Main cast: Ryan Gosling (K), Harrison Ford (Rick Deckard), Ana de Armas (Joi), Sylvia Hoeks (Luv), Robin Wright (Lt Joshi), Mackenzie Davis (Mariette), Carla Juri (Dr Ana Stelline), Lennie James (Mister Cotton), Dave Bautista (Sapper Morton), and Jared Leto (Niander Wallace)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Alright, I am going to come out of the closet and tell you that I was bored out of my mind by the original Blade Runner. I watched it in the cinema, and I am given to understand that the theatrical cut was awful; it is the director’s cut that later cemented its reputation as a cult classic. I love the short story it was based on, mind you, so I’d like to think that I still have some street cred left, but I was so worn out by the draggy slough that was that movie that I never bothered to check the supposedly superior director’s cut.
So now we have the sequel Blade Runner 2049. Did anyone ask for it? For some reason the people behind this movie thought that taking the most plodding aspects of that 1982 movie and adding almost one hour to the running time, all at a hilariously impractical cost that would require this movie to make Star Wars-level of box office sales in order to make a healthy profit margin – well, this would be the best thing ever. I mean, with proven box office stars like Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, what can go… HAHAHAHAHAHA. Anyway, let’s just say that it is not exactly a shock that this movie is tanking in the US as we speak.
At least in Blade Runner, one can get distracted by the question of whether Rick Deckard is a replicant. Here, there is no such ambiguity in the plot. Everything that one needs to know is laid out clearly and openly, in excruciating slow motion most of the time.
Anyway, the replicants. You know how it is: the world has gone to hell, people created artificial intelligence called replicants to do slave labor and such, those replicants revolt, the new management creates a new line of more obedient ones, and some of the more obedient ones are tasked to hunt down and destroy the older models. These hunters are called Blade Runners. These replicants look like humans at the surface, but they possess greater strength and dexterity than a typical human would. Our hero, known only by his serial number because he’s just a replicant – let’s just call him K – is one of these Blade Runners. He is subject to taunts and insults from humans who is racist – replicantist? – against his kind, and his only companion is a virtual reality girlfriend called Joi. He’s quite a lonely and sad fellow, which is why Ryan Gosling will show that same stoned Eeyore expression throughout the entire movie as if he’s channeling a sedated Nicolas Cage. It’s all in K’s character, see?
An apparently random assignment to destroy a rogue older model, Sapper Morton, leads to a startling discovery: Sapper has buried a woman in his compound, that woman was a replicant, and she died of complications during childbirth. A replicant… giving birth? K’s superior Lt Joshi orders him to locate and terminate the offspring while keeping everything hushed up. Meanwhile, the evil CEO of the replicant company, Niander Wallace, orders his replicant PA/kung fu woman/psycho bitch Luv to keep tabs on K and swoop in to take the replicant magic offspring when he locates him or her, so that Niander will dissect that thing and learn the secrets of allowing his own replicants to give birth (he has tried, but keep failing). Why not just have Luv round up some replicants and ask them to have lots of sex to see whether a few babies pop out as a result? But I suppose if he thinks that way, the people behind this movie wouldn’t have a flop to add to their CVs.
Because Harrison Ford’s face and name are in the credits, I won’t be spoiling too much when I tell you that the dead woman is Rachael, and she was giving birth to Deckard’s brat when she died. Don’t worry, Deckard loved her; the separation was necessary because they were all being hunted and he wanted Rachael and their kid to be safe. K starts having memory flashbacks to begin to believe that he may be that child of theirs… that he may, actually, be a “more real” replicant sired through the “human” way. This only adds to his pathos of wanting to belong and be loved.
Yes, at the end of the day, this is another movie about how robots want to be people worthy of love and respect too, and we should all go hug one today – a premise that has been done to dead and undead countless times. However, if it is still done right, such a premise can still hit me hard in the gut. Here, though, the movie is far more preoccupied with showing off its expensive set pieces to a point that scenes don’t flow as much as they are just segued together to create spectacles. Every other scene is always in the rain, because the movie wants to show off that it has great sprinklers. And throughout it all, people take forever to walk a few steps, and there are plenty of dreary, interminable close-ups on Ryan Gosling’s singular, unchanging expression. Seriously, this movie is weird.
A typical scene would have jump scare music swelling as the camera zooms in on that man’s face. Dum dum dum… look at the face, people… DUM DUM DUM… still the same face, with some movement in the background to let me know that the projector hadn’t stalled or something… louder music now… still that face, what the heck, is a xenomorph going to burst out of his face? And then, LOUD CLIMACTIC DUM DUM DUM… and it’s still that same face! And then, next scene. What the hell is that all about? And such a scene will easily take up five minutes of the running time, which is why this movie is an even longer, draggier chore to sit through compared to the first movie.
The movie then goes bipolar the moment Deckard shows up. The movie switches abruptly from a perpetual showcase of dourness to one where the characters start quipping and making jokes as if they were in a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, and the pace speeds up to include tedious and often unnecessarily long, drawn out fight scenes. Actually, Deckard doesn’t even need to be in this movie, as his role is pretty much that of a bystander with a noticeable gut and sagging manboobs, but I suppose without him, the fanboys of the first movie would bail on this movie and it would earn even less money.
There is a potentially touching, heartbreaking story of robots just wanting to be loved buried in the dreary mess that is Blade Runner 2049, but at the end of the day, it is just one long boring slough far more intent on grandstanding and making the rear ends of the audience numb instead of telling a good story. Maybe everyone involved in this movie is paid by the hour? At any rate, I’m sure they will try to recoup costs by making several versions of “improved” cuts down the road. Maybe checking out one of those in the comfort of your home, with the pillow or the remote within reach when things get too tedious, would be a better option.