Blade Runner 2049 (2017) — Beauty is only movie deep

“Her eyes were green.”

Justin’s rating: Pretty sure my Furbies were mating back in the 1990s

Justin’s review: I’ve always had a complicated relationship with the original Blade Runner. I adore the cyberpunk setting, general concept, and fantastic visuals, and I cannot deny that there’s real artistry at work there. But I also can’t ignore that it was a ponderous and borderline boring movie that was too in love with its own symbology to be an entertaining story. Your mileage may vary, but it’s not a movie I want to watch more than once a decade, if that.

So I wasn’t exactly champing at the bit to see the sequel, which was 35 years removed from its predecessor and no doubt eager to prove that it could be even more artsy fartsy than the first. I kept waiting until I was in a headspace to give it as fair of a review as possible, which finally happened after a long wait.

It’s decades later in the alternate dystopian, neon universe of Blade Runner, yet the more that things have changed, the more they’ve really stayed the same. A new breed of replicants — synthetic humans — are being used more menial tasks while all of the old replicants are being hunted and exterminated (or “retired,” in this movie’s parlance).

K (Ryan Gosling) is an LAPD blade runner and a newer model replicant who’s hated by humans and older replicants alike and lives with a holographic AI for companionship. In the course of his duties, K discovers something previously thought impossible — the remains of a pregnant replicant — and sets off an investigation that might upend the whole system.

K finds out that this woman was Rachael Tyrell, a replicant who ran away with Deckard at the end of the first movie. So how could she give birth — and, more pressingly, where is the child? This sets K on a course to find Deckard (Harrison Ford), the truth, and perhaps a real meaning to his own miserable existence.

At nearly three hours, Blade Runner 2049 takes an awful long time to get to where it wants to go. It’s really an experience for people who like to soak in the eye candy of what is admittedly a striking universe. Every interior and exterior is something that you could frame and put on the wall of your house — and that’s not something you can easily say of most movies. A whole lot of thought was put into the visual language of 2049, from the utilitarian police headquarters to the fake naturalism of the corporate headquarters.

However, this sequel doesn’t push the core premise into new territory. In both movies, there’s this examination of artificial intelligence and how ethical it is for humans to treat them as a new form of slavery. While Deckard was a replicant on the down low in the first movie, K is out in the open — and it’s not much better. He doesn’t even get much of a name, has no friends, and silently struggles with being seen as a subhuman thing that has no soul. Yet he yearns, he yearns. And in both movies, there’s no real good answer given to the situation, other than to let history take its course and see where this replicant revolution goes.

So I don’t see a real need for Blade Runner 2049, at least from a narrative perspective. Replicants bearing children is a twist, but it’s doesn’t really change the core message. While it wasn’t a necessary entry, it was a gorgeous watch that felt like something beautiful and thoughtful, which isn’t the usual for your Hollywood scifi flick these days. It’s more of an experience than a story, waiting there to be experienced if that’s your thing.

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