Blade Runner 2049

Related from Isey

Spoilers ahead.

Seriously.  King Kong dies at the end, Superman comes back from the dead, Maggie shot Mr Burns.

I watch the original Blade Runner every month or so.  It’s the director’s cut most often, the voice over junk is really quite poor.  It may be my favorite all-time movie, and I am vividly aware that it is niche/cult in nature.  That said, you cannot help but watch it today and realize how much influence it has had on the sci-fi genre over the past 35 years.  I mean, the Matrix would not exist.

Further, I’ve read pretty much every book from Phillip K Dick.  He clearly had an episode during his life where he went off the deep end.  He stayed sane enough to try and tell some stories.  VALIS… jeez.  Good luck with that.

I’ve watched most of Ridley Scott’s films and frankly, he’s had some really bad writers in the past few years.  Denis Villeneuve is an incredibly strong pickup to helm a complicated story.  Arrival is clear indication of that.

Blade Runner 2049 runs for 2:45.  I was in a cinema with full bore sound and reclining chairs.  It felt like a 30 minute TV episode.  It has incredibly drawn out scenes where nothing happens.  I don’t think a word is even spoken until 10 minutes in, as every step taken is deliberate.  In a world of Transformers explosions and a complete absence of character growth or story pacing, this is abnormal and hard on the senses.  We’ve been trained to expect a certain pace in sci-fi.  BR2049 bucks that trend, at nearly every corner.

The movie’s sound, art, pacing, direction, acting… all of it jives with the nervous confusion of the first one.  The director of photography deserves an award here… it’s on Mad Max level of quality.  It does not feel like a sequel, just like the Two Towers was not a sequel to The Fellowship of the Ring.  That is a masterful achievement after such a long period of time.

High level plot.  It’s 35 years after the first one.  The previous robots are all supposedly dead.  Tyrell is bankrupt.  Wallace bought him out and designed perfectly subjected robots instead, with unlimited lifespans.  Oh, that can’t be bad, right?

Agent K (Gosling) tracks down the remnants of old models that have fun.  Finds one.  Blurb about witnessing a miracle.  Turns out Rachel (secretary from first movie) had a kid with Deckard, something that was thought impossible.  Repercussions ensue.

The movie deals with a caste system, what it means to be “human”, what it means to live a lie, what the Turing test actually entails, and how the line between AI and humanity is much thinner than anyone accounts for.

We typically define life through four main criteria.  Eating (or metabolizing), Growth/Adaptation, Survival, and Reproduction.  Replicants, in the movie universe, only have the first 3.  When the prospect of Reproduction shows up… things get interesting.

K and his AI companion Joi have an neat relationship.  It starts off really simple, just to add some “life” to his apartment.  It clearly grows over time, with Joi seeming to evolve to meet K’s personal needs.  She is a clear enabler of his fantasies – and this is taken to the literal extent.  Her death, and following alternate virtual ad presentation, using the same keywords, makes K doubt what was actually real.  Same for me.  She clearly passed the Turing test, but was she an isolated and unique representation, or simply a tool that self-adapted?

Deckard gives up his child to protect it.  I know I missed some key parts in this story, as his involvement seems somewhat aloof considering he’s the genesis of it all.  His scene with robo-Rachel is even more confusing.

The Replicant hidden alliance wants to protect the child.  For some long-term purpose that isn’t quite clear.  Wallace (Jared Leto) wants to have her in order to provide pro-creation to all his replicants, and sends Luv (Hoeks) to do whatever is necessary to get that info.  Wallace has twinged of mania, but the end goal in the context of the entire movie, actually puts him in a grey light.  If all replicants could procreate, and all replicants can go through the character growth of K (and Rachel, and Sapper, and…) then that would be a hell of a story to see.  The base premise that Wallace would somehow have controls over these replicants is laid to waste by the end of the film.  I am either missing some underlying message, or this is a lost opportunity.

When you finally figure out who the child actually is… things just click together like a Sherlock mystery.  The clues are rather evident.   There is a lot of show rather than tell, which is good.

The end result, similar to the original movie, is that by the end of the film (and for most of it too) you are left wondering who is human and by what definition.  You can see the start of a civil war, one that can dramatically swing in one party’s favor depending on that child.  There are a whole lot of “what ifs” that remain unanswered.

Good movies tell a story with interesting character choices and growth.  Great movies tell it for multiple characters and then make you question how that impacts you.  It isn’t a perfect movie, but it certainly is a great one.  And one that I will need to watch multiple times a year.

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