Blade Runner 2049

            Since this futuristic sci-fi sequel is designed as a series of vignettes, so is this review.

            The introduction sets the stage:  the new human replicants are superior to the old models, which were a little too realistic in their replication of humanity, and therefore contained the capacity for rebellion and independent thinking.  But some of the old models are still out there, and need hunting down and eliminating like old Nazi war criminals.

            Ryan Gosling stars as “K,” one of the newer replicants, who serves on the LAPD.  He's part of the detail that's hunting down the old replicants, and he's obedient, to his boss Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), but he also begins to question the necessity, which in itself is a dangerous tendency.  He takes some comfort in having a virtual girlfriend, Joi (Ana de Armas), but even she recognizes her limitations in being only visual, so she actually helps enlist a human hooker, Mariette (Mackenzie Davis), so her man can actually “feel” the love.  It's an interesting gambit from Director Denis Villenueve, who treats the attempted fusion like a pretty picture just slightly out of focus.

            The sets are stark.  Los Angeles in 32 years is expected to be denser, but also foreboding.  Many scenes are dark, lots of rain, and what little glimpses of the populace project as grim and foreboding.

            The background music is very loud.  But then, there are some playful musical moments, as well:  in the old abandoned casino, the Elvis act flickers on stage, and in the jukebox you can play a visual Frank Sinatra.  It's as if iconic performances never really disappear, they just change mediums of conveyance. 

            Harrison Ford returns as Rick Deckard.  Not exactly to reprise his role as the hero (is he limping when he runs?).  When he first meets up with his potential nemesis, K, they have a fistfight, but after a few punchless punches, it's clear to both of them that Rick Deckard has seen better fighting days.  So he just offers K a drink instead.  And they have a civilzed conversation instead of an attempted brawl.

            What's the plot?  Something about K's discovery that a couple of the replicants actually were able to reproduce, when they supposedly weren't able to do that. (The ancients made servants into eunuchs, as well.)  This possibility scares the “real” humans, because they fear a replicant uprising.  And it seems their fears are well-founded.

            There's a fair amount of nudity, but it's mostly of the robotic variety, so those images seem more like memes, which renders them a kind of ironic iconic.

            Most of the time, the scenes are pared down to one or two actors on a particular set, which lends a kind of stage-set quality to the film.  The cinematography is vivid and creative.  But the story line seems to take a back seat to the visuals.

            There's an actual direct quote of scripture, Genesis 30:22.  It has to do with what happened to the “miracle child” of the replicants.  For a while there, we were worried that we were going to develop a Star Wars-type of obsession with parental lineage.  But this series doesn't possess any of the playfulness of the “Star Wars” saga, nor is it nearly as clear who the good guys and bad guys are. 

            The air-cars are cool-looking, and are also amusingly similar to those in the 1960's cartoon series “The Jetsons.”  But in this movie, the future is dark and foreboding enough to make us not want to go there.

 

Questions for Discussion:

1)                  What's your vision of what Los Angeles will look like 32 years from now?

2)                  Do you fear that robots could be constructed so realistically that they'll want to take over?

3)                  How are imaginary signifcant others superior to “real” ones?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association