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New Release Review - BLADE RUNNER 2049

BLADE RUNNER 2049 review
Belated sequel to Ridley Scott's celebrated 1982 sci-fi noir.







Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Starring: Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Dave Bautista, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Mackenzie Davis, Hiam Abbass, Lennie James, Barkhad Abdi

BLADE RUNNER 2049 poster


Back in the '80s, Hollywood was just as obsessed with nostalgia as it is today. The difference is that the '80s' brand of nostalgia was driven by filmmakers rather than studio execs, with directors like Spielberg, Zemeckis and Dante repackaging the cinematic thrills of their youths for a new generation. Ridley Scott's Blade Runner combined the futuristic visuals of Fritz Lang's silent classic Metropolis with the hard-boiled structure of Film Noir to deliver a film that felt like nothing we had seen before. The famous opening shot of bursts of flame exploding above the LA skyline was inspired by the industrial wasteland that greeted Scott when he pulled open his curtains every morning as a young boy in the North of England.


BLADE RUNNER 2049

Today, Hollywood is increasingly inspired by nothing more than previous movies, and so where Scott's film drew on classic cinema and his real life observations, Denis Villeneuve's belated sequel, Blade Runner 2049, merely draws on the 1982 film in a desperate and misguided attempt to appease fans of the original.

The most memorable scene in an otherwise largely forgettable and excessively lengthy film sees a megalomaniacal android inventor, played by an irritating as ever Jared Leto, attempt to seduce a character with what appears to be a living, breathing reproduction of the woman he once loved. It's only a carbon copy on the surface however. "Her eyes were green," observes the man who once loved her. It's a scene that sums up the folly of Blade Runner 2049, and nostalgia filmmaking in general. Villeneuve's film can pass as a Blade Runner movie on the surface, but get up close and you'll see it's a second rate skin job.


BLADE RUNNER 2049

Where Scott's film was very much a product of the experiential school of cinema, 2049 is primarily focussed on plot mechanics. Where Scott's film was an emotional experience, 2049 is an intellectual one. Where Scott's dropped us off in the rain-soaked streets of an over-populated city, 2049 mostly plays out in a series of rooms, one exposition-heavy conversation after the other, and there doesn't seem to have been any budget allocated for extras. Where Scott's film boasted one of the most iconic scores ever recorded, courtesy of synth wizard Vangelis, 2049's visuals are accompanied by a monotonous drone that sounds like Hans Zimmer suffered a stroke while seated at his keyboard. Where Scott's film ended with a question mark, 2049 concludes with an exclamation, like some crowdfunded movie made to wrap up the storyline of a cancelled TV show.

2049 has more in common with the now disowned by all theatrical cut of the '82 original than with the later, Scott approved edits. Like the patronising voiceover narration that accompanied that version, 2049 gives its titular robo-hunter (Ryan Gosling) a companion in the form of Joi (Ana de Armas), a sort of Amazon Alexa made almost flesh. Joi's primary function is to give the screenwriter a lazy shortcut to convey plot information to the audience through on-the-nose back and forth dialogue. She's the dog from I Am Legend, and every scene she's in is insufferable. Perhaps in a decade or so we'll have a final cut that erases Joi and makes the movie a more rewarding, less insulting experience. The tech involved in this aspect of the film feels well out of whack with the nuts and bolts world of the first film, pushing this sequel into fantasy terrain, and a sex scene involving Joi is almost laughable thanks to how earnestly it's rendered (this movie is so earnest it makes Christopher Nolan seem cheery).


BLADE RUNNER 2049

Gosling can usually liven up the dreariest of movies with his natural charisma, but even he can't bring any life to the dullard he essays here - by comparison, the ever stoic Harrison Ford is positively Nicolas Cage like in his presence - but the greatest hole is the one left by Rutger Hauer. This film has no real 'villain' to compare to his Roy Batty, one of sci-fi cinema's great antagonists; and oh how its functional dialogue could have profited from anything along the lines of Hauer's famously improvised 'Tears in rain' soliloquy. As lifeless as a retired replicant, Blade Runner 2049 is as much fun as counting electric sheep.

Blade Runner 2049 is in UK/ROI cinemas October 5th.



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