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Blade Runner 2049 (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

10/12/17
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



Blade Runner 2049 (PG-13)

Glitchy humanoid robots called replicants are hunted by police in Blade Runner 2049, a sequel to the 1982 film.
In 2049, police officer K (Ryan Gosling) is a sort-of domesticated replicant, designed to obey and thus acceptable to work on Earth. Older replicants, ones that rebelled against humans, are outlawed — still hunted and “retired” by a subset of police known as blade runners, of which K is one.
On one mission, K arrives at a bug farm (for protein?; that detail was fascinating — tell me more about the bugs!) looking for Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), an old-school replicant. Sapper resists and K kills him. As he’s cleaning up and gathering evidence, K finds a box that later examination shows to contain the bones of a woman. Or, more specifically, the bones of a female replicant who appears to have died in childbirth.
This, says K’s boss Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright), is something not thought possible and has the potential to cause a war between humans and the replicants they treat as slave labor. She tells him to find and destroy all traces of the fertile replicant, its child and anything connected to either. 
Meanwhile, Niander Wallace (Jared Leto, in what felt like a riff on a self-serious Silicon Valley-type “visionary”), who purchased what remained of the replicants’ original corporate manufacturer and started making the obedient replicants, hears of the possible replicant reproduction. He tasks Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), his right-hand-lady replicant, with finding the evidence (and technology to recreate this evolutionary leap).
All of this eventually leads K in the direction of a long-vanished blade runner, one Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). Though programmed to obey, K starts to feel a connection to the possible replicant child and packs up his hologram girlfriend, Joi (Ana de Armas), to go search for Rick without telling his police boss. 
My Blade Runner experience is limited. I finally saw the original about a day before watching the sequel. “Film noir with 1980s synth, set on ‘slow’” was my impression but I realize that plenty of longtime fans, especially those who saw it more or less when it came out, will have a very different opinion. I realize my “meh”-ness will likely seem obtuse but I can’t rewrite my movie going experience. If this is your Star Wars, I get it and I also get that I’m not going to “get it” from the “I’ve loved this property for decades” perspective.
Blade Runner 2049 also felt slow to me but oh so pretty! Lovely light design, smart costume choices, interesting settings. I agree with other critics who say this seems a sure-bet Oscar nomination for cinematographer Roger Deakins. The heavy background score, which blends the deep bass of a Christopher Nolan movie with general mournfulness, also feels appropriate for this kind of sci-fi movie. But glorious design and portentous scoring — all in service of what? Beneath this artsiness and some interesting ideas about the sort-of-manageable dystopia of the mid 21st century, this movie feels very thin, plotwise, and lacking in energy.
There’s a lot about replicants, as constructed here, as a plot device that I don’t understand and feel like the movie yada-yadas past because it wants us to spend our time being awed by the visuals and mulling over the “what does it mean to be alive” questions (questions also much-discussed in reviews and think-pieces about the movie). I also found myself far more interested in the details of this future than the central story: the idea of a 3-D Her-like virtual reality romantic partner, the dirty bomb wasteland of Las Vegas, the garbage dump wasteland of San Diego, the giant seawall around Los Angeles, the constant rain in Los Angeles, the Earth-wide dearth of vegetation and the whole idea of off-world settlements. These things felt way more interesting than even the idea of a human-versus-replicant war (especially since the replicants, as shown here, just read as people without any of the otherness that would make a conflict between humans and replicants seem different, even on a human-existence scale,  than conflicts between humans and humans).
Performances here split the difference between the solid work of the movie’s visuals and the general let-down of the story and writing. Everybody is fine, doing what they need to do, but nothing anybody did wowed me.
Blade Runner 2049 does so many nice things visually and aurally. In every sequence there are at least one or two shots where you wish you could pause the movie and just consider what you’re seeing and how it was put together. I wish there had just been a more compelling story to back those up.  C+
Rated R for some sexuality, nudity and language. Directed by Denis Villeneuve with a screenplay by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, Blade Runner 2049 is two hours and 44 minutes (!) and is distributed by Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures. 





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