Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
It's the long-awaited second Blade Runner movie. I know, I understand. If you please - the line begins just over there.
A visual spectacle unlike anything we have seen this year, Blade Runner 2049 is simply astonishing in look, scope and feel.
Near flawless execution from top to bottom, this is a compelling and riveting film, exploring several topics regarding humanity in unique and complex ways.
Though the films are far different from one another, if you did not like or never cared about Blade Runner, it's hard to make the case that you will be a fan of this.
Has a curious lack of emotion about it, which will keep some viewers distanced and potentially bored, at an arms-length from what is occurring on screen.
There is a slow, methodical pace to the film which can start to make you question why director Denis Villeneuve needed 164 minutes to tell this tale.
After eight different versions have been served upon the public, in the form of re-releases, director's cuts, international cuts, reissues with narration, reissues without narration, Ridley Scott's 1982 science-fiction epic Blade Runner has created a library's worth of essays, articles, thinkpieces, and much debate. Some feel it has earned its place in the pantheon of the greatest science-fiction films of all time. Others find it a never-ending resource for themes, ideas, and symbolism. And (gasp!) there are folks who could not care whatsoever about the film, and are in the dark as to the history at play with the arrival of this new movie called Blade Runner 2049.
Is this a sequel, some 35 years later? Kinda sorta yes.
Is it a reboot? Sorta, but not quite.
Is it a complementary film to what's already existed? Sure.
While not a requirement to have seen Scott's origin film, director Denis Villeneuve offers lots of nods and winks to Scott's visionary epic, attempting to create a wholly unique and standalone version of a story that explores humanity and the precipitous ledge our very existence seems to often stand upon in dystopian worlds such as these.
And, to his credit, Villeneuve has crafted a thrilling and thoughtful film, breathtaking on the big screen, and full of conversation starter moments which will leave you pondering and probing your thoughts long after the movie has faded to black.
Warner Bros. has been fiercely protective of Blade Runner 2049, even issuing a mandate for what critics can and cannot talk about. Describing the film is a bit of a tightrope walk, so bear with me.
In California, 2049, the landscape looks toxic and barren. Yellowish-orange dust and a toxic-looking haze paints the landscape and air quality and quality of life, as a whole, is not great. In the opening moments, a man we later come to know as Officer K (Ryan Gosling) is introduced as a Blade Runner, a police officer designed to root out and "retire" any remaining Replicants - biogenetic androids who resemble the human race in almost every discernible way.
After completing his most recent mission, K and his boss, Joshi (Robin Wright), discover something surprising through a routine surveillance of the grounds where K just wrapped up his work. A box is discovered, and when opened, unearths a mystery of epic proportion; one which threatens to unravel the very world K believes he operates within. Suddenly, nothing is normal and everything is called into question.
Can I say much more? In terms of plot? Nah, not really.
Blade Runner 2049 takes a slow and methodical approach at building this new world and offers an intriguing ensemble of characters in a deliberate and mannered way. For some, this approach will feel stifling, the film notably lapses in and out of a sense of urgency. In many ways, the screenplay from Hampton Fancher (a co-writer of the 1982 film) and Michael Green, emulates the seething and man-of-few-words persona Gosling creates in the lead role. Steadfast and intense, with nary a smile to be found, Gosling says little and thinks a lot, pushing through a story designed to allow viewers to fill in a lot of information for themselves.
From a visual standpoint, Blade Runner 2049 is blister-hot to the touch and astonishing to the eye. Painstakingly so, Villeneuve, cinematographer Roger Deakins, and a massive visual effects team has created a dazzling, yet impersonal playground for the mix of Replicants, humans, and holograms to co-exist. The film is a travelogue to a post-apocalyptic dystopia we hope to never experience. And, yet again, it just becomes increasingly more and more difficult to realize that Deakins, despite 13 previous nominations, has never won an Academy Award. His work is without reproach, and he builds a world of contrast here, making the darkness seem immense, vacancy feel claustrophobic, all while employing a crucial, precision-like attention to detail.
If anything, I just want to "watch" Blade Runner 2049 again for the visual spectacle alone.
Thankfully, this is not a one-hook song and though the film labors at times, Villeneuve offers a terrific cast, largely female, room to play, create, and enhance a thoughtful treatise on humanity, and what defines legacy, inner resolve, power, and our overall awareness of wholeness and self.
And of course, yes, Harrison Ford is here, though not as much as you might think, and he returns to his previous role as Blade Runner Rick Deckard, from Scott's first film. Gosling's quiet canvas of a man proves to be a nice counterpoint to Ford's older, wiser, and more impatient Deckard.
Terrific performances populate the ensemble, including Wright, Sylvia Hoeks as Luv, a menacing assistant to the blind, calculating Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), a scientist trying to crack the code on Replicants being able to reproduce. As Joi, a female connected to K throughout the film, Cuban actress Ana de Armas delivers a breakout performance that many will be discussing, not only for its provocative nature, but also as a character who radiates warmth, kindness, and love, and a world distressingly lacking in it.
Blade Runner 2049 is an impressive film, even if it drags in key sections, and never completely crystallizes what it is trying to say in a clear and concise way. What we experience are concepts and themes which are perhaps bleak, but exist comfortably in both a fantastical dystopian future we will never see, or within a present-day, real world environment.
What starts clean, turns ugly. Emotions run cold. Strength becomes weakness. The fear of lacking purpose permeates through every frame. Blade Runner 2049 is a movie people will be discussing and debating, like its predecessor, for a long, long time to come.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Dave Bautista, Lennie James, Barkhad Abdi, Hiam Abbass, David Dastmalchian.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green (screenplay); Hampton Fancher (story)
Based on characters from the novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K. Dick
October 6, 2017