Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)

What's it about? Officer K (Ryan Gosling) is a 'Blade Runner' obediently tracking down rogue Replicants, only to uncover a secret during one assignment that puts him on the trail of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who has disappeared since the events of Blade Runner. Which you had better watch first, by the way, otherwise this won't make much sense. Existential angst ensues.


Is it any good? Ultimately, there's too much wrong with the narrative of this film to recommend it. It sure does look and sound good, however. Together with cinematographer Roger Deakins, Villeneuve has perfectly re-captured Blade Runner's iconic cityscape, tweaking it into slightly-more-futuristic version which builds upon the world of the original with some nifty sci-fi concepts and adding a few similarly striking images as the story moves us beyond the boundaries of LA. Likewise, Hans Zimmer's bombastic score evokes Vangelis' distinctive original music, even if it gets somewhat overbearing as Important Themes and Big Ideas come to the fore. But sadly, beneath that aesthetically beautiful skin-job, it's searching vainly for meaning and soul. The main problem is that the storytelling here is very laboured, taking an inordinately long time to navigate a fairly straightforward narrative. It isn't as muddled as the original, but it doesn't really build upon the mythology of the world in any new or interesting ways. It's just too ponderous to be gripping and too bland to be thought-provoking; it doesn't help that we've seen these themes explored in more engaging ways in movies such as A.I., Her and Ex Machina, to name but a few.

A further problem is the objectification of female characters. I welcome gratuitous nudity in the movies as much as the next man, but Blade Runner 2049 is clearly striving to say something more cerebral about the nature of humanity, so why doesn't its vision include women who aren't cliched, two-dimensional female characters? Perhaps it is deliberately intended as a future reflection of our current, sexist times, but I would have though a director as smart as Villeneuve could have dealt with this in a less exploitative manner. As my two regular readers will know, I'm not a massive fan of the original Blade Runner, but at least it contained some influential imagery and iconic moments, something this new film ultimately fails to achieve. Ironically, for a film concerned so much with memories, Blade Runner 2049 is already fading from mine quite fast.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Okay, okay, simmer down there, sci-fi fanboy and put that Voight-Kampff machine down! I'll admit I'm in the minority here, as it's been well received by critics. But despite the marketing hype, the box-office has been less than stellar, falling well short of expectations. This really shouldn't come as a surprise, though. The original wasn't a big hit and took a long time to build a following. It may be dear to the heart of those who discovered its cult charms on video and in the numerous re-cut versions, but it simply doesn't have multiplex audience appeal. It doesn't help that there have been a number of articles (like this one and this one) which have more eloquent arguments than mine about the depiction of women here as psychos, bitches or prostitutes, a viewpoint which has gained greater relevance in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

What does the Fonz think? The blade is too dull and the runner is too slow.

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