Gravel crunches beneath the feet of a solitary figure as it saunters into the radioactive, orange-dusted expanse of an abandoned city. A Blade Runner advances – bioengineered to operate on command, not to think for himself. He has reached the end-thread of an investigation. He searches for an answer to a riddle that has been hidden for almost 40 years. All paths converge on former officer, Richard Deckard.
There’s a few things that will grip audiences right away with Blade Runner 2049, which abandons convoluted story ine threads to make way for simple plotting. It assaults the ears and heart out of you with a blood-pumping, thunderous emotive soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. Visuals are impressive and captivating. So why did I so eagerly hop out of my chair as soon as the credits rolled?
Having admired the original, it would seem interesting to delve back into this cult classic. But only later did I realise that my dislike of this sequel came from my misunderstanding of what it was and what the director was trying to do. There’s action, but it’s not an ‘action’ film. There’s all manner of cool advanced tech like holograms the size of city blocks, and the Blade Runner’s dazzling cruiser, but the sci-fi elements feel like peripheral visual accouterments. The problem with the film slowly dawns: it is not really a film.
Blade Runner 2049 is an expressive visual documentary of sorts, of the conditioned human psyche, beautifully displayed in high def. Agent K’s implanted memories of a childhood unlived are merely ‘edits’ to a human without a soul. A data storage library shows the dependence on a physical brain of a ‘post digital’ age: a multilayered message about storing truths and falsehoods in the minds of engineered or freeborn humans to save human history for whoever the last survivors of this dystopia will be.
Collapsed statures of naked, perfect-bodied women are like symbolic relics of a time when the creation of human life was a natural process. It shows how accepting society is of manipulating humans and their DNA, taking away the sacredness of birth and nature. Shots of the city skyline and greater L.A. aim at painting a realistic future rather than filling them with designs and special effects. The collapsed yet technologically advanced society of those too poor to make it to the glorious life off-world is a reflection of our real world with its problems of overpopulation and people becoming slaves to mod-cons and gadgets.
For those not convinced of receiving the ‘movie’ in this manner, there is always the appeal of supporting actors. While Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford hold and represent the key story, three other actors help to make the film more interesting. The first is the bald-headed data operator/keeper who brings the Blade Runner into the data sanctum. His expressive interactions play against the latter’s blank mask of indifference, contrasting humanness and non-humanness. The second is Niander Wallace, portrayed by Jared Leto. The blind bioengineer delivers a performance that matches the artistic cinematography and doubles as a fallen messiah type. Lastly there is Luv, played by Sylvia Hoeks, who deserves mention for one scene especially. She threatens and attacks Agent K’s superior, Lieutenant Joshi. What makes this one of the most suspenseful moments of the whole show is that she is meant to be a replicant, not capable of the full range of the emotions of their natural born counterparts. Yet here she is, unleashing her deadly, animalistic killer instincts.
Blade Runner 2049 will please fans of the first film. Whether it recruits an army of new viewers… Oh, what the heck, Next-Genners will love its information overload and all that bright high contrast juxtaposed with dark, dystopian scapes. JKA Short
‘Blade Runner 2049’ is in cinemas now.