Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on October 6, 2017 @ tonymacklin.net.

Across the country after screenings of Blade Runner 2049, promotion people read a statement from the film's director Denis Villeneuve. In it he ordered reviewers not to say anything specific about the film.

Villeneuve had a bucket list of things not to say. Don't reveal anything important about the characters. Don't give away the cameos. Don't, don't, don't.

However, Villeneuve did not say we couldn't refer to the substantial product placement in the film.

I expect Villeneuve to dismiss any criticism that isn't totally congratulatory. He probably will call it, "fake reviewing."

This is Trump-America, and Villeneuve is coming out against the free flow of ideas. No criticism allowed.

I can't imagine Stanley Kubrick making a statement like that. But, of course, although Villeneuve draws on Stanley's 2001 (1968) and The Shining (1980) he did.

I knew Stanley Kubrick, and Denis Villeneuve is no Stanley Kubrick.

For better or worse, here comes some "fake criticism."

Blade Runner 2049 is a mixed bag of bones - some dark, many shiny, some old, some new. It's stark and pretentious, at times brash and convoluted.

Will Blade Runner 2049 attract a mass audience. I think so. Many reviewers at the screening didn't think it would.

But the star power of Harrison Ford has lasting appeal. However, Ford doesn't appear in the movie until more than 100 minutes through the 2 hour and 43 minutes film. Oops, I gave that away. It's a fact. Fake criticism.

When Ford finally appears, he adds his distinctive personality, and he and Ryan Gosling have empathetic chemistry in their relationship.

Blade Runner 2049 is set in a world that is bleak and dominated by repressive order. New models have replaced old replicants, and the remaining old are being "retired" by hunters.

K (Gosling) is a member of the LAPD, and he is a prime hunter. Ultimately he is charged with hunting down former Blade Runner (Ford), who disappeared long ago. He goes on an odyssey for truth.

It once never rained in California; now it rains and snows in Los Angeles. It's a cold, gray, hard world. Blade Runner 2049 is about the beings in that world.

Virtual reality is everywhere. Is a woman constructed or "born not made"? Women may disappear at the push of a button. Some men may like that. What is real? Blade Runner 2049 plunges into a morass of image and reality.

The creative arrogance of director Villeneuve is apparent. And he is given to contrivance, as he showed in Arrival (2016). The holograms of Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis are conventional and obvious - no subtlety there, except for the concept of imitators.

Villeneuve has his actors often take a long pause before they deliver their dialogue - the screenplay is by Michael Green and Hampton Fancher. But the pauses are not pregnant.

The cast is suitable. Harrison Ford adds gravity to his role, but the climax is almost laughable in its loss of gravity. Gosling is solid. Jared Leto, as mogul of an empire, has a role that fails to challenge him.

The women - real and virtual - are effective. Ana de Armas is fetching as K's girl friend. Robin Wright emits cool power as K's boss.

One terrific factor is Mackenzie Davis as Mariette, Doxie #1. Her exemplary television series Halt and Catch Fire is coming to an end. To see Mackenzie Davis in a major movie is a boon. When she is joined to a virtual girl friend, it is quite a moment. Leave my Mackenzie alone!

Another wonderful contribution is cinematographer Roger Deakins. The color yellow is symbolic in the film, and Deakins uses it beautifully. At this point, Deakins has to be the favorite to win the Oscar for cinematography. He has been nominated 13 times previously. He was against himself in 2007 and split his vote for No Country for Old Men and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Both were worthy.

Blade Runner 2049 is the third film for which Deakins has been Villeneuve's cinematographer. He previously did Prisoners (2013) and the brilliant Sicario (2015). May Roger finally prevail this year.

The music by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer is often bombastic. But Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf is cunningly employed. It - especially the first five notes - is employed ten or more different times. Listen for it. Or shouldn't I say that, Denis?

We replicants, who are critics, think Blade Runner 2049 is worthy of intelligent perception. Sorry, Denis.

© 2000-2017 Tony Macklin