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Sequels, films about powerful women, and some short discussions constitute the column this month.

Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 is a direct sequel to the original film, and anyone expecting to understand and enjoy it should first watch Blade Runner The Final Cut. The original film has become available in three versions over the years since its release: the theatrical release with voice-over narration, which nudged it toward the “private detective” genre and supposedly made it more intelligible to the average viewer; the second version which eliminated the narration and changed the ending to make Rick Deckard’s identity more ambiguous; and the Final Cut, made by the original director, Ridley Scott, which inserted some footage of a unicorn, and was intended to clarify Deckard’s identity. The 2049 version links back to the Final Cut.

Most sequels, with a few exceptions, such as the second Godfather film and maybe one or two others, don’t measure up to the original, but Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario,

Arrival) has come as close as possible to capturing the quality of the original. With the help of Ridley Scott as producer, and with Harrison Ford again playing Deckard, Villeneuve has captured the dark, dystopian sets, visual icons, sound effects, and even the music of the original. He has recreated what has become known as “the look” of Blade Runner, a look that has influenced hundreds of films and virtually every dystopian film since its original release, and in some cases pushed that look to a new level. The original film was a box office and critical failure, apparently too demanding for most viewers at that time (1982). Only as its reputation grew, and it began reaching the cult status of today, were people able to realize what Ridley Scott was trying to do.

While 2049 lacks a scene as moving as Roy Batty’s “tears in rain” speech (which was apparently created as an impromptu take) and it fails to be as emotional as the final confrontation between Deckard and Batty, with its Christian references to nails through hands and forgiveness, 2049 successfully extends the story arch of the original and wraps up some of the questions left hanging in the from the first film. Running through both movies is the question of how to discern between the real (the human) and the artificial (the replicant). One of the single best lines in 2049 occurs when K (Ryan Gosling) asks Deckard if his dog is real (all animals in the first film were artificial). Deckard’s reply, “Why don’t you ask him?” sums up the central question inherent in both films, or, as it was stated in the earlier film, “How can it not know what it is?”  If the memory implants are good enough, individuals and even the dog may not know if they are real or simply artificial creations. And at what point does the imitation become so good that the difference between being “real” and being a replicant become irrevelant–how close does the replicant have to be to be treated like a human instead of like a slave? Every now and then the word “soul” is mentioned in the first film but less so in the second.

In many ways, 2049 is a mystery story. It attempts to find out what happened after Deckard and Rachel escaped at the end of the first film. It asks how what happened to them then now affects the entire society and its divisions, once clear cut, but threatening to collapse now with the question of who has what rights and how should people and replicants be treated.

To tell any more would be to tell too much. Ryan Gosling is fine as the stoic blade runner named K (there must be a Kafka allusion here since he is sometimes referred to as “Joe”); Harrison Ford as Deckard walks away with every scene he is in; Jared Leto makes a mannered but frightening blind tycoon; his lethal lieutenant Luv is played by Sylvia Hoeks; Robin Wright plays K’s commander, and Ana de Armas plays Joi, K’s artificial girlfriend. Several small parts are played by people from the original film. The gorgeous visuals are by the cinematographer, Roger A. Deakins, who should have received Oscars for his work in the past.

The original Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies of all time, and the sequel is about as close to the original as one can get. See both of them in sequence.

 

To read the rest of the reviews, please pick up a copy of this months Marquette Monthly at one of our distribution outlets.

MM

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