Blade Runner 2049

****

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Blade Runner 2049
"It is Blade Runner."

I felt much the same way walking into Blade Runner 2049 as I did before seeing The Force Awakens. For different reasons the two originals are regarded as touchstones of a genre woolly enough to include them both, and while differently fantastic both are similarly grounded. They're also both as frequently revisited, for all the portentous fooferaw about Campbellian monomyth one of the reasons that Star Wars is such a striking entity is that it has been re-drafted, re-constructed, shaped by multiple attempts towards a particular vision, to the point where there is a particular feel to it, a sense of shape and a shape of sense that is unequivocally Star Wars. With different eyes and visions so too Blade Runner. So as the question was with Episode VIII in an intermittent cycle, how stands this second outing?

It is Blade Runner. We could talk about opening texts and the presence of the Atari logo in cityscapes or the sight of a flying car over energy towers in a future Los Angeles and iconic coats and casual integration of technologies and a sense of a lived futurity, of something that bears not only dirt but signs of someone having attempted to clean it, the 'kipple' that ur-creator Philip K Dick referred to in several of his works - the inevitable detritus of industrial existence, the litter of lives lived. We could talk about symbology and iconography and looping allusions in the form of a nod and a wink and a "something in his eye" and the use of a particular verb for ceasing to be employed and even entities reconstructed by layered trickeries. We could talk about gender politics that show no reflection of filming in the space year 2017 (do androids dream of electric housewives?). We could talk about the neo-noirish repertoire of molls and muscle, dead dames and madams. We could talk about that neo-noirish cast to affairs and a cast less diverse than might be expected and a sense of place and time that is inevitably reflective.

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It is Blade Runner. We could talk about a sense that this is a reflection on the act of creation, on how strikingly perfect a particular hologram between two particular characters is in the sense of re-versioning and re-imagining and re-invention and re-franchising and re-financing. We could talk about performances - some more minimal than others, some more deserving of minimisation than others. We could talk about lifespans - at a hair under two and three fourths hours it is perhaps as long as it feels the need to be but perhaps it ought to have been less. We could talk about particular moments - someone's hands are clean in a way that makes me wonder, now, still, hours later, if they ought to have been. We could talk for a while.

It is Blade Runner. We could talk, but we would be wasting time, when we could be looking. In a succession of moments Villeneuve and his effects team create places that feel all sorts of real, layers of creation and re-creation and imposition and super-imposition. Striking moments of looming from shadows and emerging from dust and snow and waves and skies and ceilings and on and on. We could talk about a wooden horse, a dead tree steadied by guy-wires.

It is Blade Runner. We could talk, but we would be wasting time, when we could be looking. In moments that feel more kink- than queer-coded we could and are looking at a 2.5some and desire made flesh and a name that's an apposite acronym that you shouldn't google and a sense of a community separated from itself in time by 'the blackout'.

It is Blade Runner. We could talk, but we would be wasting time, when we could be looking. In wastelands moral and physical, characters stalk and scurry and stamp and sidle and slide and scheme and stand and stare and stock still, subsumed, sit in wastelands moral and physical that feel as real as anything real. Architectures of authority. More human than human.

It is Blade Runner. We could talk, and we would be wasting time, about the act of looking. In a sense of re-visiting that recalls Director's and Final cuts, the three sides to every story, the business of memory and invention, to borrow elsewhere from that ur-creator's oeuvre the weaknesses of recall. There is talk of recording, of finding things lost - hard here not to remember VHS, Laserdisc, work-prints in the meta-narrative. There is a meditation on creation and re-creation, but this film's blind watchmaker is less kindly than any God, even if he is American. There is a meditation on conception, on how success has many parents (and it is mostly fathers - that gender politics again), and in strongly subtle moments there are also countervailing clumsinesses. One moment exists solely to make a question of intent unequivocal, a definite answer that disappoints in a film that otherwise seeks to ask questions, even answering them with more. The joker in the pack is that the oldest question from Bladerunner still remains open, even after that director has had his final say.

It is Blade Runner. It sounds, looks, feels, like twenty seventeen imagining twenty fifty-ish in the same way that it felt like nineteen eighty imagining two years from now, informed throughout by someone writing about further in the future from further back. There's a definite sense of the Gibsonian - shades of Peripheral jackpots and Neuromantic silent snow - but perhaps that's ur-chitect of cyberpunk reflected in mirrorshades than explicit homage. My eyes give away secrets too. It sounds like it ought, no noise out of place, looks like it ought, though there's few forms of product placement more explicit than building height neon. It's empathetic too - and this a real strength - a Mercer box has been replaced by the equivalent of Siri or Alexa but nonetheless, it feels like it ought. So you should see it.

Reviewed on: 05 Oct 2017
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Blade Runner 2049 packshot
An LAPD officer makes a discovery that leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard, a former blade runner who has been missing for 30 years

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Angus Wolfe Murray **

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writer: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green, based on characters from the novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Carla Juri, Hiam Abbass, Lennie James, Edward James Olmos

Year: 2017

Runtime: 163 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US, UK, Canada

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