Monday, November 20, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

I tried to go into Blade Runner 2049 with an open mind, even though I'm inclined to be suspicious of all sequels, reboots, and the like, I'm really not convinced of anything yet about director Denis Villeneuve, I had gleaned enough about the response to know it's already considered a disappointment and commercial flop, and last but not least I knew it was nearly three hours going in. Four strikes, you're out, man. And there were more red flags too, one each for Ridley Scott, Ryan Gosling, and Harrison Ford, each a problem for different reasons. I'm officially tired of Ford's farewell tour of his career greatest hits, after the Star Wars reboot, another Indiana Jones on the way, and who knows what else. Philip K. Dick's name comes after all of the above in the credits, which is probably as it should be because the whole thing is not very Dickian at all anymore. It is Ridley Scottian, and Harrison Fordian, and maybe even young Ryan Goslingian before it is Dickian. But Blade Runner 2049 is Villeneuvian more than anything by way of his indulgence for high concept and tricksy plot developments, previously seen in Incendies and Arrival (at least). Sicario is the best and most exciting I've seen by him so far, looking for its complexities in the intricate levels of power in the cross-border drug trade, with everything else straightforward and somehow achieving a unique lucidity. Blade Runner, of course, is all concept and nothing straightforward, as received, and with the franchise now openly abandoning Dick and developing in other ways. It lifts a page from the Battlestar Galactica playbook and turns our tale of corporatism and human simulacrums into a story about robots interbreeding and giving birth, as opposed to being manufactured. This, you see—being born—is the dividing line between having a soul and not having one. It is all very busy building to a Big Reveal, which I admit seemed to play fair by all the rules I understand in these games of narrative peekaboo (and note that I'm not giving anything away). Yet it amounted to nothing—much like the reveal in Arrival, something garbled about perception and time and sadness. Blade Runner 2049 is long and feels every minute. Everything good about it is better in any one of the three or four cuts Ridley Scott already took at the original. At least it's beautiful. This franchise is a mess. Philip Dick wept.


  1. I did finally get to this. Had to. I'm probably more predisposed to liking it than you but think we end up in some similar place. It's so obsessively reverent ab the mood and the ideas of the original, the latter of which were really not that big of deal. The Robin Wright character and Jay Leto and the killer robot nerd doll seem campy bad. A lot of the kick in the original was the violent action sequences. There are a few here but let's just say this is an area the remake never comes close to the original. That said, I had no problem sticking w/ the whole three hours. I think what made the original so indelible was the trick of recasting visually film noir as a dystopic science fiction picture. In keeping w/ this I thought the visuals here were a highlight. I know sequels are almost ubiquitous at this point but they seem so hard to pull off to me. Most of them are so oppressively pious. This one no exception.   

  2. Yeah I agree, it's the piety that hurts it most, working too self-consciously within a given frame. At least it's beautiful!