Thursday, October 26, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Sean Young

What has always attracted me to Blade Runner (1982), and part of the reason why it’s one of my favorite science fiction films ever (topped only by Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey) are its themes. The film asks one of the most thought-provoking questions of all time: why must we die? The question of our mortality has haunted us since the dawn of time. Why are we born with an expiration date? One for the ages to be sure, but one that Ridley Scott and his crew weren’t afraid to ask back in 1982. Which is why that scene in which Roy Batty kills his creator for being unable to give him more life struck me as a great example of a film that knows its themes well and truly explores them. “You were made as good as we could make you” is the answer Tyrell, the ‘God of Biomechanics’ gives his creations. Live your life to the fullest, but rest assured, you’re going to die.  That frustration and anger we all feel at the fact that we know we are going to die is explored on Blade Runner with laser clear precision. The film really dives into its themes with reckless abandon. It asks questions and attempts to give us answers, even if said answers are dark and hopeless. And it delivers these dark explorations with beauty and poetry.

Of course, when standing on the shoulders of such a giant, the makers of Blade Runner 2049 must’ve been concerned with delivering a film that was just as compelling and thought provoking as the original. Which of course was never going to be an easy task. Ridley Scott’s film is good on so many levels, it has  memorable characters, incredible dialog, amazing art direction, incredible special effects and music…it’s that rare “perfect” film that is extremely hard to top. I give kudos to Denis Villeneuve’s for having the guts to tackle the sequel of such a masterpiece. Was Blade Runner 2049 a worthy sequel? How does it compare to the first film? Can it be its own thing?

On Blade Runner 2049 we are presented with a new Android Executioner (a.k.a. Blade Runner) called agent ‘K’, who is assigned to retire a rebellious android who is passing itself for a farmer. Agent K ends up stumbling upon a mystery, which will lead him to a discovery that can shake the very foundations of society itself. Will he take the task and open this Pandora’s Box?  

I have to give it to Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, the writers behind this sequel, because they actually came up with some interesting concepts for this movie. The concepts are so good that they could branch off into entirely different films, which says a lot about the complexities of the concepts behind Blade Runner 2049. This movie has more meat to it than 90% percent of what passes for science fiction these days. And that “meat” is merely the backdrop of the story.  The actual plot of Blade Runner 2049 concerns itself with continuing exactly where the original film leaves off, with Deckard running off with Rachel to god knows where. This makes perfect sense when we take in consideration that Fancher also wrote the first film, so he’s picking up the story right where he left it.

Blade Runner 2049 has gotten lots of praise for its visuals and I agree, the film looks astonishing. Denis Villeneuve pays huge amounts of respect to the original film. You’ll feel you are in the same world that Ridley Scott presented us with in the first film. From the crummy, dirty streets filled with mutants to the flying police cars and the nonstop rain. It was great seeing landmarks from the first film like the Tyrell Corporation Pyramids or all those neon holograms promoting every sort of product available to man. I mean, Villeneuve succeeded in recreating that visual complexity that Ridley Scott is so good at conjuring on his films. Fans of the original Blade Runner are in for a real treat. It’s got that classy Film Noir vibe we all love from Blade Runner, its still very much a science fictin film mixed with a detective story. 

I was extremely disappointed that Vangelis was not used as the composer for Blade Runner 2049 because to me, the Vangelis score in Blade Runner (1982)  is a huge part of what emotes in conjunction with the visuals, such a unique cinematic experience. Vangelis’s music is sampled and reused in 2049, but instead letting him come up with a new score, they brought it in Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, which I will admit did an amazing job here anyway. The sounds used to compliment the visuals effectively evoke that dark science fiction vibe, it’s not Vangelis, but its mind-blowing in its own way. I’ve seen the film twice already and realized just how fantastic that musical score is. So prepare yourselves to dive into an amazing audio visual experience.

Though the film is amazing in many ways, it did have some flaws. One of the things that just didn’t work for me were the unanswered plot points, purposely left that way to be answered in a possible sequel. I personally don’t like to see scenes shoehorned in there for the sake of setting up a franchise, but whatever, you might not care. The original Blade Runner wasn’t concerned with establishing a franchise, they just did the one great film. To me it feels distracting, especially if you’re not even sure if there will be a sequel at all. You'll be left wondering what happened to certain characters, so be ready for that. Another thing is that to me 2049 is not as crystal clear with its themes as its predecessor. What is Blade Runner 2049 really about? Is it trying to answer any big questions? It is not as crystal clear as the first film. For now all I can say is that it is a film that warrants a few viewings to really grasp it, which means its a film that begs to be analyzed. I missed that focus in themes I got with the original film. But even with its flaws, the film is amazing on so many other levels that it balances the pros and cons out. I do hope more people go see it because like its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 isn’t exactly lighting the box office in flames. In fact, last time I checked it was having a hard time making its money back. Which is sometimes a good thing. When general audiences don't like a film, it usually means it has some brains to it, which usually means I'll like it. So there's that. It's not a film made for mass consumption, which is a good thing for some of us.    

This was a risky movie for Denis Villeneuve to make because it’s an intelligent, slow paced science fiction film, and mass audiences like their explosions and fights every five seconds and they like everything spoon fed to them. It also has a lengthy running time of almost three hours, but I’ll tell ya, I was engaged all the way through, I didn’t really notice the running time. I wanted more by the time it was over. When it's over it comes as a surprise. In that sense, it is extremely similar to the original Blade Runner, which also slammed its door on our face, making us wonder what happened to Deckard and Rachel. Well, this film answers us that question, but it leaves so many others unanswered, hopefully we’ll get a sequel, hopefully the answers will come, and hopefully they wont take thirty something years to make the next film. I love the world of Blade Runner and I hope we get to revisit it at some point. I am extremely happy that Denis Villeneuve is doing such an amazing job with the science fiction genre, he is steadily becoming the sci-fi director of this generation. I hear he wants to tackle Dune next! What can I say, after seeing Blade Runner 2049, he has my vote. Final word, even with its flaws, I cannot bring myself to give this film anything but a perfect score. One for the ages in deed. 
Rating: 5 out of 5



Roderick Allmanson said...

Interesting take - I never really even thought of the original as being a meditation on mortality, I always considered it more a thought experiment about what it means to be human. In that sense, 2049 pushes it so much farther, and I thought had a clearer message that as our single distinction of being born or made blurs, what does being human mean? Does it matter if you're a human or replicant? Both are capable of the same things if they believe. Dug this and it's a testament to both films that you can have so many readings from them

Franco Macabro said...

Check out this article where I go in depth into the themes of Blade Runner, you might find it interesting, that's just my take on it. I love films that are open to interpretation as this one is:

Teddy Crescendo said...

Francisco, just to make a comparison with another similar movie, i agree that BLADE RUNNER 2049 is a great semi art-house movie but i still think that the recent remake of TOTAL RECALL was even better specifically because it was packed with 5 or 6 marvelous action sequences, although strangely enough that didn`t do very well at the box-office either which makes me wonder what audiences really want from movies nowadays, if they dont want slow movies and they dont want fast movies what the hell do they want ?.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, I dug the Total Recall remake, loved the well orchestrated action sequences. The problem with that one is that since it was a remake, it was compared to the original, which was zanier and crazier and well, guess who lost. But if it didn't have to contend with the original, Totall Recall Remake is a solid sci-fi flick.

Audiences never know what they want, they are extremely picky, that's why most movies are a gamble. You never really know if audiences will flock to see it or not. I mean, look at Blade Runner, one of the best science fiction films of all time, gets a great sequel, yet doesnt make kajillions at the box office. Though to be honest, if I was a producer, I wouldve realized that the original is a cult film, and would've maybe lowered the budget a bit. Still, this sequel hasn't been a bomb, its making money, just not as much as they expected or as fast as they expected. I hope it makes its money back in other countries.

Roderick Allmanson said...

I weirdly agree about the Total Recall remake - using an actor like Colin Farrell who could plausibly be both a working stiff and secret agent vs. Schwarzenegger who is a huge hulking massive man and totally actually a secret agent. Also the Beckinsale vs. Biel love interest totally played up the fact that they're basically identical actresses. A lot of that meta commentary was just brilliant


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