Now call me naive but I always thought that replicants were androids: incredibly lifelike robots almost indistinguishable from humans, but the opening text of Blade Runner 2049 clarifies that replicants are actually bioengineered humans, that is to say genetically modified humans, which to me makes some of the moral questions that the first film throws up a lot easier to answer.
This film is a sequel to the first and refers to it a fair bit, so definitely see that one first if you haven’t already. 2049 has the same feel to future L.A. and this time chiefly concerns K (Ryan Gosling), who is one of a “new breed of replicants who obey”, and works for the LAPD “retiring” older model replicants. Ryan Gosling looks great and I loved his coat, jumper and stubbley style, and the role suits his acting well: lots of looking unemotionally at things and sitting in vehicles. Sylvia Hoeks as Luv at the Wallace corporation was excellent. At one point in the film she is reclining, having her nails done and at the same time directing aerial missile strikes from the corporate headquarters (which must have been an architects dream commission and is full of so many water pools and so much mood lighting that it looks like a spa hotel for evil couples). Jared Leto as Niander Wallace however was not at all excellent: an unconvincing pantomime villain and the first scene he appears in also felt needlessly gratuitous in terms of violence and nudity, perhaps in an attempt to make up for the character’s shortcomings. (The film seems to have a pretty equitable balance as far as men and women are concerned apart from a couple of scenes where the director appeared to have been a bit horny. Las Vegas nude female statues and huge holographic adverts for naked electronic assistants admittedly aren’t technically actual women, but nevertheless felt a little superfluous to the plot!).
That said the world created is a visual masterpiece. It is very consistent with the original film – that sort of 80s nostalgic future – with some simply incredible establishing shots. But for all its visual beauty it is very bleak: the world has gotten worse, very aggressive and almost desperately violent at times. The soundtrack conveys this too with lots of groaning, bleak chords and industrial noises.
At its core though and emerging (finally) at the end of the film amongst at the dystopia is a positive message: what makes you human is not the method of your arrival into the world, but your capacity for compassion.
4 on 5
Director: Denis Villeneuve
UK Release: 5th October 2017
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Ana De Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Harrison Ford
[TAGS: blade runner, Los Angeles, L.A., sci-fi, future, science fiction, K, Deckard, Denis Villeneuve, Gosling, Robin Wright, Ana De Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Harrison Ford, film review]