BLADE RUNNER 2049 is a cinematic work of art.
My investment in its 163 minutes (in a subtly-handled 3D, which I would recommend, as well as a venue with the most comfortable seating) was certainly helped by viewing the original for the first time only a couple of weeks ago. So, like Trainspotting earlier this year, watching them back-to-back, you are then fresh to it, ready to gorge on the nods and salutes to the first born and pick up the cues that run on.
Not that you need it, as it is all fairly and squarely spelt out at the beginning. But it is a double-act that deserves your full attention and the strength of this new movie has almost served to exalt Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner even further.
That film from 1982 was a trailblazer, pushing into the same league as Alien. What a concept to imagine back then – bioengineered androids, almost indistinguishable from humans, who were manufactured as slaves, but got other ideas.
Here we are in 2017, reading about trials with robots being hastily scrapped because the computers unnervingly began to talk in their own indecipherable language. The machines are taking over the asylum. It is this unease that continues into 2049.
We are not in a new dystopia, we are 30 years later, post-black out. Blinking advertising hoardings reflect in acid rain puddles. A yellow fog sits over Los Angeles. Noodles are still on the menu. Eyeballs remain fundamental and soul, memory and humanity are the talking points.
Earth’s ecosystem has collapsed. The Tyrell Corporation has long-since gone bankrupt, bought out and evolved into the Wallace Corporation.
And there is a mystery to solve – a mystery about a missing child. An internal crisis is triggered for the efficient investigating agent – that is Ryan Gosling’s Officer KD6-3.7. He is a LAPD sleuth, a next-gen hard-wired-for-compliance replicant whose beat, like Harrison Ford’s Deckard three decades earlier, involves tracking down and ‘retiring’ (executing) his rogue ancestors.
His down time is spent with Joi (Ana de Armas), a mass-produced but customisable holographic A.I who can flick between cutesy 50s homemaker, a slick intellectual and a party girl, dependent on her lover’s mood. A relationship between an android and an app that appears ‘real’. Is life simply a set of algorithms – interspersed with the odd miracle?
A box of bones discovered under a tree at a protein farm holds the key to an earth-shaking secret and the creators of this clever movie take you down cul-de-sacs as K moves from one synthetic breadcrumb to the next in the search for truth.
There are echoes of Star Wars, of Mad Max: Fury Road, of Her, of Ex Machina – all for very obvious reasons. But it still stands alone.
Canadian director Denis Villeneuve captures the darkness, the atmosphere, the powerful survival instinct, our empathy with the replicants, the oppression and their desire to live. This is not an all-action blockbuster. It is cinematically gorgeous.
Notable scenes for me: the rebooting ritual while chanting passages of Nabokov’s Pale Fire, the memory of a birthday party, the henchwoman of God-complex-suffering Niander Wallace (Jarod Leto), incongruously named Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), saving on the washing up and putting the boot in and a confrontation in a concert hall with eerie flickering projections of Elvis, Monroe and Liberace.
Fanatics will enjoy the transparent plastic clothing, the synth soundscape, the origami and a cameo in a retirement home. Plus the return of Harrison Ford. He was an unashamed fan pleaser when he strode back into the Star Wars franchise, however, his place in this, uncovered living as a recluse in the irradiated shell of Las Vegas, embodies the huge headings of age, legacy and death. Bold the director who puts him through his paces like this – and gets startling results. They made him work for his fee. The water-borne risk assessment alone must have cost a pretty dollar.
Gosling also can’t seem to help himself after La La Land…twinkling the ivories whenever he gets a chance…He is a perfect fit for the role apart from this.
You will emerge into the foyer and maybe not say much. It will take some time for the (barren Californian scrap metal) dust to settle in your head. Heart-rending. Mind-twisting. Unsavoury and profound. You will be smitten and you will want to see it again.