DVD Review – Blade Runner 2049 (Oscar Nominee)
Nominated for 5 Oscars, this film sequel is up for Best Cinematography, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Production Design. The film is certainly a worthy candidate in each category. Cinematographer Roger Deakins is up for his 14th film in that category. Some say a win for him is long overdue. Deakins’ work is no doubt beautiful, but if this film should win in any field, it should be Production Design. The Art Director Dennis Gassner and Set Decorator Alessandra Querzola do incredible work. Yes, their creations are a piece with the original or previous Blade Runner (1982), but their work takes us to new places within and outside what the 1982 movie showed us. Those new places are quite stunning and certainly a delight to the eyes. The screenplay by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, on the other hand, is a bit of a hollow mess.
The first issue is that the premise makes little sense. The movie is all about these people called replicants, which are bioengineered humans. This movie and the previous are based on a book by Philip K. Dick in which the replicants are called androids, which implies they’re mechanical in nature, but not true. The replicants are all biological, which begs the question of how they’re controlled or programmed. There’s suggestion that they’re given false memories, but why? It’s never quite clear why they would need false memories. The idea seems to be to make the replicants think they’re human, but the pros and cons, especially in the wake of the previous film, don’t seem to have been considered.
This movie takes us to various places in California and Nevada, but I still feel like I don’t have a proper sense of this world. For example, there appears to be two kinds of replicants. The newer replicants made by a blind man named Niander Wallace and the older replicants made by Eldon Tyrell, killed in the previous film. The newer replicants hunt the older ones to kill them. Yet, the movie never fully fills out the picture of this scenario.
First of all, from what I could tell, I don’t know why the newer replicants are hunting the older ones. The older replicants don’t seem to be posing any kind of threat. Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy and Spectre) plays Sapper Morton, an older replicant. He maintains a farm in the desert. Apparently, he’s done so peacefully and without incident for 30 years. He’s not a terrorist or going around killing people. He lives by himself and doesn’t bother any one, so why is he being killed? The movie never makes the case convincingly as to why the replicants are being hunted now. It’s not even clear how many older replicants there are.
The movie is at odds with itself with a contradicting plot. The aforementioned Niander Wallace, played by Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club and Suicide Squad), says the demand for more replicants exceeds his ability to make them. He merely says that cryptically and without any context. It’s never explained why the demand is so high. Apparently, the replicants are used as slave labor, but it’s never explained what the replicants can do that simple machines can’t. Niander’s solution is to figure out a way for the replicants to procreate sexually like regular humans. Again, this is never contextualized as to how this would help or be faster than if he built more factories like the one he currently has to make replicants.
Without the movie being able to justify its premise or make these contexts, the movie simply falls apart or worse just becomes boring because I cease to care about its characters. Namely, Ryan Gosling (La La Land and Half Nelson) who stars as K, a newer replicant out to hunt older ones. The movie never makes me care about him. Gosling’s performance doesn’t help either, which is blank and expressionless, beyond stoic.
The movie tries to make us care about K through his interactions with his holographic girlfriend who is a computer simulation named Joi, played by Ana de Armas (Knock Knock and Hands of Stone). Unfortunately, the film never gives her much of an independent personality to make us empathize with her. Therefore, using her to empathize K doesn’t work. Joi did remind me of the doctor in Star Trek: Voyager, played by Robert Picardo. Except, Picardo’s character feels vastly more life-like than Armas’ character, which might have been intentional to see if we can feel for this hologram, but, again it doesn’t succeed.
Harrison Ford reprises his role from the 1982 film. He plays Rick Deckard. Apparently, he had a child 30 years ago with a replicant named Rachael, played by Sean Young. Because the movie doesn’t justify its premise and convinces why Deckard’s baby really matters, Ford’s presence here doesn’t matter. His baby is supposed to represent this beacon of hope, but hope for whom? If it’s hope for the replicants, the movie doesn’t contextualize or make us care about them, so that we feel that hope too. Deckard’s baby just becomes an overhyped MacGuffin here.
Rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 43 mins.