It has been a while since my last post, and I imagine this is how things will be. I am currently in Grad School and simply do not have time to watch as many films, or review them for that matter. However, every once in a while there is a film that cannot be ignored. Blade Runner 2049 is such a film.
I always told you. You’re special.
Right off the bat, I do not love the original Blade Runner. I appreciate the film so much, but I never thought the narrative nor characters were all that interesting. I do love Roy Batty, and his “Tears in the rain” speech is one of my favorite scenes of all time. That being said, I was beyond excited for Blade Runner 2049 because Dennis Villeneuve was directing it. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of his films, so I had no reason not to be looking forward to this one. Not only do I think this is much better than the original film, but I think this is one of Villeneuve’s finest films to date (no small feat). The strongest aspect of the film for me has to be how the characters are developed, starting off with Ryan Gosling’s K. What a fantastic character. Early on you find out he is a replicant, but more interestingly he is a replicant who hunts other replicants. He clearly feels distant from other replicants, and humans do not really accept him as one of their own.
When we find him he seems devoid of emotion because he does not truly have a place in this world. He is a slave to circumstance. In his apartment we discover that he loves this artificially intelligent hologram named Joi, who seems to bring him some semblance of happiness. As the film progresses and the plot is uncovered K find out that he may be more than a replicant who is programmed to serve. This is where the film introduces the interesting concept of a replicant who was born from another replicant. As Lieutenant Joshi would put it, something like this would break the world. K suspects that he may this replicant, which leads him on a collision path with Rick Deckard. During this time K has finally accepted that there is more to him than just being a replicant, but the film decides to take a more dramatic turn: He is not the replicant who was born. There is nothing special about him. During this time he even finds out that his holographic girlfriend was programmed to treat him the way she did. K has hit rock bottom and has to make an important choice at the end of the film: does he kill Deckard to keep his daughter’s identity hidden? When everything is said and done, K makes the very human decision to save Deckard and even brings him to see his daughter before dying out in the snow. This character is not even human, but he is far more human than most of the characters I have seen in films this or any of the past couple of years. Thus, the point of this film: what is humanity? What does it mean to be human? Can a replicant be human? These are questions that are asked and the answers will vary depending on who you ask.
Sometimes to love someone, you got to be a stranger.
Obviously K has the strongest arc, but the supporting characters are all very well fleshed out. Robin Wright’s Lieutenant Joshi is concerned with the idea of a replicant that was born. She realizes that if word gets out, then the wall between humans and replicants will topple. Sylvia Hoeks’s Luv is Niander Wallace’s right hand woman, and believes she is superior than most replicants. I would even go as far as to say that she views herself as pracitcally human. I saw her as someone who wanted to find and destroy the “special replicant” because then she would cease to be special. Then there is Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace. I wish there was more of him in the film so we could understand him a bit better, but it was clear that he had a bit of a God complex. He has created all these replicants but people do not see him like the God he thinks he is, which is why he desperately wants to find the “special replicant”. If he can figure out how replicants can give birth, then everyone will view him as a God.
Finally there is Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard. He is not in the film much, but he displays so much humanity and even inspires K to embrace his humanity as well. Deckard made the hard decision of separating himself from his daughter. He knew that if word got out she would be in danger, so he did what any loving father would do: he sacrificed his own happiness so she could live. He has been living as an outcast for all these years for her survival. This is what I love about this film, it is about complex characters, not spectacle. There is spectacle for sure (bless you Roger Deakins, if you do not get an Oscar then there is no justice in the world). Is this a perfect film? No. The pacing is definitely inconsistent, and when Joi was “killed” I felt like it did not leave as much of an impact as it should have. But, these are just minor gripes in a film that raises plenty of questions and asks you to think about them.
This film is not doing all that well in the box office, and it is understandable. It is a long film, and not an action adventure spectacle. This is a film that requires you to think, and asks you to invest your time in some truly remarkable characters. It is not a perfect film, but it is one you will be thinking about long after you have seen it.