Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

  • Time: 163 min
  • Genre: Sci-Fi | Thriller
  • Director: Denis Villeneuve
  • Cast: Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright

Storyline:

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), 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 (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

4 reviews

  • Blade Runner 2049 (my latest review) is the long-awaited sequel to 1982’s cult film, Blade Runner. Guess what, I’m gonna compare the two films outright. Like GEICO, it’s what I do.

    “2049” is forty-five minutes longer than Blade Runner, “2049” expands on Blade Runner’s universe from three-plus decades ago, and “2049” is a little more violent and action-packed. Still, Blade Runner 2049 is discombobulated. It’s an inferior product that doesn’t quite register as a rightful companion piece. There’s less mystery, less darkness, no hypnotic Vangelis music, and less of a noir feel this time around. Sadly, those are the things I liked about the first outing.

    Now would I consider Blade Runner from 82′ a masterpiece? Not quite. I’d still recommend it though. The storytelling is tighter than in “2049” despite both flicks being slow-paced. Blade Runner is a pioneer in the visual effects department and has a poignant, ironic ending. Blade Runner 2049 by comparison, is a nettlesome exercise that has too many ideas and tries too hard to be relevant. Sure its look is decent enough. But with a bloated running time, some scenes that should have been left on the cutting room floor, and some shaky editing, Blade Runner 2949 ends up being an annoying, sci-fi slog.

    People all over the world have been debating the humanoid status contained in the first Blade Runner. These fanboys have been doing it for the past thirty-five years. With “2049”, they’ll probably just sigh and wonder what all the new fuss is about.

    Harrison Ford reprises his Rick Deckard character for what feels like a minuscule cameo. Regrettably, he doesn’t act with the mannerisms of Deckard enough to think that you believe he’s back in Rick’s nominal saddle again. It’s almost a thankless performance. Then you have Ryan Gosling in the lead as protagonist K/Joe. Gosling is basically playing himself here. He’s quiet, solemn, and comes off like a less nastier version of his Driver trouper from 2011’s Drive. Finally, there’s Jared Leto as the ill-defined villain in Niander Wallace. It’s Suicide Squad all over again because Leto barely registers in his role. It’s like his presence feels akin to a separate motion picture altogether. That can’t be good.

    All in all, Blade Runner 2049 unfortunately comes off like other sequels in the past. You’d rather watch the first film again the minute “2049’s” closing credits come up. Rating: 1 and a half stars.

    Rating: 1.5 out of 4 stars

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  • (RATING: ☆☆☆½ out of 5)

    GRADE: B-

    THIS FILM IS RECOMMENDED.

    IN BRIEF: Dazzling eye-popping visuals, but the film delivers little for the mind.

    SYNOPSIS: A “blade runner” searches for a missing person in this sci-fi epic.

    RUNNING TIME: 2 hrs., 43 mins.

    JIM’S REVIEW: I remember seeing the original Blade Runner back in 1982 and being transported to a strange new world. The starkly lit visuals, well staged action sequences by Ridley Scott, and the macho Harrison Ford made the moviegoing experience quite memorable. The plot, however, was a confusing mess and I truly never understood the rapturous cult adoration that followed.

    Now, after 35 years, comes its sequel, Blade Runner 2049, and oddly, the overall effect of this new replica about replicants is mostly the same old, albeit quite dazzling, but a bit more boring and a lot more addled this time around.

    In truth, Blade Runner 2049 is one of the most visually arresting movies of the year. Now helming the film is Denis Villeneuve, a very skilled director. He brings his powerful images to the forefront, but over intellectualizes the film to the point of confusion. He is taking us on an epic sci-fi journey, the mere length of the film, clocking in at nearly 3 hours, wants to indicate its greatness, as if size really matters.

    Yet the film hopelessly meanders from one tedious plot point to the next, with many scenes that cry out for some judicious editing and characters in need of better clarity. As the film relies on a convoluted script by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, it tries to construct an involving and coherent narrative and never really succeeds. It is the woeful screenplay that needs a major reboot as it continually short circuits all the artistry on display.

    The absolutely stunning photography by the great Roger Deakins pays perfect homage to the neon noir color tones and stark lighting effects of its predecessor and his lens captures an array of contrasting places, from  the dusty amber sandstorms of a dystopian Las Vegas to the urban squalor of Los Angeles with its giant female objectified holograms showing the chaotic future. Wonderful production design by Dennis Gassner adds to the film’s visual look…absolutely gorgeous. The CGI effects are dazzling also.

    The film is very well cast, with Mr. Ford reprising his role as Rick Deckard with the needed gratis. His presence immediately legitimizes the project. Ryan Gosling, quite convincing as K, a tough shamus trying to solve his case, is very strong in his role as well. There is a nice chemistry between both actors once they cross paths, which unfortunately takes nearly two hours to fulfill that cinematic promise for avid moviegoers. Also giving fine support are Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, and Sylvia Hoeks who makes one mean villain. Only Jared Leto seems out of place in a poorly written role as an evil entrepreneur / oracle  figure that want to control the replicant population. He lacks real menace and slows down an already slow storyline.

    So it is with mixed results that I recommend this film. Blade Runner 2049 is certainly worthy of your attention for its sheer visual accomplishments. Imagine a sci-fi film with touches of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott, and a little Terrence Malick pretension thrown in to reach that metaphysical level of awe, and you have the essence of Mr. Villeneuve’s eye-fetching film. Beautiful to behold, but the mind longs for more.

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  • “I know what’s real,” Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) says late in Blade Runner 2049. It’s a poignant line in and out of context for the question of what is real is the beating heart of both the current film and its predecessor, Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic, Blade Runner.

    A hybrid of hardboiled noirs of the Thirties and Forties and the philosophical science fiction films from the likes of Kubrick and Tarkovsky, the original Blade Runner was unconventional from the start and rare in the way it etched itself into the cinematic consciousness. Even if you haven’t seen Blade Runner, you’ve seen it – its dystopian, cyberpunk, Japanese anime, retro-futuristic, and neon- and rain-drenched aesthetic, its sensibility of romantic fatalism, and its themes of what it means to be human coursing through the bloodstream of most films that have come after it.

    Arrival was one such film that bore Blade Runner’s influence and its director, Denis Villeneuve, has assumed the reins of 2049, and one of the remarkable things about this highly exceptional sequel is the fact that, whilst you can see Scott’s DNA in every scene, 2049 is very much a Villeneuve film. This in itself speaks to the themes of both Blade Runners – what makes us who we are, what makes a filmmaker who he is. In many respects, 2049 is a variation of Gus Van Sant’s remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Whilst not a frame-by-frame rendering, 2049 significantly replicates the structure and content of Scott’s film. Both films speak to one another, mirror one another, inform and affect one another in intriguing ways, and yet also are very much able to stand apart from one another.

    Villeneuve re-immerses viewers in the world that Scott created. Very little has changed in the thirty years that have passed in the film’s universe. A series of rebellions by the replicants, artificially manufactured humans designed to be slave labour, have bankrupted manufacturer Tyrell Corporation, which has now been acquired by milky-orbed industrialist Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), who has made the recent and startling discovery that replicants may be able to reproduce. He tasks his favourite creation Luv (a terrific Sylvia Hoeks) to track down this particular half-replicant, half-human miracle. Complicating Luv’s mission is K (Ryan Gosling), who himself is assigned to eradicate all traces of this anomaly by his boss, Lietenant Joshi (Robin Wright), who is rightly concerned that this discovery could destroy the already fragile state of affairs between humans and androids.

    Like Deckard, K is a blade runner, whose job it is to track down older replicant models and “retire” them. Unlike Deckard, around whom much debate has swirled over whether he is human or replicant, K is definitively an android and, like most androids that populate this universe, he dreams of becoming human. He has a girlfriend of sorts, a hologram named Joi (the enchanting Ana de Armas), who can be seductive, supportive, and deeply loving at any given second, and to whom K is dedicatedly beholden. He has flickers of memories, which he tells Joi are mere implants, but he begins to believe otherwise as his investigation intensifies. K inevitably crosses paths with Deckard, who has been hiding in an abandoned Las Vegas hotel, seemingly whiling away his days drinking Johnnie Walker with only a mutt and his memories as companions.

    Ford has been on a resurrection tour in the past couple of years – having reprised Han Solo in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens and set to portray Indiana Jones in a fifth installment scheduled for release in 2020 – and 2049’s Deckard proves to be one of his most textured and dynamic performances. There are moments of piercing pathos, especially during his confrontation with Wallace (“I know what’s real”), that stir the soul. He works well with Gosling, who deploys his hangdog deadpan to devastating effect as K’s existential anxieties simmer through his implacable facade.

    The film is a dream, replete with staggeringly exquisite and unforgettable images which come courtesy of master cinematographer Roger Deakins, who pays tribute to the extraordinary compositions established by Jordan Cronenweth in the original. The same goes for composers Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer, who build beguilingly on Vangelis’ iconic score. Blade Runner was always constructed on a foundation of melancholy, its characters, whether human or synthetic, like phantoms in a ghost town yearning for what was and what cannot be. Blade Runner 2049 continues that bittersweet symphony, by turns languorous yet rousing, tender yet ferocious, tragic yet inspiring.

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  • In the first shot a closed eye opens, awakening. The second is of the humongous new mechanical civilization in space. The film’s central theme is of the awakening of humanity in a dehumanized world.
    There it has become impossible to distinguish between the genuine human and its replica. That confusion extends down to Deckard’s dog: “Is he real?” “I don’t know. Ask him.” On a more emotional level, the hero’s spectral android girlfriend tells him she loves him: “You don’t have to say that.” “I know.” To protect him she has herself erased and eliminated. In her drama humanity ennobles even an android, making her human. This spectre has a higher sensitivity: “I always told you. You’re special. Your history isn’t over yet. There’s still a page left.”
    I won’t relate the new Blade Runner to the original for two principled reasons: (i) As an independent work, by a new writer and director, it deserves to be treated and read as an independent work, on its own terms. (ii) I haven’t seen the original since it first appeared and don’t remember a thing about it.
    In any case, the new film draws on a wealth of pertinent archetypes. The villains’ quest to find and to kill the miraculous baby — and the slaves’ determination to protect the baby in hopes of a liberating revolution — revives a common saviour myth that includes Moses, Jesus, Spartacus, El Cid, etc. Later K learns what his opening target Sapper meant when he said “You’ve never seen a miracle.”
    Hence the history behind the evil Wallace’s ambition to expand his slave race: “Every leap of civilization was built on the back of a disposable workforce, but I can only make so many.” K’s success disproves Wallace’s “All the courage in the world cannot alter fact. “
    The blade runner hero is named “Joe” K, evoking the Kafka hero Joseph K who stumbles through an absurdly antagonistic and frustrating universe, the emblem of modern deracinated man.
    There is also the passing of the torch from the old action hero (i.e., king) to the new. K fights the final battle underwater while Deckard struggles to breathe, helpless in his shackles.
    The predominance of water scenes, including the climactic fight to the finish, draws on the association of water with the origin of life. The water scenes confirm the film’s themes of rebirth and resurrection. And of course, “You can’t hold back the tide with a broom.”
    In the last scene, while Deckard visits his daughter, the memory maker, in her protective bubble, K lies across snow-covered steps, as if frozen in suspended animation. His mission is accomplished, the baby discovered, and he accepts his reality as an android not the hidden human. Like his lover, even an android is capable of acting and feeling like a human, even as humans content themselves with practicing inhumanity.
    The opening eye shot extends further as well. The evil mogul has false eyes, emblematic of his moral blindness and the failed fecundity of his millions of slave androids. K identifies his targets by plucking and reading their eyes. That befits a parable about human vision and understanding under threat,
    The film also plays out the emerging New Woman. As the futuristic fiction amplifies our present tendencies, the film abounds with simpering sex objects, some androids, some real women, some grotesquely amplified caricatures of ersatz sexual appeal.
    But the greater emphasis is placed on women of strength, will and power: the characters played by Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Carla Juri, Hiam Abbass and Mackenzie Davis. Here there are several Wonder Women, sans magic. As the android rebel leader Freysa declares, “Dying for the right cause. It’s the most human thing we can do.” One woman makes the race’s memories. Another leads their campaign to become human.

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