Blade Runner 2049

I see in IMDB that Denis Villeneuve is involved in yet another attempt at making Dune into a watchable film.  This makes sense to me.  Arrival demonstrated that he is able to handle complicated and sophisticated material.  That is what Dune needs and what previous attempts have been lacking.

That is also clearly why he got the gig to make a sequel to Blade Runner, one of Ridley Scott’s masterpieces and a cornerstone of science fiction cinema.  This is sacred ground for movie loving geeks and not just anybody is going to be welcome to play here.  But Villeneuve has proven he has what it takes.

Blade Runner 2049 takes place thirty years after the first film.  Ecological disaster has accelerated and the Earth is groaning under the weight of mankind’s greed and waste.  There are people who have never seen trees.  The creation of replicants was banned for a time until another millionaire inventor named Niander Wallace, played by Jared Leto, buys the bankrupt Tyrell Corporation and uses their patents and his own ideas to create replicants that are guaranteed to not rebel.  But there are still some of the old kind around and thus there is still a need for Blade Runners.

K, played by Ryan Gosling is a new model of replicant.  He is also a Blade Runner.  While on a job, he uncovers a box buried under a dead tree.  Later it is confirmed that the box contains the remains of a replicant.  The only problem is that this replicant was pregnant, which isn’t supposed to be possible.

I really can’t go much further into the plot without spoiling it.  Although I can tell you that it is a standard mystery plot, meaning that it consists of a series of interviews with people who have attitudes.  But like in mysteries, the plot is secondary to the puzzle.

And the puzzle here is fairly complex and thought-provoking, although not as profound as the filmmakers think it is.  When people create robot stories these days they tend to forget that Asimov covered this material in the 40’s and he probably wasn’t the first.  But here it is repeated in an inventive and visually intriguing way.

Yes, this is a very pretty film with striking visuals and state of the art special effects that are not only well integrated into the live action sections but they advance the plot and add to the strangeness of the setting.  Villeneuve shows a facility with the visual that almost matches Ridley Scott’s.  The days are overcast and the nights are bright with building size advertisements that stop you on the street and interact with you.

The acting is good as well.  Gosling, when he is not being asked to sing and dance, is one of the best actors working today.  He’s not really stretching here but he does convey a matter of fact fatalism.  He knows he’s artificial and that his memories are fake, and that he is expendable.  Most of the time his character maintains equilibrium but when he erupts, it is striking.

Ana de Armas plays Joi, a holographic female companion that K has grown attached to.  She also knows that she’s artificial and de Armas plays the conflict between a program that must follow it’s algorithm and a being who is beginning to feel.  In that she mirrors K’s conflict.

And, of course, Harrison Ford returns as Rick Deckard, older and gruffer than in the last movie.  This is by no means a stretch since Ford is a gruff old man in real life.  But it is always fun to watch.

Blade Runner 2049 is a smart, entertaining film and a worthy sequel.  Hopefully, this is promising for Villeneuve’s Dune.

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