Sunday, 8 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049

Update: I watched Blade Runner 2049 again, this time in IMAX 2D instead of medium-screen 3D. I can only ask WHY?. Why are 3D films still being made? Why are people watching them? The IMAX 2D was a revelation - like watching a different film altogether - so much more beautiful and so much more "a film".



The second ‘wow’ is for Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, who has amazingly succeeded in having a film in my top five of the year for the third straight year. 

Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, released in 1982, is among my thirty favourite films of all time. It wasn’t a big hit in its day, but I was blown away in 1982 and watched it again and again over the years (in different cuts) trying, with friends, to explain all the theological images and figure out whether Deckard was himself a replicant (human-like robot). The lack of such enigmatic images and questions in Blade Runner 2049 is why this film is not as good as the original sci-fi noir classic, but in its own way it’s still a masterpiece (and repeated viewings may yet uncover images I missed the first time).

While the sequel retains some of the feel of the original, with a similar sound and cinematography, and brings back some of the actors, there are major differences in style and atmosphere between the two films. For example, 2049 has less of a noir feel and more of a post-apocalyptic feel and there’s a sense that Villeneuve is trying to make a spectacle that will appeal to the masses in a way that Scott wasn't trying to do. Nevertheless, 2049 retains the slow pace and minimal action, combined with an intelligent sci-fi story and mind-blowing vistas, that made the original so great.

This time out, our blade runner protagonist (K, played by Ryan Gosling) knows he’s a replicant. He’s one of the latest models of replicants, supposedly incapable of rebellion (guaranteed to obey). The person responsible for these new replicants is Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), who has taken over the Tyrell Corporation. Wallace is keen on taking replicants to a new level of mass production (of slaves), so he and his assistant (a replicant named Luv, played by Sylvia Hoeks) get very excited when K uncovers a box in the desert containing the bones of a female replicant who gave birth before she died. 

K’s boss, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), is not as much excited as horrified by what the news of a replicant giving birth could do to her ordered world (such as it is). So she wants K to find the child (if it still exists) and kill it, destroying any trace that the child ever existed. Luv also wants K to find the child, but with very different motives.

K’s search will lead him to the eerie ruins of Las Vegas, where he meets none other than Deckard himself (Harrison Ford), the original blade runner (I wish I hadn’t known he was in the film, but the trailers made no secret of it). With Deckard in the picture, the long slow-moving 2049 quickly picks up its pace and we’re in for a more standard wild ride after that. But along the way, K’s search for answers will bring him (and us) into contact with a number of fascinating characters and some even more fascinating questions about what it means to be human, eventually overturning K’s understanding of replicants (including himself).

I can reveal no more. The acting in Blade Runner 2049 is very good, and a lot of the credit goes to excellent casting choices. As hinted above, the score and cinematography are terrific, making this a must-see on the big screen (I was forced to watch it in 3D; as soon as possible I will watch to again in 2D and report on whether, and how much, 3D negatively impacted the film).

Blade Runner 2049 does have a few flaws, most especially the way it adheres to the typical aspects of the myth of redemptive violence, but the film is such a wonder to watch on the big screen and does such a great job of engaging the viewer and making us part of the sad world of its sad characters that the flaws are overshadowed. As a result, 2049 is going to be one of the candidates for my favourite film of the year. An easy ****. My mug is up!

1 comment:

  1. Just saw this and was impressed. I respected the original Blade Runner but had little emotional connection with it. Much of it bored me, and I had trouble accessing the deeper themes without guidance. Blade Runner 2049 drew me in much more deeply - strange since it retained such a stylistic loyalty to the first. From the Coen Bros.-like intensity of the first scene through to the interactions between K and his virtual companion (ultra-Siri), I was drawn in where the original left me viewing from outside.

    I was surprised that you felt the pace quickened with the meeting with Deckard. While I liked Deckard's role in this film, I felt most of the unnecessarily drawn out scenes in the film came later rather than earlier. The long build up to Las Vegas (and the logical problems with that setting), the scene in the holographic Vegas lounge, and the final fight scene in the water were all drawn out unforgivably long. But there was some greatness in this film and still food for thought. (I suppose somewhere more thoughtful people than I are writing about the symbolism of the water and the dryness and how they are always kept apart?? And why are we seeing so many efforts to make humanoids more human and empathic? Have we really given up on humanity? Or do we really believe that the next evolutionary step is synthetic?) ***+ and two solid mugs up.