Blade Runner 2049 (2017) ☆ ☆ 1/2

If the world really does end up looking like it does in Blade Runner (1982) and this belated sequel, we’re all in trouble.  I must confess that I’ve never been a big Blade Runner fan.  I love science-fiction but these noirish, ultra-stylized odes to urban rain are, despite some admittedly cool stuff, more style than substance.  And I’ve never believed that Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a replicant himself, unicorn or not.  This new movie only deepens my stance; he’s as human as I am (except that he is fictional).

Denis Villenueve’s film does a nice job of matching Ridley Scott’s original vision of seedy urban decay, ubiquitous advertising, synthesized music, prolonged shots and explosive violence.  However, is it necessary to commit 164 minutes to tell this story?  Despite plenty of mystery and room for confusion, by the time the story winds up it actually seems pretty simple in terms of who was who and who was doing what way back when.  Three hours is just too much.

Some of the drama is quite striking, mostly concerning Niander Wallace’s replicant assistant and hit-girl, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks).  Anything she does is dramatic.  The love scene between K (Ryan Gosling) and Joi (Ana de Armas) and Mariette (Mackenzie Davis) is damn trippy.  The whole environment looks just as bleak and messy as it did in 1982.  And yet, the magic just wasn’t there for me.  Again.  The whole climactic sequence, which takes place in and out of water, is completely without logical context and is “filmic” in the worst way.  Virtually anything having to deal with Niander Wallace (Jared Leto, sporting “blind” contact lenses) is far too drawn-out and allegedly mysterious to be worthwhile.  Deckard is grumpy as ever, and not nearly as nimble.  K is interesting — for a replicant — but has his best moments when we believe him to be human.

For those of you who love the original, I would think that 2049 would prove to be an intelligent, perhaps even inspired, continuation.  It certainly has its merits.  It does an admirable job of adhering faithfully to its predecessor’s qualities.  But it is impossible for me to fully embrace a film made just like a film I didn’t particularly like thirty-five years ago.  I never liked its mix of post-apocalyptic future and 1940’s noir — and still don’t.  2049‘s story is completely insular; it’s as if the billions of people who are obviously living in the futuristic Los Angeles sprawl really aren’t there and don’t count for anything anyway.  It’s a depressing and rather dull world, except for the police investigation.  It’s certainly not my idea of utopia, or a great movie.  ☆ ☆ 1/2.  14 November 2017.

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