Sunday, 15 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

A Blade Runner (Ryan Gosling) working for the LAPD is tasked with unravelling a secret that has him questioning his own identity.

It's no surprise this hasn't been performing financially as well as people had hoped (or the studio had expected) in cinemas. This is nothing to with quality (indeed, critics have loved it). Instead, it's seemingly to do more with the fact that the original 'Blade Runner', regardless of the version, is a somewhat niche film to the average audience member (despite its major impact on cinema) and that this latest film was coy about sharing plot details (understandable as even a basic synopsis can be a spoiler) leaving the marketing to rely on flashy visuals that ultimately made the substance of the film appear questionable. Also, a 164 minute runtime can be a little daunting.

It's hard to tell how those new to 'Blade Runner' would react to this. I'll never be able to see this without knowing the first film so I'm already clued into the world, the characters who are carried over, the tone and ideas and so on. And '2049' is a surprisingly faithful continuation of what was previously established and, in the early stages, there is a relief that they've managed to avoid botching it. They don't turn it into some hectic CGI beat-em-up with loud chases and multiple explosions. Yes, it is very effects heavy (and they are very good), but these are used to world build and don't get int he way of the story.

And I have to say that the visuals and world building was great. While such landscapes are the norm in sci-fi these days (a lot of this, for example, looks like 'Ghost in the Shell' from earlier this year, but that would have been based on the original 'Blade Runner'), the film does a good job and not making it feel like something that is run-of-the-mill. While perhaps it could have done with a few more street-level moments (crowded streets and all that felt a little absent as Gosling explores the more isolated areas), there's still plenty to appreciate and gawk at (especially through the lense of Roger Deakins) that will have you accept that this is the continuation of the grim future world that the original will tell you is two years from now.

The story itself, as I said, is a bit difficult to discuss without straying into a potential spoiler. The less you know going in, the better. Personally, I did feel the plot was fairly predictable or, at least, played in such a way that made key moments a little too obvious (it shows its hand and overplays things a little too early) but otherwise its an interesting story that allows the film to explore the variety of themes to do with identity, humanity, memory, you get the idea. And the film patiently moves its way through each moment with more composed editing and calm staging keeping it in tune with the original film. Actually, the film is very happy to takes its time as many scenes in the film could be plucked out with little effect to the story. The reason why they're there is to seemingly give a further exploration of the world as well as develop some of the characters and reinforce/prepare the themes the film is after.

I will mention, though, that I did have the conclusion of the film on my first viewing ruined by a man who decided it was a good idea to either answer his phone or make a call (I couldn't tell which) and have a lengthy conversation right at the end. This was horribly frustrating as this was the where the film was concluding the film and I missed any impact that may have had thanks to that idiot.

The film does make the occasional false step (there are some scenes that I didn't like the inclusion of as it felt like it cheapened things or were too obvious about what it was doing) but, on the whole, this was a surprisingly good and faithful follow-up. To the uninitiated, again, I'm not sure what they'll think. At best I'd say that if you liked 'Arrival' (same director), then there'll be appeal in this. If you didn't like the original then this may not be for you. It's hard to tell. However, I thought this was a well-designed, visually stunning, and narratively thoughtful film that felt like a proper follow-up to 'Blade Runner'.

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