Blade Runner 2049

Bleak.

Stunning.  Beautiful.  Dazzling. Emotional. Intelligent. Stylish. Perhaps the best SF film anyone has made in a long, long time.

But yes, bleak.

I never expected that I’d end up going to see a Blade Runner sequel in the theaters.  The original was a strange, unrepeatable effort, a film that, as dazzling as it might have been, was far too intelligent, far too self-contained, and yes, far too confused for your typical Hollywood sequel.  But I was intrigued by the excellent reviews, the praise for its visuals, —  and, yes, by the disastrous opening weekend.

After all, no matter how beautiful it might be, no one would ever expect a Blade Runner film to attract a huge audience.

In fact, it seems an entirely quixotic enterprise, spending 230 million on a two-hour and forty-seven minute sequel to a cult favorite that failed miserably at the box office thirty five years ago.  Obviously someone expected it to do incredible business.  I just can’t imagine why.

But I am thankful he did.

I find it hard to say much about this one, not because of a fear of revealing its secrets, but because it is hard to find anything to say about a film which inspires a profound sense of beauty, and yet which carries with it a deep sadness shot through with the smallest hints of hope.

Ryan Gosling plays a Blade Runner who is one of a new generation of replicants who are guaranteed to follow orders.  His latest case uncovers a startling secret from a body buried deep beneath a dead tree and forces him to reconsider his own existence.

And anyone who’s seen the trailers knows that Harrison Ford returns as Deckard.

The eerie soundtrack hints at Vangelis’ and our visions of its futuristic city are very much like those of the original.  Once again, we get darkness and endless rain.  Yet the impression so much of the film leaves is of whiteness:  dim, misty white daylight in the farmlands and wastelands, white snow falling, the white, sterile environment one character lives in.

Somehow, I appreciate the decision to incorporate a lot of tiny, almost unnoticeable details tying the two films together:  like the Frank Lloyd Wright style textile blocks in both K’s apartment and Deckard’s, or the startling resemblance (and identical costumes) of the replicant hooker, Mariette, and Daryl Hannah’s Pris in the first film.

I was deeply impressed by Denis Villeneuve’s last film, Arrival, even if I found it ultimately disappointing because I couldn’t buy into its absurd underlying idea.  But he has surpassed it here, with a film which deserves to be hailed as a true classic of SF film.

I just hope that it continues to do poorly enough that no one will be willing to invest another 230 Million in a sequel.  The odds of lightning striking the same place twice are very low.

But three times?…

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