I re-watched Blade Runner 2049 the other night as I had purchased it and wanted to look upon again with fresh eyes. I had said in my initial review that I would speak further on it once everyone had seen it. I am certainly no spoiler of films. Enough time has passed, and fair warning that I will include spoilers shortly in this commentary on this sequel.
So we are 30 years beyond the ending of Blade Runner, in whatever variation and cut that you saw. In the end, Deckard was fleeing LA in his car with replicant Rachel. His Blade Runner colleague, played by Edward James Almos states with echoes bouncing off the walls “too bad she won’t live…..but then again, who does?”….
Blade Runner was a look and feel movie, where the set and production design is a character. Rain, buildings, billboards, street speak, noodles were all part of this futuristic world. This films takes the concepts and pushes the envelope. And push it out mightily. Blade Runner was also about its music and sounds, from Vangelis, who provided a synthetic sound backdrop to a future world perfectly. Together the sets and sounds made Blade Runner an immersive experience. There were characters sure, and a plot but you were transported into the future, and not just onto a set. Denis Villeneuve, fresh off his Arrival experience, is an excellent choice by Ridley Scott (producer) to take the banner of his brainchild forward. He believes in real. Doesn’t like green screen. He wants his actors in the sets and feeling the spaces around them. Here he has various unique locations; from downtown LA in rain and skyscrapers, to a junkyard outside San Diego, to farmer’s fields and then Vegas, in its rundown glory. I have to confess that I didn’t catch on to the Vegas bit on first viewing but got it the second. I noticed the tables before and Elvis of course in lounge, but I got the reference better here and it was more impactful. I believe that every one of the Oscar nominations here were merited, and will make this a difficult film to beat for those. We will see. One could ignore the plot completely and storyline and marvel at the music (so pronounced and contributing – now Hans Zimmer shared with Benjamin Wallfisch). Zimmer has had a brilliant career, and a frequent Scott collaborator as well as Christopher Nolan.
Now to the plot. Some have called the movie misogynistic with the treatment of the female characters and this was partly to blame for the lack of box office success (ie: women just didn’t like it). Perhaps these are the same people who felt Deckard was raping Rachel in the apartment scene with them in the original. I have stated emphatically that I disagree with that characterization. Others have stated that Deckard was the real villain in the film and also a Replicant himself. I disagree with those as well. Much of the killing to address that, and the violent killing takes place at the hands of a woman in this updated version. She is ruthless in her disposition of those seen as being in her way, almost Terminator-like.
Ryan Gosling plays a Replicant, a newer model, who is more obedient, but also a Blade Runner. He is meant to “retire” older Replicants. In his travels he hears about a “miracle” and then the bones of an old Replicant who was buried and appears to have died in child birth.
Tangentially, I was struck on second viewing with the parallels to not only Prometheus and Alien Covenant (and the themes of creation and God) but of the Christ story itself. Much effort is made on two sides to track down this unique child; one to prevent war and destruction as “the walls come down” from Gosling’s boss, but also from the new Tyrell who can’t “make” Replicants fast enough and needs to find out the truth of Replicants who can give birth. Those who know the truth are slaughtered unmercifully on either side. Stories are told and leads followed to find and seek the truth of the miraculous birth! All in the name of saving society, and more so the “souls” of the Replicants. I think that this aspect of the film, or at least my interpretation of it, make the film more impactful.
But continuing on, Gosling searches and has the belief that he himself is the child. He is the right age. He has memories that come true. Realizing later, in one the major findings of the film that he is NOT the one, also puts his life in perspective.
Layer upon this the added theme of artificial or projected beings, similar to the treatment in Her, where a character who is real falls for and has a real relationship with “an operating system” shows the modern society where the being avoids human contact with real humans to stay true to his virtual companion.
In the end, you are left with the Gosling character fulfilling what he feels is his destiny. He recognizes and rewards the earlier sacrifice of Deckard. He sees value in contributing in this way.