15 – 163mins – 2017 – 3D
At the risk of irreparably damaging my geek credentials, I have a confession to make: I don’t really like Blade Runner. I’m sorry. I have tried, trust me, I even own a DVD copy of the 1992 Director’s Cut of Ridley Scott’s cult neo-noir classic set in a futuristic Los Angeles 2019. In recent memory, I have watched it at least three times, but the film draaaags at such an exasperating and dreary pace, and the visuals – for all their atmospheric merit – are marred by dystopian grime. The whole experience feels dirty and dated and it has never engaged me.
Hot off 2016 Oscar-winner Arrival (another celebrated example of one of my favourite genres which my REVIEW confesses to not really liking), visionary director Dennis Villeneuve stepped into the director’s chair of this belated and long-gestating sequel, set – as the title suggests – 30 thirty years after the original. Busy with the under-appreciated prequel Alien Covenant, Ridley Scott stayed on as an Executive Producer, while original screenplay co-writer Hampton Fancher returns alongside Michael Logan Green to pen a new vision which is not adapted from either a Philip K. Dick novel, nor one of author K. W. Jeter’s trilogy of expansive prose successors.
Even with my negative opinion of the original and running on a ridiculously low amount of sleep owing to a lingering head cold (sniff, sniff), I attended a late-night opening day screening yesterday of this near three-hour behemoth, and I must concede that Blade Runner 2049 is a damn fine film. I enjoyed it far more than the original, while I am not blind to how referential and respectful it is to its originator, without being a flat-our replicant.
Adding dreamy snow and fog to future-LA’s incessant drizzle, 2049 improves upon its earlier model without necessarily breaking the mould. The aesthetics are still epic and the camera still loves to indulge in prolonged lingers; the cinematography (courtesy of an already Oscar-touted Roger Deakins) is cinematic and often outright gorgeous, with an orange hue often replacing the greys which dominated 1982’s original; Hans Zimmer pays homage to Vangelis’ iconic synth score with powerful-but-minimalist orchestrations. 2049 couldn’t exist without Blade Runner, but it achieves the rare feat of bettering it.
A straight-faced Ryan La La Land Gosling plays the lead protagonist K, an often-discriminated against (and regularly thrashed) replicant who – like Deckard (Harrison The Force Awakens Ford) before him – is employed as a blade runner for the LAPD, “retiring” rogue older models. Upon completing a job at the farm of reclusive hulk Sapper Morton (Dave Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 Bautista), K uncovers a buried chest, the contents of which open a philosophical Pandora’s Box about the conceived possibilities of bio-engineered lifeforms…
Implanted memories, dreams and fears play a significant role in the subsequent investigation, which draws K into a dark and dangerous secret which has the potential to change the world – if humanity can be open-minded enough to see the benefits. Marmite man Jared Suicide Squad Leto is grave-yet-restrained as Tyrell-succeeding replicant manufacturer Niander Wallace, while Harrison Ford leaves it seriously late to make ultimate impact as a grizzled and grieving Deckard.
But most impressive from this largely-new cast are Sylvia Hoeks as severe-faced Wallace enforcer Luv, who really encapsulates the terrifying emotionless of a soulless slave, and War Dogs beauty Ana de Armas as Joii, K’s holographic girlfriend who – quite contradictorily – suggests beams of light can think, feel and love just as much as any meat bag.
A couple of familiar faces will make franchise fans beam from ear-to-ear, so I will leave any spoilers out and just suggest you clear an afternoon in your schedule and check out this seriously stunning event picture. Yes, it’s over-indulgent at points and far longer than in needs to be by some distance, but it is an experience and it will leave you chilled, thrilled and pondering existential matters without ever outright declaring a judgement. It’s so exquisite, in fact, I may have just talked myself into awarding it a full five CR@Bs out of five!
CR@B’s Claw Score: