“Blade Runner 2049” (2017)
Yes, the very, very long awaited “sequel” to the 1982 masterpiece, loosely taken from the Philip K. Dick short story: “Do androids dream of electric sheep”.
First, a housekeeping issue. You have a choice of seeing this very visual epic in 3D, XD and on a regular screen. I elected to see it in XD at the McCandless Cinema and it didn’t disappoint. The SD is a huge wall-to-wall screen and state-of-the-art surround audio. I think all that really enhanced the film and I recommend it. However, you’ll notice that the film does not cover ALL the screen available so it’s not shot in 70 mm wide angle. It’s shot in 35mm and so you’re not watching the full impact. But the sound system is better so it’s still a better deal for not too much more $$. If you’re too close the screen size can be daunting. I don’t think 3D on a normal screen would have been as good. Definitely don’t waste this film on a normal size screen.
Many have waited a long time for this film to possibly answer some lingering questions following the original film 35 years ago (said to take place in 2021). There have been books written about it and to this day there are continued arguments about whether Deckard was a replicant. Harrison Ford was on Charlie Rose the other night and, of course, Charley asked if Ford thought Deckard was a replicant. Ford howled in laughter and cackled: “Don’t go there” (and never has elucidated).
If you have not seen the original film, it is a must before you see the new 2017 version. It will be very difficult to understand the nuances without knowing the history. The actors and actresses in the original film were simply perfection. Like Van Gogh’s paintings in 1873, the film was not appreciated much in 1982. Rutger Hauer (Roy Batty) is said to have advocated boycotting the new film, as it would only diminish the impact of the 1982 version like adding a few notes to a Chopin sonata. Harrison Ford has opined in the past that it was not one of his best efforts, which is a lot like saying Van Gogh didn’t think much of his paintings at the time he painted them. The 1982 film is an absolute masterpiece, I truly believe at the table with the top five films ever made. Films you must see before you die.
Here is one of the very famous clips from the ending of the original film, one of the replicants running out of steam and philosophizing about his “life” such as it might have been. You’re watching genius:
So I arrived with high expectations but, alas, after much thought, I must post a rather mixed review. The major thrust of the film is interesting but very diluted out by nonsense diversions that simply wasted time.
The cinematography and production details are magnificent. Ryan Gosling is a world-class actor, as are most of the others. They don’t disappoint. The CGI is good- watch for the scene where a female hologram “links” within a “real” woman’s body to produce a creature Gosling would recognize and have a very physical interaction. The hologram that hangs out in his apartment that he cannot touch or feel. Very interesting.
If you recall, the human Rick Deckerd falls in love with the beautiful and desirable high-end replicant Rachael (Sean Young) in 1982 and they steal away to an uncertain future, not knowing how long she will live, accepting what time they may have. They both simply vanish from sight.
Now in 2049, replicants have been refined to the point where there are very few replicant outlaws like Roy Batty, only docile servants from the new iteration of the Terrell Corporation (Wallace). A Blade Runner still roams around retiring the odd “skin job”. Gosling is one such and he is a replicant and he knows himself to be so. After retiring an older model hiding out as a farmer, he notices some odd things on the farm and begins an investigation that opens up a lot of things the Wallace Corporation (the next iteration of Tyrrell) is very interested in pursuing to their own ends.
It slowly comes out that replicants have reached the point in their evolution that they may be so close to human that it’s impossible to tell them apart, they may have real memories and they can perform other strictly human functions machines can never do no matter how sophisticated. And so it becomes unclear exactly what Gosling is. Ultimately, he seeks out a former blade runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford about halfway through the film) to answer some questions about his relationship with Rachael. He was told at some point that the Rachael/Deckard liaison was staged for experimental purposes. But how? Did they just put the human and the replicant together hoping they would bond or were both replicants and Ford was ordered by an internal chip to fall in love with her? Then a lot of things happen that you’ll have to watch closely.
The thrust of the film in the nature of “life” and how closely it can be built with super-technology under the direction of a super-genius. Can such a creature be constructed that can perform ALL the functions of a real human? If so, its creator would know the mind of God but how would such a creature feel within? If so, how much if anything would they know about their “life”? Would their life consist of real memories or memories that can be constructed in perfect detail. The Director works very hard to flesh these things out in somewhat diluted form.
Now for the not so strong news, and there is some. The plot of the film is interesting but underworked and made to be too complex and obscure- it doesn’t become clear till the last scenes (no spoilers here). It takes the audience a while to figure out where this is all going, muddied by non-sequiturs, dead ends, micro-plots that don’t go anywhere and actors that don’t really contribute much (Jared Leto). The thrust of the plot is spread over almost two and a half hours while the audience looks at their watches. Its TOO long and it dilutes things out dramatically. It’s hard to remember where the plot’s going when it meanders as it does.
The Deckard character was not fully fleshed out here. You get the impression that Harrison Ford is in the film for his commercial namesake and to provide an action figure. He doesn’t act like the old Deckard. Rachael is no longer with him and it’s unclear why at first but is slowly bleeds out. Little is known about her fate or his life since 1982. As the plot progresses, it becomes more clear but you have to watch closely for it. Otherwise, Harrison Ford doesn’t really contribute much other than fight scenes that don’t go anywhere.
Now, the appearance of the 1982 version of the high-end (Nexus 6+) replicant Rachael as she appeared then (hot babe) is a closely guarded secret. Sean Young is now 67 years of age and obviously doesn’t look as she did then. No one is saying how they did it, other than with her help and assistance but it was very effective. Her 1982 likeness is perfect. I think they used a body double and used CGI to superimpose Rachael’s face to it. They’re definitely good enough to do that. At any rate, it’s pretty surprising and realistic.
Director Denis Villeneuve works hard to slip away from the shadow of Ridley Scott who moved heaven and earth in 1982 to make this film in his image. He does, in fact create a separate plot, loosely attached to a portion of the old one that remained unexplained. Does the new version explain it? Maybe. I think it puts to bed the thought that Deckerd is (was) a replicant. Replicant’s don’t age and Harrison Ford ages plenty. And certain other bodily functions replicants cannot do because they contain life, which cannot not be created by any machine. Yes, I believe Deckard is human and that’s what they needed him to be chosen for. What happens next is a logical extension of where that premise might go, and Villeneuve did a good job, probably with some advice and consent from Ridley Scott.
I have tried hard not to slip in any spoilers. This is a very, very complex film and will require you to assimilate a very lot of things over 2 & 1/2 hours but it does eventually come together. There are a lot of diversions that go nowhere and then you have to figure out how to get back to the point, a point that moves around some and might be a little hard to follow.
This is a very interesting film, flawed in many places I think but worth the effort to sog through it. In the end, some questions are answered that are very interesting commentaries as to the state of the art of creating alternate forms of of life, a day that might come someday.
I give this film 4 of 5 Scuzzy Harrison Ford grimaces.