“Blade Runner 2049” (2017): To the Wonder

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Image source: bladerunnermovie.com – Fair Use asserted

WONDER

why a sequel to Blade Runner was necessary. 35 years after the fact. But only 30 years in movie-time. Someone from Wonder Woman is in this film. First film was self-contained. But in the “Final (proper) Cut” you are left on a note of ambiguity

AMBIGUITY

which is where both Blade Runners derive their power. Each works as a standalone. Stories at their core are straightforward. 2019 has Deckard (Harrison Ford) hunting four rogue Replicants. 2049 has K (Ryan Gosling) on the hunt for a child born of a human and a Replicant. The story is more about duality and identity

IDENTITY

as K is introduced as a “skin-job”. He has resigned himself to his synthetic state, as synthetics have advanced to the point where their consciousness recognizes such things. He’s a cop like Deckard. He looks like the love-child of Deckard and Rachel (Sean Young). Is that the case? Despite what the trailers imply, the answer is more complicated than you might think

THINK

because 2049 is a lunatic gamble of a film. It’s nearly 3 hours. It’s ponderous, but in a manner uniquely different than 2019. But like 2019, the action is propelled by the notion that the audience is alert enough to keep up. You don’t need a PhD to follow the story. You just have to pay attention. Both films stir emotion with their riddles, puzzles, and enigmas. Wonder about the bees in Las Vegas. Consider how blurred the line between “human” and “Replicant” has become in the passage of 30 years

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“Pris said she’d meet us here…” Image source: slashfilm.com

 

YEARS

which returns us to the beginning: why Blade Runner? Especially after Ridley Scott cross-pollinated the mythos of the 1982 film (based off a Philip K. Dick story) with the Alien universe (Prometheus and Covenant)? Perhaps 2049 is an act of protest. In a world where discrimination and dehumanization based on gender, race, disability, or religious standing has brought itself into the great ugly open

OPEN

this tale of outsiders and their struggles is more essential than ever. Characters responsible for evil deeds never lapse into caricature. Complex themes are not conveyed through reams of dialog. They rest on nuanced performances. Subtle visual cues. The calculated shedding of tears. The notion of doing something because of Free Will, or because you’ve been programmed to. “Programmed” extending not only to synthetics, but humans who adhere to rules of law and morality. It’s Dickensian,

DICKENSIAN

K’s quest to uncover the child’s identity. The mystery affects everyone in his radar: a jillionaire industrialist with a god complex (Jared Leto); his lethal assistant (Sylvia Hoeks, in a TKO of a performance); the chief of police (Robin Wright); an architect of synthetic memories (Carla Juri); and a prostitute with ulterior motives (Mackenzie Davis). Some characters have that “more human than human” exterior sheen, while angling to transcend their soulful limitations. Others appear weathered and weary in a world crippled by economic hardship and ecological disaster. Another unifying factor: the plight of the blue-collar worker; the civil servant; or those living with mental, physical, or otherwise “programmatic” limitations. The trick of Denis Villeneuve’s creation

CREATION

is that 2049, like the best science fiction, and like 2019, conceptualizes a “future” that, for good and for ill, feels within the realm of possibility. Landscapes are filled with god-like statues and holographic images (dominated by Ana de Armas’ “whatever you desire” VR girl). But the world remains The World. Not some Marvel or DC CGI shitscape. Of course this was green-screened to death. The other trick of 2049 is that it’s never obvious. The seams never show. It looks and feels like a model of classical filmmaking. All epic sets and practical “movie magic”. And for the emotions conjured, the synapses stimulated, and the performances delivered, that is a beautiful fucking thing. So Jonny Numb’s Letterboxd Rating

RATING

4.5 out of 5 stars.