A stunning visual triumph.
I was a sufficient nerd to buy a “Back to the Future” T-shirt to celebrate “future day” from “Back to the Future 2” two-years ago, and I will probably be a sufficient nerd to buy a “Blade Runner” T-shirt in two-years time to celebrate the setting-date for the original film. One thing’s for sure… 2049 is never going to be long enough away to see the world of the new Blade Runner movie come to fruition: so I look forward to ironically buying that T-shirt too (assuming I make it to 88!). But I digress.
I lived in fear of this film since it was announced… having loved the original, a sequel was always going to be a risky prospect. But my fears were slightly quelled when I learned that Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival“) was at the helm. And having now seen it I am pleasantly relieved: this is a memorable film.
In 2049 the first-generation Nexus replicants of the original film are still causing problems, and Ryan Gosling is ‘K’ – a blade runner employed by LAPD lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright, “Wonder Woman“, “House of Cards”) to track them down and liquidate them. On one of these missions, K uncovers a buried secret that brings the LAPD into a desperate race for a pivotal prize, against replicant-builder Niander Wallace (Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyer’s Club“) and his henchwoman Luv (Sylvia Hoeks). The mission leads to K searching out his illustrious predecessor Deckard (Harrison Ford), who is not keen to be found.
Firstly (and most impressively) this is a spectacle to watch…. “I’ve seen things…”! The visuals are just gorgeous, from the junk-yards of Greater Los Angeles to the radioactive ruins of Las Vegas, vividly glowing amber to glorious effect. Hardly a surprise with Roger Deakins (“Hail Caesar“, “Sicario“) behind the camera, but Adam Heinis (“Rogue One“) and the rest of his special effects team deserve kudos for the effects never feeling overly “CGI-like”.
The music (by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer, via a replaced Johann Johannsson) pays suitable tribute to the spirit of the original Vangelis soundtrack. (It’s curious though that “Tears in the Rain” from the soundtrack is a reworking of the Vangelis original, but Vangelis doesn’t seem to be credited anywhere! Vangelis and Ridley Scott clearly had a SERIOUS falling out!).
On the acting front, Ryan Gosling is his dynamic self as usual! (But here, somewhat justified). Harrison Ford is given very little screen time, but what he does do he does exceptionally well – his best performance in years. It’s some of the supporting parts though that really appeal: Dave Bautista (“Spectre“) is just superb in the opening scenes of the film, and I particularly enjoyed Ana de Armas’s portrayal of K’s holographic girlfriend Joi. I’ve seen comment in other reviews that described this relationship as “laughable” and a downward step for “woman’s rights” compared to Villeneuve’s previous strong female characters (of Louise from “Arrival” and Kate from “Sicario“). But I disagree! I found the relationship truly touching, with Joi’s procurement of a prostitute (Mackenzie Davis) to act as a surrogate body being both loving and giving. And as regards ‘woman’s rights’, come on! Get serious! This is a holographic commercial male companion…. the “Alexa” of the future…. I’m quite sure the male version looks like Ryan Reynolds! Sex still sells, even in 2049!!
My favourite character though was a cameo by Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips“) luxoriating under the name of Doctor Badger!
I was less comfortable with Jared Leto’s dialogue which – for me at least – was barely audible. In general this film is both a challenge for those aurally challenged (with some fuzzy dialogue/effects/music mixes) and those visually challenged (with 8 point font for the on-screen text that was almost impossible to see on the cinema screen, so good luck with the DVD!).
I really wanted to give this film 5-Fads. But I can’t quite get there. The story – while interesting and having emotional depth – is lightweight for a film of this length (a butt-numbing 163 minutes!) and it moves at such a glacial pace that I’m ashamed to say that my mind wandered at times. (Specifically to how many different ways I could imagine harm being done to the American guy in front of me, who was constantly turning on his Apple watch and at one point (to whisperings of very British outrage!) his full-brightness iPhone!) The screenplay was by Hampton Fancher (one of the original Blade Runner writers) and Michael Green (“Logan“, “Alien: Covenant“) but even with this track record, it’s the film’s Achilles heel.
It’s a relief that Blade Runner revisited is not a complete disaster: quite the opposite in fact. It doesn’t quite match C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate (what could)… but its a damned good attempt.
Fad Rating: FFFFf.