What separates real from machine? Do androids dream of electric sheep? Do we still think that humanity will someday crumble into a robot dystopia? Why do we still ask ourselves these obvious questions?
Blade Runner 2049 brings us to thirty years after the 1982 classic. If you love the original Blade Runner, then you may appreciate Harrison Ford as he reprises his old role, this time as a motivator for the supposedly replicant protagonist, detective K, played by Ryan Gosling (Drive, La La Land). Similar to his previous project, Arrival, director Denis Villeneuve attempts a philosophical study on the worth of humanity, except now resulting in a pointless anti-fantasy with no true knowledge about civilization.
Most of the film’s praise focuses on production designer Dennis Gassner’s (Bugsy, The Truman Show) creation of the sunless Californian city’s atmosphere, which it deserves. Between the desolate hell-red wasteland riddled by statues and the neon shades of evil corporations, immense spectacle commands the screen. The use of symbolic holograms within the city is particularly noteworthy, as a ballerina hologram three stories tall parades through the streets, and a nude pink hooker five stories tall rules over the solitary life; even inside the city walls, an Elvis concert juxtaposes a fist fight. Although more so than the visuals, the sound design sucks you into the experience the most—in the first scene, Villeneuve utilizes his silent storytelling skills with K at work in a protein farm, where the hard murder of a replicant takes place. Once K enters the city, the IMAX surround sound creates the big, unfamiliar world accompanied by a shrieking musical score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch (Hidden Figures). You indeed feel caught in this cyberpunk future.
However, the visuals hardly redeem the flaws, due to little effort made to modernize the decades old material. Villeneuve draws no inspiration from our current values, with social media and all, in turn making the original look more dated in its incorrectly predicted philosophical ideas. In fact, this whole city exaggerates our lesser-prevalent problems to improbable levels without explaining precisely how human error led to the ecosystem’s collapse.
The excessive three-hour runtime contains 15% beautiful imagery and 85% chitchat in standardly lit sets; the average person might be able to follow these overused slow conversations without a single yawn if the villains were more multi-dimensional. The screenplay ironically says, “memory is feeling,” yet no feeling exists here, so you too will fail to remember whatever it tries to communicate.
Part of the problem to the atrocious boredom goes to the lackluster dialogue—after a standard text straight-forward tells you the backstory, everyone acts as a tool to spill out philosophical rambles. Since no tension builds, our mindset identifies these individuals as human shaped phone apps rather than expressive minds.
The entire production crew overall showed little respect to regular moviegoers; cinema should never be about self-satisfaction, but about telling a great story that speaks to anybody at a spiritual level. The ego stroking of the picture primarily shows in its character motive: a fatherhood subplot gets thrown in without enough prevalence, and a significant other for K arrives and leaves without any resolution, so the entire subject of love, both familial and romantic, needed much more presence. Humanity and love complete one another, so why would such a heartless directorial approach impact our souls?
Even more ironically, a heartthrob actor, one who has embraced materialism throughout his career, plays the lead. Consequently, he was a dreadful choice for the uncastable role: Ryan Gosling never reacts to the miraculous events around him, he just stares blankly as he recites his lines off a cue card.
One last detail disproves Blade Runner 2049 as a sci-fi masterpiece: it plagiarizes. If you already saw this movie, then you might have noticed that K’s name, a codename assigned to him at birth, resembles Star Wars: The Force Awakens., or that it ripped off a true modern sci-fi masterpiece, Her, when the holographic girlfriend uses a flesh-and-blood girl to sleep with K (essentially telling girls to submit their control to technology). So sorry, nothing new is said other than we people deserve to feel discouraged.
Now, to answer my starter questions: People are real, machines are inanimate, androids never dream, because only people dream, and humanity can never crumble to basically resemble robots. Look at Facebook: things still look pretty dang expressive compared to the original Blade Runner’s incorrect theories, so the future seems more hopeful than we give ourselves credit for.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Blade Runner 2049. Alcon Entertainment. Web. <http://bladerunnermovie.com/>.
“Blade Runner 2049.” IMDb. Amazon. Web. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1856101/?pf_rd_m=A2FGELUUNOQJNL&pf_rd_p=2750721702&pf_rd_r=0DPYYTKGSMP1N61B7K9Q&pf_rd_s=right-2&pf_rd_t=15061&pf_rd_i=homepage&ref_=hm_otw_t0>.
Wilkinson, Alissa. “Blade Runner 2049 isn’t a sci-fi masterpiece, but it’s trying really hard to replicate one.” Digital image. Vox. Vox Media, 4 Oct 2017. Web. <https://www.vox.com/2017/10/3/16403178/blade-runner-2049-review-bible-gosling-villeneuve-spoilers>.