Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

If you’re going to wait 35 years to do a sequel, you want to make sure you get it right.  It’s often difficult to get a story that flows naturally from the first.  In some cases, like the Terminator movies, it works.  The first two movies of that franchise were originally envisioned as one script.  Back to the Future was supposed to be a standalone movie.  Its success spawned two sequels that happened to work.  Then, you have cases where the sequels are little more than a basic rewrite of the first.  (Yes, Home Alone 2.  I’m looking at you.)

Bladrunner 2049 is sort of an odd sequel.  It doesn’t exactly continue the story of the first movie.  Instead, it draws from it.  It’s a new story that might have run parallel except that it takes place three decades after the first movie.  A title card tells us that Tyrell Corporation went bankrupt and eventually acquired by a new company.  For those that don’t recall, Tyrell made the  Replicant bad guys in the original movie.  The new company has made better Replicants.  They don’t start uprisings.

KD9-3.7 is just such a Replicant.  In fact, he’s a blade runner, exactly like Deckard was.  After retiring (killing) a Replicant, he discovers a box.  Inside the box could upend everything about Replicants.  K is given the task of burying everything about the box and its contents, lest stars implode and civilizations collapse.

Like many futuristic dystopian movies, it’s never that simple.  It all comes back to Rick Deckard and the aftermath of the original movie.  You may recall that Deckard ran off with Rachael, who he had discovered was artificial.  Much of Bladerunner 2049 is original.  You get a cameo from Edward James Olmos and even Sean Young.  However, Ryan Gosling is carrying most of of the movie.  Harrison Ford doesn’t even show up until pretty late in the movie.

This isn’t to say I was disappointed with the movie.  There were some throwbacks, like the music.  (This is a world where Atari is still a major player, apparently.)  The movie doesn’t go overboard with this.  The appearance of Gaff and Rachael make sense in the context of the movie.  Wouldn’t you want to talk to someone who knew Deckard?

The movie is still about what it means to be free and what it means to be real, although the narrative is a little different.  K has a regular job with the police, but he still has to go through testing.  (Replicants have much longer life spans; the tradeoff is muted emotions.)  Things go off the rails for him when he fails a test.  His lieutenant is sympathetic, but there’s only so much she can do.

Then, there’s K’s ‘girlfriend’, who just happens to be a hologram.  If K is more (or less) human than human, what does that make Joi?  Is she any less programmed than him?  (Do holograms dream of Replicant sheep?)  It gets a little complicated, to say the least.  He’s able to buy her freedom via a portable emitter, but at what cost?  She can be a liability just as much as he can.

The movie is somewhat long at 2:44.  I had caught it back on a flight back to the United States from Shanghai.  A long running time was a virtue here.  It might not be so for everyone, though.  Make sure you have a solid chunk of time to watch it.

The movie was about as dark as the original.  If you’ve seen Bladerunner there shouldn’t be any surprises in terms of the movie’s tone.  It’s still dark.  It’s just violent and sexual enough that parents should probably use some discretion.  It’s not going to be for everyone, but I’d say that your enjoyment of the first movie is probably going to be a good indicator of whether or not you’ll like this one.

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