I guess I’m just not a fan of the BLADE RUNNER movies.
I was never all that into the original BLADE RUNNER (1982) film starring Harrison Ford and directed by Ridley Scott, based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? —- now, the novel I do like— that has a huge loyal following among science fiction fans. The 1982 film just never moved me.
Now, here comes BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017), starring Ryan Gosling and again Harrison Ford, a bigger and badder sequel to the 1982 movie, receiving high praise from both critics and fans alike.
I’ve finally been swayed, right? This film is so good I’ve finally overcome my apathy for BLADE RUNNER, right?
Which is why I said, I guess I just don’t like these movies.
“K” (Ryan Gosling) is a blade runner, the name given to officers who hunt down and “retire” (yes, that means “kill”) replicants, the artificial life forms that the powers that be fear because they are becoming too human. His latest target is somewhat of an unusual one, and it leads him on a search for Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), the blade runner and main character in the first BLADE RUNNER movie, who’s been missing for thirty years.
Denis Villeneuve directed BLADE RUNNER 2049, which is another reason I’m surprised I didn’t like this one more than I did. Villeneuve directed ARRIVAL (2016) and SICARIO (2015), two movies I liked a lot, and PRISONERS (2013), which was also very good.
There’s no shortage of ambition here. This is a massive movie, filled with eye-popping special effects and a futuristic landscape that rivals the one created by Ridley Scott in the original. All the technical stuff is there and works.
The story also has a lot to say. Hampton Fancher and Michael Green wrote the screenplay, and it covers a lot of ground. The best part of the Philip K. Dick novel is the exploration of the line between human and replicant, and the idea that a thinking sentient being, albeit an artificially created one, would fight for its own survival and not take kindly to the idea that it had an expiration date. This has always been my favorite part of the BLADE RUNNER universe, and it’s more applicable today as great strides have been made in the field of artificial intelligence, and I believe that soon this concept will leave the realm of science fiction and become science fact.
And yet the problem I had with the original BLADE RUNNER, I have again here with BLADE RUNNER 2049, and that is the film has no soul. It’s cold and lifeless, and its story, in spite of the scientific and ethical ramifications, fails to resonate. Nothing that happens in this movie moved me one iota.
Which is too bad because a lot happens in this movie. So much that it takes a whopping 2 hours and 43 minutes to tell its story. That’s a long time to sit through a movie that doesn’t resonate, which is another reason I really did not enjoy BLADE RUNNER 2049.
There were parts I did like. Its opening scene, for example, where “K” hunts down a replicant, Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) is a good one. The fight sequence between the two is a rough and violent as they get.
Nearly all the scenes between “K” and his holographic girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas) are not only watchable but for me were flat-out the best scenes in the movie, but their storyline is secondary to the main one in the film. The scene in particular where technology enables Joi to enter the body of a prostitute Mariette (Mackenzie Davis) so she can physically love “K” is probably the best scene in the film
And the first encounter between “K” and Rick Deckard is memorable, but it’s an hour and 40 minutes into the movie before this meeting takes place.
So, for me, pacing was certainly an issue, but the larger problem was that the story never grabbed me, the characters never won me over, and so I sat there for nearly three hours being visually stimulated but that was about it. The story and characters fell flat for me and pretty much bored me to tears.
I like Ryan Gosling a lot, and he’s certainly good here, but “K” is just such dull boring character I just never found myself all that excited about him.
In a strange way, I actually enjoyed Harrison Ford more in this movie than in the original BLADE RUNNER. It’s too bad he doesn’t show up until 1 hour and 40 minutes into the film. He’s got some good lines, though, and his character is integral to the main plot and main mystery of this one.
But hands down the two best performances in BLADE RUNNER 2049 belong to two of the women actresses in the film.
First, there’s Ana de Armas as Joi, who happened to be my favorite character in the movie. Joi is a holographic creation, and yet through de Armas’ performance, she’s more lifelike and possesses more genuine emotion than any other character in the movie. She previously starred in WAR DOGS (2016) and HANDS OF STONE (2016), a film about boxer Roberto Duran that was panned by critics but was one of my favorite movies that year. Ana de Armas was excellent in HANDS OF STONE, and she’s better here in BLADE RUNNER 2049.
Then there’s Sylvia Hoeks as Luv. She’s the most effective villain in the movie. It’s a dominating performance, one that I enjoyed more than Jared Leto’s. He plays the main baddie in the film, Niander Wallace, and he just doesn’t resonate. While I enjoyed Hoeks’s scenes, Leto’s scenes sadly put me to sleep.
Robin Wright has a couple of compelling moments as the stone cold police Lieutenant Joshi, and there are some other veteran actors on hand who add to the mix as well. There’s Barkhad Abdi, the Oscar-nominated actor for CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013) who we just saw in GOOD TIME (2017), and there’s Lennie James, who plays Morgan on TV’s THE WALKING DEAD.
And both Edward James Olmos and Sean Young reprise their roles from the original BLADE RUNNER, but their presence is reduced to nothing more than brief cameos.
BLADE RUNNER 2049 is ambitious, cinematic, and loud, but it’s also cold, lifeless, and terribly long and dull, which is a shame because its main premise, the examination of the line between replicants and humans, and its exploration of the idea that artificially created replicants are so close to life that it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between them and humans, which ultimately leads to the discussion of just what it is that constitutes life, is a thought-provoking idea that is worthy of an epic movie.
Unfortunately, BLADE RUNNER 2049 isn’t that movie.
And that’s because while technologically it scores points on all fronts, emotionally, it’s as barren as its futuristic landscape, filled with eye-popping visuals and ear-shattering noises, but without any life whatsoever.
The replicants deserve better.