Blade Runner 2049

I decided to hurry up and see Blade Runner 2049, once I saw how many pieces are appearing explaining more and more of the plot. Not that anyone's forcing me to read or view those reviews or videos, but just by existing they somehow mess up my anticipation. Am I hypocritically doing the same thing? Well, I'm going to try not to spoil the story. But perhaps what I write here is one of the most redundant offerings to the websphere imaginable; the internet does seem to be flooded with opinions about the film. Which at the very least underlines the place this story has in the culture. Never mind, very few will read this, possibly only the person who prompted me to get my skates on and see it.

Just so you know, I saw the original Blade Runner in the cinema at the time of its release. Along with anyone else I knew, I immediately regarded it as the serious science fiction film I'd always wanted; and irrespective of genre, a monumental piece of cinema. I have the five-version tin box set of dvds. I variously like all three major editions. My familiarity with the original is the only reason I wasn't worried about not watching the original before going to see the new film. Actually, I wasn't sure it would matter much, after all this time. I was wrong. It turned out the new film really is a sequel, and it will add to your experience if you can watch the original film - any of its versions - before seeing the new one.

I saw it yesterday. An afternoon screening in rainy Accrington, with maybe ten others. My age or older. Taken with the number of YouTube videos opining on "Why Blade Runner 2049 flopped", it would be easy to agree that the film has failed to make an impact. Against that, almost everyone who's seen it, not just critics but average fans, and increasingly some friends, have all been wowed. Hard to know, before actually speaking to some 'young people', how much of a generation gap there is, when it comes to appreciating the film. One factor talked about is the pace, slower than audiences are used to now. It is indeed a long film, but that didn't bother me with respect to the story, which seemed to me to have it exactly right, in unfolding, in explaining, in resolving and concluding. However, I confess I came close to failing the physical endurance test: I would quietly recommend one to be judicious about how much liquid one takes on board beforehand. Otherwise, as I say, I think the film is no longer than it needs to be.

I have so many questions about the film. Which I'll leave alone, partly because of spoilers, but really out of wanting to take more time to digest what I've seen, maybe even see it again, with someone else. I want to know why Jared Leto's character kills someone at a certain point. How much coincidence or design is involved in Ryan Gosling's character's part in the story. Whether 'Leto' knows who a certain other character really is - he appears not to - and if not, why not. I want to know... This isn't helping is it? I hope I do see it again soon, because the more I think about it, I want to hear half the conversations all over again, even ones with minor characters.

I also want to relish the performances. I take issue with an opinion I've read more than once, that the actors take a back seat and it's all about the visuals. Well, the visuals are sumptuous. The cinematography expands on the world of Blade Runner even as it remains true to it. It's not just photographic splendour, but spectacle with emotional power, as we're treated to the vistas of the ochre shrouded ruined Earth of 2049.

I think audiences will gradually come to appreciate the emotional grandeur of the acting performances, equally with the visual spectacle. Just as we'll come to think more and more about the film's provocative themes. Those themes, in particular the nature of artificial intelligence, the nature of engineered people, and the question of human identity, aren't novel. But it takes a work of art like this, with those themes explored by the subtle intelligence of these actors, to add depth to our ideas. Every single character in Blade Runner 2049 presents another aspect of these discussions. And, for my part, the compelling performances of the actors behind every artificial character in the story (yes, even including Sylvia Hoeks'!) encourages a belief that humanity may not depend on being human. 2049's future world is one in which life is disposable, and not just for replicants. It's a world in which many kinds of slavery are on display. Negative in so many ways; but the story holds to a sliver of hope, and repeatedly underlines how precious humanity is, in whatever form it is to be found.


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