Blade Runner 2049 Review
Blade Runner 2049 (2017) Film Review, a movie directed by Denis Villeneuve, starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Carla Juri, Mackenzie Davis, Barkhad Abdi, Dave Bautista, Lennie James, David Dastmalchian, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, and Hiam Abbass.
Blade Runner 2049 is one of those movie sequel rarities that seldom occurs because of the key factors involved, many of which are always lacking: original story, new yet pertinent narrative avenues, established film world and real world cultural relevance, keen-eye cinematography, impeccable environments, building upon before-laid foundations, main characters that make the viewer care, well-written secondary characters, and the unexpected yet spectacular.
Star Trek: First Contact, X2: X-Men United, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight, Aliens, and The Godfather: Part II had all of the above.
Blade Runner 2049 did as well and unlike its predecessor Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049, for better (no voice over) or for worse (voice over), was not as cryptic.
The original Blade Runner was an audacious, high-end science-fiction painting brought to life. It was a less oblique Terrence Malick film. Blade Runner 2049 is in that high-end family but narrative-wise was a more easily digestible film. It’s visuals, however, were just as complex, intriguing, and sumptuous.
The bleak tone of Blade Runner was maintained and enhanced in Blade Runner 2049 by showing different facets of the future, both positive and negative, not previously seen in Blade Runner.
The current, real world (in the United States and abroad) is slowly moving towards renewable energy like solar power. This was represented in Blade Runner 2049. The view of future California in Blade Runner 2049 as having been transformed into a gigantic solar farm was stark and beautiful.
The environments in Blade Runner 2049 would have been nothing without the agenda-ridden characters that filled them. The character that became the greatest joy to behold in Blade Runner 2049 was Replicant Luv (Sylvia Hoeks). She was excellent and the biggest surprise of the film. When I mentioned surprise, I was referring to Luv’s personality. She had one, unlike Jyn Eros in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and it came out more and more as Luv got closer to her mission objective.
Though Luv was cast as the villain in Blade Runner 2049, that was only from a certain point of view. Most of Luv’s actions were part of her fight for something greater than herself. She was fighting for the future of Replicant-kind. The underground Nexus 8s in Blade Runner 2049 were also fighting for Replicant-kind but on the opposite side of the conflict. This created an interesting dichotomy: one side would use Deckard and Rachel’s child to promote Replicant rights (and possibly a revolution) and the other would use that same child to create female Replicants that could give birth.
The character whose motivation was not ambiguous in Blade Runner 2049 was Replicant L.A.P.D. Blade Runner KD9-3.7 (Ryan Gosling). Blade Runner K was like a minority police officer working in 1960’s America: racism swirled around him yet, undaunted, he pushed forward in his job. Unlike Virgil Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night, K didn’t hold his head high in the face of ignorance and animus, he didn’t fight against the status quo within the system. For the most part, K accepted his lot and his role in life. K was born a second-class citizen in a world that saw him as nothing more than a tool to be used and discarded yet there was an independent streak in him, like in Luv, that when tapped, grew, regardless of consequences to his own safety.
The institutional racism present in Blade Runner 2049, born of violent past events, was fertile and productive ground for the narrative of Blade Runner 2049. Most of the Replicants in Blade Runner 2049 found solace in the company of their own kind because of said racism (in addition to some of them being hunted by the government). K found comfort in the company of something even more artificial than himself.
At its outset, K and Joi (Ana de Armas)’s relationship seemed as though it would be the weakest portion of Blade Runner 2049. Joi wasn’t real. She was just a sophisticated hologram. How real could their relationship be? Like any cursory evaluation, that supposition was inaccurate. As Blade Runner 2049‘s world became more complex, K and Joi’s relationship became one of the most innovative parts of the film: the mobile emitter, kissing in the rain, the sync and threesome with Replicant Prostitute Mariette (Mackenzie Davis), how Joi reacted during their travels, and the Joi / K / Luv “I love you”, goodbye moment (very much like the death scene between Sharon “Boomer” Valerii and Galen “Chief” Tyrol in Battlestar Galactica). A profusion of imagination went into the K and Joi sub-plot in Blade Runner 2049 and it showed.
Like love, subtlety played a key, beneficial role in the storytelling in Blade Runner 2049. In any other film, these elements: 1.) Luv’s first, efficient human kill (alluding to the fact that, like a Terminator, she had detailed files on human anatomy), 2.) child slavery, and 3.) Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) making a pass at Blade Runner K i.e. “If I finish this bottle, what will happen?” would have been delivered with a heavy-hand, not relying on the viewer’s imagination or intelligence to fill in what was implied or the implications of what the viewer had just seen or heard.
There were other moments in Blade Runner 2049 where the scene gave the viewer and the narrative exactly what they needed and nothing more, scenes that were brilliantly constructed by its writers (Hampton Fancher and Michael Green), cinematographer (Roger Deakins), and its actors. One of those scenes was when Dr. Ana Stelline (Carla Juri) was introduced. The second was the drone / satellite junkyard missile attack involving K and Luv. In the first scene, a picture of absolute creativity, loss, resilience, and optimism was painted for the viewer inside of another construct. In the second scene, a shrewd nod was given toward Blade Runner‘s scanner scene. The viewer’s expectations for Blade Runner 2049 were also expanded in a superb way during this scene. It was little moments like those that made Blade Runner 2049 shine.
Also “shiny” in Blade Runner 2049 was the final confrontation between Luv and Blade Runner K. The setting for that fight was unique and innovative, with a built-in ticking clock that continuously changed the location and make-up of the fist-i-cuffs. It was refreshing not seeing the standard final fight between protagonist and antagonist e.g. them bludgeoning each other to death, though it became that at times.
For all of its pluses, Blade Runner 2049 was not free of questionable moments, some of which could be deemed plot-holes:
Luv: During the final fight with Blade Runner K when he was holding Luv under water, why didn’t Luv break the arm holding her underwater with her enhanced Replicant strength? Why didn’t Luv kick K or punch K while she was being held underwater? How was Luv able to walk in and out of a militarized L.A.P.D. station at will? How was Luv able to walk back into the same L.A.P.D. station after killing one of its employees? Didn’t the building and its rooms have high-end security features? Didn’t the L.A.P.D. have video of Luv entering and exiting the Police Station? After capturing Deckard, why did Luv leave K alive? K’s job was done at that point. He was no longer of use.
Was it a plot-hole of Blade Runner 2049 or a lack neural safety protocols that Luv’s personality was somewhat malevolent yet Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) still let her exist? That malevolence could have easily turned, maybe not on Wallace, but in incalculable ways, ways that ultimately hurt him and his plans.
Wallace: Why did Wallace surround himself with a dark, sadistic (“We hope you enjoy our product”), and arrogant (“I’m the best one”) machine like Luv? Was Wallace an intelligent boob who didn’t know what was prowling around his legs or was Luv so cleverly submissive that he never noticed? She most certainly didn’t have routine baseline tests (an egregious oversight on his part) like Replicant L.A.P.D. Blade Runner KD9-3.7 did.
Wallace said he could create only so many Replicants so why did he arbitrarily kill two fully functional Replicants? The Rachel Replicant was killed to place Deckard into a state of emotional distress and to punish him for not giving Wallace what he wanted (though as a Replicant, Rachel still would have been useful) but there was no plausible reason for killing the new born Replicant girl.
Joshi: Whose authority was Lt. Joshi acting on when she ordered Deckard and Rachel’s child to be murdered? Shouldn’t someone else far higher in the food chain have made that call? Who did Joshi report to? Even-though the lieutenant saw it as preventing a war, such a monumental call was not hers to make. It was her captain’s. It was the police commissioner’s. It was the mayor’s or the President’s. It was not Joshi’s. There was no way she was authorized to use a L.A.P.D.-licensed Replicant Blade Runner as a hitman to murder a half-breed Replicant-Human.
Deckard: Why were Luv and Wallace taking Deckard off-world to interrogate him? Why not just interrogate him on Earth?
Despite the head-scratching these moments created within the otherwise intriguing narrative, Blade Runner 2049 was one of the best films of the year.
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