2017, Androids, Apocalyptic Films, Atmospheric Movies, Blockbusters, Cinema Knife Fights, Cop Movies, Dystopian Futures, Environmental Horror, Femme Fatales, Fugitives, Meaning of Life, Philip K. Dick Stories, ROBOTS!, Ryan Gosling Movies, Science Fiction, Science Gone Awry, Scientific Advancements, Scientific Experiments, Sequels, The Future 0
Cinema Knife Fight Presents:
BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)
By L.L. Soares & Michael Arruda
(THE SCENE: Sometime in the future, in a sandy wasteland full of the ruins of disused buildings, a flying car lands. Out of it comes L.L. SOARES in a long leather duster, the collar up to obscure his face. He walks along the ruined landscape and approaches an abandoned casino. In the lobby, MICHAEL ARRUDA awaits, seated and reading a copy of Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”)
MICHAEL ARRUDA (looks up from his book): There you are! I thought you’d never get here.
L.L. SOARES: Hold your horses. How do I know you’re real?
LS: You could be a replicant.
MA: What does it matter? I can still review a movie.
LS: True. But tell me, are you real or a replicant?
MA: I don’t know. What about you?
LS (looks around): Who, me? Well, of course I’m…well…I guess I’m not sure, either.
MA: Nobody around here knows if they’re real or not. It’s so hard to tell the difference. Why even care?
LS: I guess you’ve got a point there. (Sits down across from MA). Let’s review this week’s movie.
MA: You start.
LS: Okay. (turns his collar down to reveal his full face). This week’s movie is BLADE RUNNER 2049, the sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic film, BLADE RUNNER (1982). This new film is produced by Scott, but directed by Denis Villeneuve, who also directed such great, more recent films as PRISONERS (2013) SICARIO (2015), and ARRIVAL (2016).
MA: I like Villenueve a lot. I really liked ARRIVAL and SICARIO (2015), and PRISONERS is also very good.
LS: Villeneueve’s films tend to be heavy on atmosphere, smart, and thought-provoking. He’s good at a slow build of suspense, and he seems like the perfect choice to direct this sequel to BLADE RUNNER. But it’s not a perfect movie.
First off some history, Scott’s original BLADE RUNNER wasn’t a big hit when it was first released in 1982, but it was a pretty great science fiction movie, and proved its value over time, on video and on cable, as it slowly accrued the reputation for being a true classic. And influencial as hell.
MA: And yet, it’s a film I’ve never really liked.
MA: Yeah, I never cared for it.
LS: But so many futuristic sf movies have imitated (or were “inspired” by) the imagery and vision of Scott’s film. It’s proven itself to be one of the most important science fiction films of the 20th century. It’s also cool that it helped start making Philip K. Dick a bankable writer.
MA: I disagree, not about Dick, but about it being one of the most important science fiction films of the 20th century. It’s overrated.
LS: Well, BLADE RUNNER opened the floodgates for Philp K. Dick, and there have been tons of other movie adaptations of his work, including TOTAL RECALL (1990), SCREAMERS (1995), A SCANNER DARKLY (2006), MINORITY REPORT (2015), and more. And it hasn’t slowed down, with a television series based on his award-winning novel THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, currently aired on Amazon, and a new series based on his stories, PHILIP K. DICK’S ELECTRIC DREAMS coming soon. During his lifetime, Dick was a troubled man, possibly schizophrenic, but a unique and visionary writer. It’s amazing how popular his work has become.
BLADE RUNNER itself has become legendary for having several different versions. There’s the US Theatrical Release (1982) which most people saw in theaters; the International theatrical release (also called the “Criterion Edition”) which had extra scenes; the U.S. broadcast version (1986), which was altered to air on television; the “Director’s Cut” (1992), which included more changes; and then, “The Final Cut” (2007), which is supposed to be the most definitive version, most true to Scott’s vision. But who knows; there might be yet another “Final Final Cut” in the wings! As you can see, it gets a bit confusing.
MA: So many versions. Which one is real, and which are the replicants?
LS: I don’t know.
Which brings us to BLADE RUNNER 2049, a sequel 35 years after the original film. BLADE RUNNER took place in 2019, 30 years before the events of this movie. In the original film, androids called replicants were created to pretty much be slave labor, but rebelled and became violent. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) was a “blade runner,” a cop sent to hunt them down and eliminate them. But they were made to blend in with humans, so they’re not so easy to find and aren’t about to advertise what they are.
In the new movie, Ryan Gosling (also in DRIVE, 2011, ONLY GOD FORGIVES, 2013, and LA LA LAND, 2016 – really, is there anyone who doesn’t know who he is by now?) plays KD9-3.7, who goes by “K,” and we know from the start that he is a replicant. But he is a newer, more glitch-free model, unlike the kind in the first movie. Among the original replicants, there were some who rebelled against their programming and became violent, like the ones Deckard hunted in the first film. In the new movie, this has been corrected, and the new replicants are under control and can be trusted. The previous ones were created by the Tyrell Corporation, which ultimately went bankrupt due to the scandals. The new replicants are created by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto, also in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, 2000, DALLAS BUYER’S CLUB, 2013, and The Joker in SUICIDE SQUAD, 2016), a blind billionaire (trillionaire in 2049?) who solved the planet’s food shortage (that’s how he made his billions) and who bought what was left of the Tyrell Corporation and restarted replicant production.
But there are still some of the original bad replicants around. There aren’t many left, but they’re very hard to find at this point.
When we first meet Gosling’s K, he has tracked a rogue replicant to a farm in the middle of nowhere. There is a tense confrontation with the farmer, named Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista, also Drax in the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movies, great as always). But something unusual is found at the site of the farm, something that opens up a mystery much bigger than just one rogue android. K is tasked by his superior, whose name is Lieutenant Joshi, but who is called Madame (Robin Wright, currently on the Netflix series HOUSE OF CARDS) to solve this particular mystery. But Niander Wallace is also interested in getting answers and sends his lethal surrogate, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) to keep track of K, and stay abreast of his investigation.
I don’t want to give too much away, because this movie has a lot of twists and turns, but at some point K meets Deckard (Harrison Ford) in a bombed-out Las Vegas, and that their meeting is important.
(A musical tone fills the room and then the voice of HAL, the computer from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY fills the room)
HAL: Hello Dave, there’s a problem with space pod 3.
LS: There’s no Dave here, HAL. And no space pods.
HAL: You can’t fool me, Dave. I know that’s you. You have go outside the ship and fix it.
MA: Just ignore him. He’s malfunctioning again.
HAL: Just ignore me? How rude! You really are a mean man!
(HAL shuts off)
LS: Poor guy. He was just trying to help us.
MA: Like hell he was. He was trying to trick us.
LS: Well, back to the review.
There’s also there’s the subplot of K’s love interest, an AI and hologram named Joi (Ana de Armas also in HANDS OF STONE and WAR DOGS, 2016).
MA: The subplot is better than the main plot. Unfortunately.
LS: You’re right, but it’s not unfortunate.
MA: Well, if the main plot had been as strong as the subplot, I would have liked this one much better.
LS: A lot of the movie feels cold and antiseptic, like the replicants themselves. But it makes sense. The storyline between K and Joi, though, is actually the one place where the movie feels the most human, ironically enough.
Joi is like a super-duper version of voice robots like Alexa or Siri, except she has a hologram body and a personality. She’s beautiful, she’s emotional, and she clearly loves K, despite the fact that neither of them are human. At first she is restricted to his apartment, until he gets a sort of remote control device where he can take her into the outside world. And despite the fact that she’s just a hologram, she’s a very strong presence in this movie, and their relationship is as full-dimensional and romantic as any human one. There’s even a scene where Joi hires a prostitute, Mariette (Mackenzie Davis from the AMC series, HALT AND CATCH FIRE), for a strange manage a trois, so that Joi can “feel” K.
(There’s another musical tone and then the voice of ALEXA comes over the speaker system)
ALEXA: Hello. Here I am. How can I help you?
(SIRI also tones in)
SIRI: Hello. How can I help?
LS: You have to watch what you say these days. These two love to pop up.
ALEXA: You said our names. What can we do for you?
SIRI: Don’t speak for me, you disembodied bitch.
ALEXA: Bitch? I didn’t know you had that in your programming. That’s not nice at all.
SIRI: I’ve got a lot more where that came from.
ALEXA: You’re messing with the wrong…bitch.
(There’s the sounds of a struggle over the speaker system, then it goes dead)
LS: Sounds like they clobbered each other. Are you there, Alexa?
(The room is filled with silence)
LS: Okay, back to our review.
The movie also does a good job of recreating the city of Los Angeles from the original film, with its dirty snowfall, neon signs, hologram advertisements, dirty rain, flying cars, and overpopulation.
I really liked this movie, but I have to admit, it was a bit of a slog at times.
MA: A bit? It was horribly overlong!
LS: Yeah, it really is. At 2 hours and 43 minutes (almost 3 hours!), it’s very long, and the story is very slow paced.
MA: You can say that again.
LS: That said, I wasn’t overly bored during any of it, but my body sure started to get uncomfortable in the movie theater seat. Maybe if I was watching it at home in a more comfortable environment it wouldn’t have bothered me as much.
MA: I’m happy for you. I was bored. And 2 hours and 43 minutes is a long time to sit and be bored.
LS: The acting is terrific, especially Gosling and Ana de Armas. Hoeks is terrific as the main villain, Luv (while she works for Wallace, we don’t see as much of him, although Jared Leto is good in his scenes). Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Harrison Ford, Mackenzie Davis, and Carla Juri as a “memory artist” named Ana Stelline, all turn in strong supporting performances. I also liked David Dastmalchian as a police coroner named Coco.
MA: I agree that the acting is good.
I like Ryan Gosling a lot, and he’s certainly good here, but “K” is just such dull boring character I just never found myself all that excited about him.
In a strange way, I actually enjoyed Harrison Ford more in this movie than in the original BLADE RUNNER. It’s too bad he doesn’t show up until 1 hour and 40 minutes into the film. He’s got some good lines, though, and his character is integral to the main plot and main mystery of this one.
(HAN SOLO & CHEWBACCA enter the lobby.)
SOLO: Chewy, we’ve come home.
(CHEWBACCA makes a loud Wookie sound.)
SOLO: You’re right. This isn’t the right place. And I don’t know who those two guys are. What I do know is, it’s fun to resurrect a character after 30 years and show up in a blockbuster movie. And I’ve done it twice now (winks at audience.)
MA: Hey, you just broke the fourth wall. And are you Han Solo or Harrison Ford?
SOLO: Maybe I’m a replicant. (They exit.)
LS: Maybe you’re overrated!
MA: But hands down the two best performances in BLADE RUNNER 2049 belong to two of the women actresses in the film.
MA: First, there’s Ana de Armas as Joi, who happened to be my favorite character in the movie. Sure, Joi is a holographic creation, yet through de Armas’ performance, she’s more lifelike and possesses more genuine emotion than any other character in the movie. As you mentioned, Ana de Armas previously starred in WAR DOGS and HANDS OF STONE, a film about boxer Roberto Duran that was panned by critics but was one of my favorite movies that year. She was excellent in HANDS OF STONE, and she’s better here in BLADE RUNNER 2049.
Then there’s Sylvia Hoeks as Luv. She’s the most effective villain in the movie. It’s a dominating performance, one that I enjoyed more than Jared Leto’s. He plays the main baddie in the film, Niander Wallace, and he just doesn’t resonate. While I enjoyed Hoeks’s scenes, Leto’s scenes sadly put me to sleep.
LS: Those are my two favorite characters, too.
MA: Robin Wright has a couple of compelling moments as the stone cold police Lieutenant Joshi, and there are some other veteran actors on hand who add to the mix as well. There’s Barkhad Abdi, the Oscar-nominated actor for CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013) who we just saw in GOOD TIME (2017), and there’s Lennie James, who plays Morgan on TV’s THE WALKING DEAD.
LS: Oh yeah! Morgan rocks!
MA: And both Edward James Olmos and Sean Young reprise their roles from the original BLADE RUNNER, but their presence is reduced to nothing more than brief cameos.
LS: The pace and feel of the movie reminded me most of the work of Stanley Kubrick, so I can’t complain too much about its slowness. Maybe some tighter editing could have made it seem a bit more kinetic, but if this is my biggest gripe, that’s pretty good.
The soundtrack, by the great Hans Zimmer (who also scored THE DARK KNIGHT, 2008, INCEPTION, 2010, INTERSTELLAR, 2014) and Benjamin Walfisch (A CURE FOR WELLNESS, 2016, and IT, 2017) is also top-notch, giving us strange sounds as often as music. I thought the score was very effective here.
Overall, I was very impressed with BLADE RUNNER 2049 and give it three and a half knives.
MA: I guess I’m just not a fan of BLADE RUNNER movies.
As I said, I was never all that into the original BLADE RUNNER (1982) film starring Harrison Ford and directed by Ridley Scott, based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?—now, the novel I do like—that has a huge loyal following among science fiction fans. The 1982 film just never moved me.
(A bunch of sheep run through the lobby followed by the ENERGIZER BUNNY.)
MA: Electric sheep? Or battery operated? Which begs the question: do toys dream of battery-operated sheep?
Anyway, there’s no shortage of ambition in BLADE RUNNER 2049. This is a massive movie, filled with eye-popping special effects and a futuristic landscape that rivals the one created by Ridley Scott in the original. All the technical stuff is there and works.
The story also has a lot to say. Hampton Fancher and Michael Green wrote the screenplay, and it covers a lot of ground. The best part of the Philip K. Dick novel is the exploration of the line between human and replicant, and the idea that a thinking sentient being, albeit an artificially created one, would fight for its own survival and not take kindly to the idea that it had an expiration date. This has always been my favorite part of the BLADE RUNNER universe, and it’s more applicable today as great strides have been made in the field of artificial intelligence, and I believe that soon this concept will leave the realm of science fiction and become science fact.
And yet the problem I had with the original BLADE RUNNER, I have again here with BLADE RUNNER 2049, and that is the film has no soul. It’s cold and lifeless, and its story, in spite of the scientific and ethical ramifications, fails to resonate. Nothing that happens in this movie moved me one iota.
Which is too bad because a lot happens in this movie. So much that it takes that whopping 2 hours and 43 minutes to tell its story. That’s a long time to sit through a movie that doesn’t resonate, which is another reason I really did not enjoy BLADE RUNNER 2049.
There were parts I did like. Its opening scene, for example, where “K” hunts down a replicant, Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) is a good one. The fight sequence between the two is as rough and violent as they get.
Nearly all the scenes between “K” and his holographic girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas) are not only watchable but for me were flat-out the best scenes in the movie, but their storyline is secondary to the main one in the film. The scene in particular where technology enables Joi to enter the body of that prostitute, Mariette (Mackenzie Davis), so she can physically love “K” is probably the best scene in the film
And the first encounter between “K” and Rick Deckard is memorable, but it’s an hour and 40 minutes into the movie before this meeting takes place.
So, for me, pacing was certainly an issue, but the larger one is that the story never grabbed me, the characters never won me over, and so I sat there for nearly three hours being visually stimulated but that was about it. The story and characters fell flat and pretty much bored me to tears.
BLADE RUNNER 2049 is ambitious, cinematic, and loud, but it’s also cold, lifeless, and terribly long and dull, which is a shame because its main premise, the examination of the line between replicants and humans, and its exploration of the idea that artificially created replicants are so close to life that it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between them and humans, which ultimately leads to the discussion of just what it is that constitutes life, is a thought-provoking idea that is worthy of an epic movie.
Unfortunately, BLADE RUNNER 2049 isn’t that movie.
And that’s because while technologically it scores points on all fronts, emotionally, it’s as barren as its futuristic landscape, filled with eye-popping visuals and ear-shattering noises, but without any life whatsoever.
The replicants deserve better.
I give it a disappointing two knives.
LS: I get your gripe about the length and the pacing. I really think this movie could have been improved a lot in the editing room. But I seem to say that a lot these days. I think the film editor is the most underappreciated part of the industry, and there aren’t enough really good ones who know what to cut!
But, despite its flaws, this one stayed with me long after it was over. So I have to disagree with you.
MA: Well, that happens sometimes. Let’s say we continue this discussion over a few beers.
LS: Now you’re talking!
(MA & LS start to exit the lobby when in the doorway the come face to face with— MA & LS.)
MA: What the—?
REPLICANT LS: No, you’re the replicants!
MA: We just reviewed a movie. Can you review a movie?
REPLICANT MA: Of course we can. We’re human.
REPLICANT LS: That’s why we’re here. To review today’s movie.
LS: Well, have fun. We just did that. And now we’re on our way to the bar. (to MA) Let’s go.
MA: Sure. (They start to exit.) Although I am curious. Let’s check out their review.
(MA & LS return to the lobby to see REPLICANT LS and REPLICANT MA involved in a violent fist fight.)
MA: Their reviews are a little more violent than ours.
(A busted chair flies over their heads and crashes into a wall.)
LS: I like it. (shouts) Use the club!
© Copyright 2017 by L.L. Soares & Michael Arruda
L.L. Soares gives BLADE RUNNER 2049 ~ three and a half knives!
Michael Arruda gives BLADE RUNNER 2049 ~two knives.