On Blade Runner 2049

2017/10/07 11:11

I watched it last night with my wife in a MAXX screening. I recommend watching it on as big a screen as you can. I watched the original just a few nights ago to refresh my memory - I'd last watched Blade Runner when the Director's cut was released in the early 90s. I was living in Spain at the time and a couple of us went to see it one of the few art-house cinemas in San Sebastian.

Re-watching the original only confirmed what I'd long felt about Blade Runner. It's not a film I've ever warmed to. It's always left me cold. I guess I must be missing the point though - I don't imagine it was a film meant to be warmed to.

Blade Runner 2049 is like its predecessor in this respect - which is disappointing because I loved Villeneuve's Sicario and - especially - Arrival. Arrival had a properly overwhelming ending - an emotional sucker punch that capped a beautiful, intelligent and engaging film. I loved everything about Arrival - the story, the visuals, music and cast, so I had high hopes for Blade Runner 2049 (and still do for Dune).

First off, the one-word blurbs for Blade Runner 2049 "Mesmerizing", "A Masterpiece", "Spectacular" are all pretty much spot-on. It looks gorgeous - every frame could be a poster. It matches and surpasses the spectacle of the original.

Secondly - it is thought-provoking. I saw it late last night and I'm still digesting it 12 hours later. I haven't spoken with anyone but my wife about it and I haven't read much about it so I'm still trying to figure it out on my own (remember when that was a thing?).

The music and soundtrack is where things are just a little bit off. The score is by Hans Zimmer so the ubiquitous (and at this stage hackneyed and tiresome) Inception Bwong is all over this film. The Inception Bwong is the audio equivalent of Lens Flare - it has become an over-used trope in recent films and it's going to date this film terribly.

I would have loved to know what Daft Punk might have done for Blade Runner 2049 - their Tron Legacy soundtrack is very good. M83 (who also worked with Joe Trapanese on Oblivion's Soundtrack) might also have been a great choice.

Now on to some thoughts about the film. WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

There's some interesting ideas in Blade Runner 2049 and at almost 3 hours, they're given some room to breathe. Some people have complained the film is too long but I didn't think so.

One of the film's more interesting characters is Joy - a holographic AI companion (sold by the Wallace corporation) whose sole purpose is to make you feel good about yourself. Joy is a mass-market product sold to lonely men. The 'Joy' character attached to Ryan Gosling's 'K' is convincingly selfless and adoring - a softer, sexier Stepford. When K begins to suspect he might be the 'child' - the chosen one, Joy coquettishly intones "Didn't I always say you were special?". On learning of his elevated place in the scheme of things, it's Joy who suggested 'K' should be given a proper name like 'real' people. "How about 'Joe'? I've always like 'Joe'" she says. I have to admit I was duped too. Joy's dying declaration of love to Joe is so convincing - it's only in later scenes when K/Joe is pitched by a skyscraper-sized holographic billboard of a new 'Joy' model (you have to see it) with a casual "Hey there Joe" (as in the generic 'regular joe') that I realized even this dying 'I love you' was probably pre-programmed. The question at this stage is - does knowing that matter? To be clear, K/Joe has a pretty good idea of the bargain he's bought. Earlier in the film when Joy says "I love being with you", K/Joe says "You don't have to say that" with a look that hints at the complex dynamic between a real mind and a simulacrum.

K/Joe's boss played by Robin Wright is also pretty interesting with one of the best lines of the film "We're all just looking for something real".

There is what seems to me a gaping hole in the plot. How does Wallace's team led by 'Love' find K/Joe and Deckard in Las Vegas? Maybe I wasn't paying attention but this pivotal plot point is never explained. They just magically find them. At first it seems like they were tracked using the tracking device planted in K/Joe's coat by the prostitute but it later turns out she wasn't working for Wallace but someone else. Could Joy have led them there? Joy's "antenna" is removed (which sets off alarm bells back at Wallace HQ) but could she have been transmitting (knowlingly or otherwise) regardless? Could Joy have been an agent of Wallace (she is owned by them after all) fostering K/Joe's delusions about his own origins?

Wallace (the evil corporate villain of the piece) seems to have little regard for his own product - he summarily executes replicants for no apparent reason. He monologues. A lot.

Another thing I haven't figured out is the boy + girl DNA thing. K/Joe learns from the archives that there was a boy and a girl with matching DNA born in 2021 and that the girl died leading him to suspect he is the boy. We later learn there was no boy - only a girl. I don't think this is ever explained.

Also - and this is my last nit-pick - the link between Deckard's daughter (the dreamweaver) and K/Joe - how did K/Joe end up with her memories? Was it just random luck that they met?

All in all, Blade Runner 2049 is spectacular and engaging while you're watching it, but I don't think I'll warm to it.


movies, sf