Sunday, October 8, 2017

Pretty Pictures, Less Angst

Blade Runner 2049 (2017) - Villenueve
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So arrives the sequel nobody asked. Why touch the classic? Why Hollywood must ruin everything? Can one even truly duplicate that atmospheric Sci-Fi dystopia steeped in rain and existential dread? Blade Runner 2049 turns out to be whole lotta nothing. It provides nothing but eye candy for 3 hours running time. And it's not a bad thing per se. But it will never be a classic like the eponimous Sci-Fi noir that is feverishly worshipped since its 1982 debut.

The story here is thin. "Things were simpler back then," Officer K (Ryan Gosling) shoots back at Dekkard (Harrison Ford), who is now retired in the orange hued ruins of what once was Las Vegas in the 2/3rds of the way in. That remark rings extremely hollow considering the nothingness it provides beyond Roger Deakins's stunning duplication of the original look and some more.

K is a Blade Runner and Nexus 8 replicant, out to kill the remnants of Nexus 6 with open ended lifespan. He is supposedly hated because he is not human (never demonstrated other than a shoulder slam with a name calling- "skinjob!" by jocky cop at the station). His only companion is a hologram AI girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas) who takes up inappropriate amount of running time. Replicant needs a hologram companion? Why? The bulk of the story surrounds the skeleton buried underneath a dead tree in the farmland outside Los Angeles. The remains belong to Rachel who apparently died while giving birth to a child. A miracle. Now LAPD and Wallace Corp lackey (relentless Sylvia Hoeks), are after the child who was born 6/10/2020, the date K remembers in his implant memory and the year when the worldwide blackout happened and erased most records apparently (to what purpose, or what extent? By whom? Never explained, just like the nuke attack on Las Vegas). Then there is another thin plot about replicant revolution. They want to kill Dekkard for some erroneous, fuzzy logic. All these ideas based on the original after a one or two brainstorming sessions doesn't hold up to much. In short, K is like Roy Batty, trying to do things right at the end and the ending becomes a tearful reunion story.

There are a lot of things lacking in 2049. Namely it's that existential angst. Gosling is right for the part with his blank look to play a replicant, but he doesn't quite nail the sympathy part or cool and sexiness of Rutger Hauer. For a human/non-human dichotomy theme, the movie is seriously lacking human characters to bounce off that angst. The action sequences lack the iconic, operatic dances of death of the original. Jared Leto as an enigmatic creator, destroyer Wallace lacks just that, enigma. Female characters, except Robin Wright (the police captain) and Mackenzie Davis (a callgirl/replicant), both of whom are unfortunately underused, are not quite "talk about beauty and the beast. She's both." Thank goodness that Hans Zimmer refrained himself. The only saving grace along with the somber mood, rather ineffective plot, minimal exposition, is not too noticeable soundtrack.

Maybe I am way more critical of half baked narratives since I watched Twin Peaks: The Return. If David Lynch's franchise makes more sense than your carefully crafted plotlines, you got a real problem. But all these criticism will be the rain. At the end of the day, the prettiness of the glorious images wins over. 2049 will run on my TV screen as I do chores around the house for the years to come.

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