Movie Review : Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
A year ago or so, nobody wanted to see a new Blade Runner movie. Everybody loved the original, people loved discussing it, there were classic screenings here and there and the world was fine with that. But it didn't stay that way. Blade Runner 2049 was announced and Canadian director Denis Villeneuve was handed the keys to it. Fresh off the immense success of Arrival, he gave Blade Runner 2049 immediate credibility. Everybody wanted to see it because if anyone could pull it off, Villeneuve could. So, the movie was released two weeks ago and flopped right off the gate like its predecessor. What the fuck happened? Is Blade Runner 2049 a bad movie? It's more complicated than that. Let's break it down together.
Blade Runner 2049 is the story of K (Ryan Gosling), a Nexus-10 replicant and LAPD police officer in charge of retiring Nexus-8 models, who have been deemed to have too much life span and free will. A blade runner, if you will. These are cops who specialize in murdering non-humans, but you know that if you've seen the first. Anyway, K is doing his job and minding his own business until he finds the bones of an old replicant buried near one of his victim's house. The examination of her remains reveal she most likely died during childbirth. She died before the 2022 black out, so there is little information about what kind of model she was and how it is even possible. It's up to K to find out.
No, Blade Runner 2049 is not a bad movie. It's one of the most successful movie sequels I've had the privilege to watch. It's more ambitious and bombastic than the original. Denis Villeneuve's style might be a little slow and contemplative, but what he loses in rhythm, he gains in nuance and details. The use of colors is even more developed than for the original and it is even more telling. See, the residents of Los Angeles are kept in a permanent state of blindness. They're either kept in the dark by the buildings they created or surrounded by a thick white mist whenever the weather's nice. A warm, sun-like yellow is the color of enlightenment in Blade Runner 2049. It's only around people and places that contain answers (Wallace Tower) or in "that" scene where K finds Deckard. So, that was fucking cool.
But, Blade Runner 2049 is a $150,000,000 movie and whatever movie that costs so much always comes with strings attached. And these strings are Hampton Fancher's screenplay here. Fancher wrote the original Blade Runner movie, which was great but his sequel is a little rigid. Blade Runner 2049 is not exactly a soft reboot, but it's kind of close. The Blade Runner universe is rich and complex, but we're following a guy hunting replicants again, he's a pariah with the local police force again, there's an updated version of Tyrell corporation, etc. The script has very little surprises. And it's thoroughly sexist. Believe the hype on that one. There are like, five female characters: a girlfriend that you can turn on/off, a whore, a girl that gets stabbed in the uterus for not being able to bear children, an evil bitch and a kind-hearted corporated stooge. I'm kind of naturally lenient of issues like this, but it was bad in Blade Runner 2049.
I loved Blade Runner 2049 anyway. There is a palpable tension between Hampton Fancher's rigid screenplay and Denis Villeneuve's expansive visual storytelling that handicaps the delivery, but there is still a lot to love. The religious undertones, for example. I thought it was the glue that made Blade Runner 2049 come together. I mean, the storyline is basically the immaculate conception, right? A savior is born to lead its people out of enslavement and into self-determination. This people is hiding in the desert, building an army for an uprising and waiting for a sign. There are a lot of biblical stories criss-crossing here: the Exodus, the Nativity, etc. It never feels confusing though. It only adds to the inherent significance of the events depicted, like they were doomed to repeat themselves in the grander scheme of things. So, that was REALLY fucking cool.
Blade Runner 2049 doesn't get a perfect grade for me, but it gets a considerably better one than most blockbuster movies. Sequels are a terrible idea in general, but this one feels different and distant enough (at least in terms of tone) from the original to work. Sure, there's a blade runner with a gun, a evil corporate overlord that builds consumable women and a predictable, but never-ending final confrontation, but there is also an expansive universe that overflows with stimulating details. It builds a world of possibilities for a universe that was once much narrower and considered untouchable. So, that's a win, right? Blade Runner 2049 is not a perfect movie by any means, but it's a step in the right direction for sequels. I mean, it's been a Box Office disaster, but if it can rack a couple Oscars, maybe....