Do Androids Dream Of Blade Runner 2049?

Can you believe we’re already up to the 2,048th Blade Runner sequel? The original is both a great movie & a bad adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (It was refreshingly humanistic to see a dystopian future on a dying world where people get along through a Jain-like religion based on empathy & animal reverence. ) I got to chat about the latest one on The Wages of Cinema because its usual co-host was unavailable again. When you can’t get Andrew, settle for second best! Ofjack Korey is there too!

Pretty much anything I type about this film is a spoiler, so let’s drive right into Blade Runner 2049! Uh, you should probably watch the one of the cuts of the first flick beforehand as well.

There are still zero androids & electric sheep, but it’s definitely Blade Runner. Director Denis Villeneuve, co-writers Hampton Fancher (also co-writer of the first) & Michael Green, cinematographer Roger Deakins, & production designer Dennis Gassner made sure Blade Runner 2: Replicant Boogaloo both feels & looks like the same world. Even the technology still resembles 80’s sci-fi. Unfortunately San Diego has been reduced to trash-strewn desolation. We almost get to space!

As K the Blade Runner that smashes through walls like Kool-Aid Man, Ryan Gosling follows in the original replicants’ footsteps by having more charisma than Rick Deckard.  His growing autonomy disputes the claim that new model replicants can’t rebel. For some reason the LAPD pays him Blade Runner bonuses, which undermines using skinjobs as slaves. Gosling looks like he could be Harrison Ford’s kid, but I’m glad they swerved on that because it was too easy & plot-hole ridden. K merely has the memories of the genuine article. His girlfriend only loves him because she’s programmed to. As Gaff’s origami predicted, he is the gullible sheep that gets sacrificed at the end. K’s life is a sad trombone.

Nobody’s favorite Joker has the most pretentious dialogue as the inferior successor to Dr. Eldon Tyrell. (I’ve meet Joe Turkel.) He is moderately less punchable this time for not having “damaged” written on his forehead. For somebody who claims not to have enough replicants, he cavalierly wastes two. If he can link his optic nerves to floating  drones, why not just replace his blind eyes with camera eyes? Between the data blackout & file falsification, how’d he learn of Rachel’s baby to begin with?

Sylvia Hoeks’s insipidly named Luv feels the most out of all the replicants like she stepped out of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? She’s got a superiority complex & murders humans without self-defense being a factor. (Between this & Wonder Woman, it’s not a great year for Robin Wright’s black clad authority figures to stay alive.) She gets her prismatic nails done whilst overseeing a drone strike. Luv is the best henchwoman since Antje Traue’s Faora.

Joi

Ironically the most empathetic character is Joi, K’s hologram girlfriend played by Anna de Armas. She’s upbeat, supportive, & the most adorable thing aside from dainty spectacles on Dave Bautista. Then you realize all the Jois are programmed to be believably devoted to their purchasers. Her optical effects are just right. The menage a trois with only two people featuring a holographic overlay was spiffy. Is Halt & Catch Fire’s Mackenzie Davis (I have it on good authority that the cast will stop & spontaneously combust in the series finale.) justified in belittling Joi just because she’s a digital consumer product that thinks she’s real rather than a bio-engineered one?

It takes much longer to get to Deckard than the trailers implied. (Some of the delay could’ve been edited out of this lengthy movie.) He’s still a misanthrope without a twinkle in his eye albeit dressed more boring this time. (“NECA’s figures sure are thrilling” he typed sarcastically.) He’s so unlikable that it’s sort of disappointing that he’s one of the characters who survives.  I doubt his fake drowning will hold up long though, so perhaps it’s a Pyrrhic victory for his family.

Rachel’s & Deckard’s actual offspring is the memory-crafting Dr. Ana Stelline. Her name is a science pun! She’s played by Carla Juri, who was spectacular as the star of Wetlands, so it’s a pity she didn’t have more scenes. On top of K, this is another subversion of Chosen One tropes. She’s said to have severe combined immunodeficiency, which makes the horse a sensible totem if you consider it an incomplete unicorn. She may have been a miracle birth, but more like her wouldn’t be the commercially viable solution not-Tyrell is hunting for. She’s not a messianic leader for replicant rights either. She just makes memory implants to keep new skinjobs adjusted.

It was speculated that this sequel would ruin the ambiguity about Deckard that made the original so great. Surprisingly it doesn’t! Is Stelline the hybrid offspring & human & replicant? Or was Deckard a replicant specially engineered to be the Adam to Rachel’s Eve? (Subconscious programming would explain how awkwardly dispassionate their romance was.) It’s still up to your interpretation!

kfc

Edward James Olmos’s cameo could’ve easily been cut, yet I still wanted more.

The original was a classic for deftly layering sci-fi, film noir, & existentialism. This is a more straightforward movie. Some of the novelty has worn off, but it’s thankfully not a stealth remake. It doesn’t do anything wrong, but it feels like it’s missing an extra bit of depth or oomph. Co-writer Michael Green elegantly claims that its danglers aren’t meant to set up future installments, which is probably for the best given the box office so far. I would’ve liked to visit an offworld colony. It wisely doesn’t attempt a substitute Roy Batty, but it doesn’t have anyone as electrifying as Rutger Hauer either. I am glad they worked in a Sean Young cameo that wasn’t too uncanny valley.

This is the best of the “Harrison Ford reprises an iconic 80’s hero to unite with an estranged child” trilogy. It’s a rare sequel that manages not to embarrass the legacy of the original. I doubt modern day Ridley Scott would’ve done as well. I’m just not sure if it’s a sequel that really needed to exist, which is infinitely preferably to a sequel I wish didn’t exist. That’s weird to say given that most Hollywood movies could stand to be as masterful as this one.  I’d still recommend soaking up all its beauty on the big screen before it becomes lost like tears in the rain.

Last year I had a blast at NYCC, so naturally I didn’t attend this time. My second novel research sabbatical took budgetary precedence. It doesn’t look like I missed too much. Hasbro is actually making Multiple Man in the costume I’d given up hope for! The Happy trailer has the best graphic novel pun despite the comic technically not being one. If my pattern of attending every other year holds up, maybe I’ll have some personal NYCC coverage in 2018.

It’s premiere week for the CW, which means I’ll have a review of their DC programs for you up next.

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