A vision of the future portrayed by a science-fiction classic such as Blade Runner can only ever go two ways: impeccable or terrible – and Ryan Gosling’s latest starring movie is somewhere in between.
It’s not popular opinion to consider this cult-favorite as not being straight up good. For starters, the 1982 original film starring Harrison Ford flopped yet it solidified its Star Wars-like, masterpiece status through a reconfigured Director’s Cut in 1992 and a definitive Final Cut.
The story begins 30 years after “blade runner” for LAPD Rick Deckard (Ford) gave up chasing down androids and fell in love with one instead. Meanwhile, a ten-day ‘blackout’ wiped out digitally stored replicant-production records, essentially losing part of humanity’s database memory.
K (Gosling) does the same job as Deckard’s. He lives in an apartment with his holographic, virtual and AI girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas). When a rogue, gentle giant replicant (old bio-engineered human models) Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) tells him he can only do his job because he’s ‘never seen a miracle’ – he begins to unravel its meaning especially after discovering the remains of supposedly a woman replicant named Rachael who gave birth to a child. He begins to experience doubts about his job, his memories and his nature, when he fails a replicant-detecting and a polygraph-like Voight-Kampff test previously administered by Deckard.
When Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) confronts him, he says he has never ‘retired’ or killed something that was born and that ‘to be born is to have a soul’. Joshi insists that in his line of work, he can get along just fine without one.
In a mind-tickling dystopian future, Blade Runner 2049‘s visuals stayed true to the highly-stylish, neo-noir genre, looking sinister and shadowy. With sophisticated storytelling and K’s narration, his existential dilemmas were highlighted throughout the film. Composers Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer were successful in creating a haunting, groaning and howling soundscape that builds up ’til it becomes heart-heavy.
Aesthetically-pleasing, neon candy colors were reserved in promos for the off-world colonies and corporations like Atari, Sony, Coca-Cola and Pan America, more so in a lot of the film’s ‘East-meets-West’ encounters. The production design is just as impressive as its staggering reported cost of $155 million.
Because it is sedately-edited, Blade Runner was a refreshing movie experience especially for audiences groomed to crave for films such as Fast and Furious, Mission Impossible, the list goes on. Midway, however, it lacked what little conventional action it can use apart from the opening altercation with Hulk-size, replicant Morton K needed to retire, dealing with off-world slaves who assaulted him and an explosion that rocked Ford’s previously peaceful lair in an abandoned Las Vegas casino.
The film also seems to lack conventional female appeal, on a Wonder Woman level at the very least. Just like what a famous local actress said, “C’mon, it’s 2017,” and while it contains a handful of women, most of them were virtual, actual or at times, life-size, nude prostitutes. For a futuristic film to be so backward in portraying women – considering that it was set in 2049 America – is odd. Quite frankly, it is off-putting. Blade Runner should have included more of Lt. Joshi and Sylvia Hoek (Luv) to generously supplement, if not totally balance, the male-centric sequel.
For those who have never seen the original, too – which this sequel requires, by the way – sitting for almost three hours inside a movie theater can be such a drag. Along with awe on the movie’s unique view of the world more than 30 years from now is the constant work to figure out what is actually happening. For loyal and older fans, it would be like knowing the back of their hand but for the new generation, it can be plain confusing.
In fact, movie goers under 25 in the United States barely showed up to watch and support the film, according to Cinema Score’s movie appeal measurement among theatrical audiences, partly because they don’t care much for the brand (they are not even cells yet back in the early ’80s) and because very limited spoilers were released in prior promotions.
So while the visuals and plot were praise-worthy, the Blade Runner sequel’s sexist themes, the lack of action and millenial relevance did not cement it as the impeccable cult-favorite motion picture are expected to be.
Photo from Vox