritisation, subwoofer use and dynamic range, Universal Sony's lossless Atmos track is perfection, effortlessly emerging as demo material. Thanks to the lossless encode, the audio is crystal clear and pristine, never sounding muffled to any degree. For those whose systems cannot decode Atmos, the audio defaults to a Dolby TrueHD 7.1. In short, this is a noticeable and appreciable upgrade over the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track included on the standard Blu-ray.

†††† In the opening sequence set on Sapper Morton's farm, the sounds of K's spinner are precise in terms of directionality - panning effects are used as it flies around Morton during an interior shot, and you could swear that it's actually moving around you. During scenes of rainfall, the sounds of the rain fill all rear channels, making for an enveloping and immersive listen, and making you feel as if you're right there alongside the characters. Ditto for a scene in which K finds a swarm of bees in the ruins of Las Vegas, or when waves are crashing during the climax. The mix seems alive during crowded street-set scenes, too. The score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch comes through the surround channels with astonishing precision and clarity. The layered Atmos track is highly immersive, with subtle environmental atmospherics in every scene. There are patches of stillness that are devoid of music, but there is still always something subtle to be heard. You are going to want the best surround sound system available to appreciate the minutiae of this professionally-designed mix. You should also play this one as loudly as possible - Blade Runner 2049 is not a movie for late-night listening.

†††† Subwoofer is never lacking, as it wonderfully accentuates the sound effects. Each gunshot is deafening and impactful, while rumbling is provided by vehicle engines and even the music at certain points. (See the track used for the end credits, in particular.) When K retires a replicant early into the movie, the gunshot sounds are very impactful, not to mention you'll feel the sonic vibrations when said replicant hits the ground. And even though this is a loud and layered track, prioritisation is never an issue - dialogue is always easy to hear and comprehend. The encode is simply perfection. No sync issues, drop-outs, pops or clicks spoil the audio track - it's pristine and flawless. For those interested, the 4K disc also contains a Portuguese DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, as well as lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes in a number of languages - but I was only interested in the Atmos mix for the purposes of this review.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

††† The 4K disc itself contains no special features aside from the usual "Moments." All of the extras are housed on the included standard Blu-ray. However, if you treasure extras, you're better off picking up the JB Hi-Fi exclusive 4K set with the bonus disc (the contents of which are reviewed here), which is the most definitive set so far.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

† † All 4K discs worldwide are virtually identical, only differing in terms of language options. Buy local.

Summary

†††† Blade Runner 2049 is a gift from the filmmaking Gods. It's a magnificent tribute to the original Blade Runner, a worthy sequel, and a breathtaking original science fiction movie to boot. It is undeniably one of 2017's best movies and it will stand the test of time.

†††† The 4K disc is perfection. The Ultra HD video transfer is staggering from top to bottom, from the textures to the sharpness and the amazing use of HDR, making it the format's new gold standard. The beautifully layered Dolby Atmos track, too, is flawlessly-encoded and represents a step up compared to the standard Blu-ray's 5.1 mix. Throw in the supplements included on the standard Blu-ray, and this one comes highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Thursday, January 25, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDLG UP970 4K UHD HDR Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
that would be "videophiles" rather than "videofiles" -