BLADE RUNNER 2049 (A REVIEW PURGED OF SPOILERS)
I won’t spoil much because to be honest if I do there won’t be much to keep you awake while watching it. The film is not exactly story-centric entertainment. And there are no new ideas to be found here.
Of the six of us who saw it, only one film seemed to compare at all. Children of Men was mentioned at least twice that I remember. But please don’t let that confuse you. Children of Men is actually a much better film than Blade Runner 2049. But then again, Children of Men isn’t so Criterion-Collection-spare and deliberately sparse in its story-telling, either. Whereas this supposed sequel to 1982’s original Blade Runner, is simply overkill in that vein. It’s like a Blade Runner sequel written by Sarah McLachlan, directed by a latter day Robert Zemeckis, and edited very lazily by Ridley Scott as the throws of dementia overcome him. And not a note of it touches the true heart of science fiction. Art film, maybe. But not SF. And for so many reasons, but I guess mostly because none of it really feels like ‘acceptable’ fact. You know what I mean ? You simply cannot accept any of it at face value, and you question it continually as you’re watching it. Which is the worst kind of breaking the fourth wall. The kind you never want. An entire audience of critics.
‘2049‘ is a radical deviation from the original in almost every way. While the original was heavily textured and layered, visually and thematically, all details of this new film have been smoothed out as to obliviate one’s wandering imagination. The movie only wants you to focus on ‘this‘ over here. Only problem is, there turns out not to be any ‘this‘ over there at all. The plot is merely an inescapable circular driveway. Truthfully, the two films don’t even compare. It’s as if the director Dennis Villeneuve set about to dismantle Blade Runner and create a new film that in his supreme arrogance, he believed would overshadow the original. (There is a telling moment where one key set piece from the original film is intentionally disrespected, but I won’t give it away.) But contrary to the original film, very little thought or imagination went into the opening shot. This leaves a bad first impression. And while you found yourself endlessly fascinated by the various identities of the characters in the original Blade Runner film, the characters in ‘2049‘ never spark the imagination enough to even care who the hell they are. And by the end of the film, none of them mattered, anyway; and there was literally no point to the story, and no meaning behind any of it. Apart, of course, from Deckard’s own personal plot twist, and a subplot involving a lingering question about the true nature of artificial intelligence. I mean when you’ve devised a ‘plot device‘ that may have more of a soul than a main character, you either A) start a spirited discussion, or B) confuse the hell out of everyone. And then what’s left ? I don’t know about you, but yet another old, sweaty Ford, is one old, sweaty Ford too many for me. Take a bath, mutherfucker.
Further, while the original film feels like it was bolted down into the annals of science fiction, this new film feels like it was temporarily attached with Velcro. Made by-the-numbers, and hollow. Even the score is for the most part nothing more than a succession of stingers, with very little actual music. In fact, it’s mostly trailer music. I’m being honest, that’s exactly what it sounds like! That old Inception button coming home to roost, yet again. And again. And again. Oh, God, please make it stop.
In all fairness, many are enjoying that ‘departure from the original‘ feel this film has, along with its general ‘mood piece‘ mentality. Many have, and will enjoy it. I, myself, did not. Don’t get me wrong, the film didn’t make me angry. It didn’t do that. No, it just sort of sat there; drifting in placebo like a lava lamp, for almost three hours. I intuited that they fired original writer Hampton Fancher, then proceeded to remove every single imaginative idea held within the material he had conceived for them. Oh, yeah, that’s right. I neglected to mention that Hampton Fancher, the core writer on the original Blade Runner, was the original writer on this project as well. Until, that is, he was dismissed in favor of Michael (Green Lantern) Green. Why, you ask. Because Green’s last credit was Logan. Problem is, Michael Green didn’t actually write Logan. Director James Mangold did. Mangold just didn’t get credit for it. But take heart, Michael Green wrote elsewhere. Alien: Covenant, for example. Whoops.
And thus, I’m left with the general disposition that I don’t want to read about Blade Runner 2049, I don’t want to talk about Blade Runner 2049, I don’t want to hear about Blade Runner 2049, I don’t want to study Blade Runner 2049, and I don’t think I ever want to see it again.
The missed opportunities of cinema have preoccupied my tired mind too often in life. I’m letting this one go.
p.s. I also saw Close Encounters in a theater again, a few weeks back. For the first time in many years. Loved it. Best film I’ve seen all year, bar none.