"Blade Runner 2049" Review

"Blade Runner 2049" Review

Oct 9, 2017, 3:06:02 PM Entertainment

One of the oft-mentioned lines in Blade Runner 2049 has to do with witnessing a miracle; little did director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) know that he was unintentionally describing his own film. So much goes against this picture, from its overly long runtime (163 minutes), the fact that it’s an unnecessary sequel to plot holes that any self-respecting replicant would’ve debugged from their system.

But all of that is almost irrelevant, because Blade Runner 2049 pulls you into a hypnotic state of admiration and doesn’t let go until well after you’ve left the theater. I used to say it was amusing that Toy Story 3, a film about inanimate objects, could make you feel deep  human emotions like loneliness and contentness with death. This picture proves those inanimate objects (in this case, robots) can affect you in ways that living beings can’t.

K (Ryan Gosling) is an LAPD officer and replicant, which means he was bioengineered to ensure the survival of the human race. His job is to hunt down older models that his superiors deem “rogue”.

A fight with wanted replicant Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) reveals some disturbing details; Sapper was present at the birth of a child whose mom was also a replicant. This was thought to be genetically impossible.

Regardless, his boss Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) wants the child dead, despite K’s reservation about killing something that was born, not manufactured. What follows is a police procedural wrapped in a mind-fuck.

The basic gist of Blade Runner 2049 is simple: a man investigates a case and finds out he has a connection to it. That plot could’ve been done as 1940s film noir. But Villeneuve takes that easy line and adds so much of the human condition to a movie about a bunch of robots, giving you questions to ask yourself as you leave the theater.

Like can these replicants love? Consider K’s girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas), a holograph he bought from a corporation. She’s fake, but their feelings about each other are not and you can tell she has an unattainable desire to please him physically. So she finds a way that I will not reveal, except to say it’s a combination of Her and the famous scene from Ghost when Sam possesses Oda Mae to hold Molly one last time.

Villeneuve tends to hold onto scenes long after their over, but not that one. It moved me in ways that two real humans making love never had.

K’s investigation leads him to evidence that he himself might be the “miracle” that Sapper spoke of. His detached demeanor breaks, and Gosling finally gets to let loose with his performance, which is the work of an artist.

One thing you’ll notice about Blade Runner 2049 is how it takes the viewer on a journey unlike any other film. Part of it is because it’s too long (more on that later), but part of it has to do with how well the movie develops the characters. K’s reluctance to hunt the child turns into a wounded love for duty in the face of the ultimate evil.

Villeneuve spares no expense fleshing out his main protagonist, with flashbacks ahoy to go along with the excessive time the movie spends with K, really too much time.

K’s investigation leads him to Deckard (Harrison Ford), the main character of the 1982 film this is a sequel to. It also runs afoul of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) the bioengineer who helps create replicants. He wants the child, and sends his henchwoman Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) on a mission to obtain it through whatever means.

Niander is an interesting opportunity for Leto to engage his philosophical side, but it’s also an unnecessary one. The character spends most of the movie in the shadows while Luv does the villainous stuff that make the viewer hate her so much. She gets some comeuppance, but he’s never heard from when the film needs him the most. Combining the characters would’ve been the better choice.

There’s two qualms I had with the ending of this film. One is that by Niander living, we’re seeing the set-up of a sequel where rebel replicants fight back. But certain circumstances I won’t reveal don’t leave us with anyone to root for for a potential third film, unless you think Harrison Ford can still kick ass at 75.

The other one is an edict by said rebel replicants that K must kill Deckard in order to further the cause; the idea is abruptly dropped for a feel-good moment that is nice in its own right. Essentially, it’s another unneeded storyline.

At this point in his career, Ford has hit the late-era Clint Eastwood stage, using his iconic status to uneasily explore painful decisions and the struggle to justify them. His performance as Deckard isn’t just a victory lap; it’s a turgid resurrection of a man that has become a fugitive sage. His wisely held till the end of the movie, where he rejuvenates a picture that had been going on too long.

Speaking of going on too long, it’s time to address the length of the film. It’s nearly three hours long, and much of it could’ve been trimmed with some quicker editing. That’s mostly on Villeneuve; he likes his movies long and thick with silence. But it’s also apparent that this movie has the stamp of executive producer Ridley Scott, who loves to fill movies with unnecessary soliloquies about the human condition. That can be sleep inducing.

But Villeneuve fills this picture with enough heart and brain to overcome such lapses. Cinematographer Roger Deakins also creates a world full of beautiful shots, any one of them would go down as a lesser artist’s very best works. Silly to say, but the beautiful CGI distracts you.

The musical score by Hans Zimmer is a mixed bag; the sounds of a dreaded future are all over this, which is acceptable. What’s not is the tendency to hit very heavy notes on subtle revelations in the story. It’s putting an exclamation point where there should be a period.

Published by Jagger Czajka

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