It's got an R. Okay, my brain is fading. I took me a while to think of why this movie would be "R". Besides the violence and the generally disturbing tone, I forgot about lots of naked hologram people. That might earn it an "R", right. There's also a really weird sex scene. I don't remember it being all that graphic, but it sure is weird. Does weird make a scene more "R" worthy? Look at me, analyzing life...
DIRECTOR: Denis Villeneuve
I like this guy a lot. I was super impressed by Arrival and when I saw that Villeneuve was going to be taking over for Ridley Scott, (note: I was still weirdly bummed that Scott himself wasn't going to be directing this movie), I was very okay with it. Listen, if you haven't seen the trailer for Blade Runner 2049 by this point, do yourself a favor and watch it. I don't care how interested you are in seeing the movie. It is a pretty looking film. I have to actually credit Villeneuve and the folks who cut the trailer for making me give a crap about Blade Runner enough to give it a third chance. Heck, had it not been for that trailer and the amazing reviews, I might still have my initial opinion that Blade Runner is for snobby folks who are just pretending. Now I just think that I'm a snobby folk who is pretending. That's better, right?
To clear up anything that might happen in this review (and I tend to do this a lot), I loved this movie. I had a really good time with it and so did Lauren. I give Lauren more credit for her enthusiasm towards this film because A) she's pregnant and constantly in the mood to puke or sleep and B) she had never seen the original Blade Runner. That might be a testament to how good this movie is. But I will say, it is pretentious as all get out. I just mentioned that the original Blade Runner could be a movie for people who think they are deep (and they are!), Blade Runner 2049 takes that to a whole new level. This movie says "YOU NEED TO THINK! STOP TRYING NOT TO!" That's not the worst thing in the world. The way that Villeneuve does that is that he takes the OG Blade Runner's already murderously slow pacing and takes that to half speed. Ryan Gosling runs nowhere. (Okay, in the trailer, he runs a bit.) But while he is investigating --slow walk. He stalks everything. Oh, and the thing that he is looking for is in the back of every building he enters. Villeneuve is not going to cut to that location for us. We are going to get a complete tour of the building because those buildings are fascinating. That's great and I don't mind boring, but I have that horror that comes with "Is my wife having a good time?" But she did, so yay! I've never seen a sequel completely invest in an an aspect of the first film's framework so heavily. Like, the first movie is a sci-fi action movie that is straight up boring. Which part of that sentence should we focus on in the second movie? The boring part. But I don't mind. I'm an old man who shows off how he can handle boring things, so it's just giving me street cred.
2049 kind of messes with my head a bit. For those not in the know, the first movie teases a concept very lightly. One of the questions that's floated around is "Is Deckard a replicant?" Because it is adapted from a Phillip K. Dick novel (which I hear full on answers that question), it is meant to keep the audience pondering about this what-should-be considered vital question. On top of that, there are multiple prints of the first movie that either answer that questions with multiple definite conclusions or leaves that idea ambiguous. Clearly, a sequel that touches on the themes of uniqueness and life should address that question. And when I was watching 2049, I was watching it with the thought that Deckard is completely a replicant and that this movie put that idea to bed. Then Lauren said, "No, the movie says the opposite. In no way is Deckard a replicant." We debated the whole way home (No irony involved: Completely civily) and realized that, whatever theory you had going into this movie is reinforced. The movie is two separate movies. You think that the movie confirms your bias, but it really doesn't. It tells the two very different stories depending on your theory ahead of time. How do you do that? It really doesn't matter what print of the film you saw ahead of time because it works regardless. How bananas is that? On top of that, it makes that theme important without harping on it at all. After all, Harrison Ford,who played Deckard in both movies, doesn't show up until two hours into a 2 hr 45 minute movie. The story is about Gosling's character and his unique romantic scenario. AMBIGUOUS SPOILER: It touches on a lot of themes that I loved in Her, but takes them in a slightly different direction.
I am now questioning the nature of science fiction. The thing about science fiction that I always appreciated is that the genre is meant to make the audience question reality. It is a commentary on our social norms and what we consider taboo. Blade Runner 2049 is definitely a thinking movie that makes us question norms, but I kind of wonder to what end. Is science fiction getting us ready for moral scenarios that are around the corner, or are they addressing issues that already exist. ACTUAL SPOILER BECAUSE I'M SICK OF BEATING AROUND THE BUSH. While the story surrounds Joe's love of his AI hologram, there are multiple moments where the film implies that the AI is simply following rote programming. The same thing is addressed on HBO's Westworld. While the Turing Test is extremely interesting and fascinating from a thinking perspective, there seems to be a moral issue that we are not in a place in civilization to deal with yet. Is life simply composed of what is or isn't organic? Does thought preclude the idea of a soul? These are heavy issues that are great to discuss, but I have no way to react in a constructive way shy of having a blog. One day, this might be something that I'm arguing pretty heavily, but is this a morality exercise that might prove ultimately fruitless? It's odd because I have strong opinions about something that currently doesn't matter and these opinions may never matter.
I really like this movie and it's a bummer that no one really went to go see it. Sure, the hardcore film nerds are circling their wagons around it. The small theater I saw it in was full, but I know that it wasn't reflective of what happened across America. The movie is pretty great, but it also requires such a degree of patience that I can see that no one who just wants to unwind with a fun, sci-fi action movie wouldn't want to see it. If I had to be critical of one other thing, the movie really does lack any sense of fun. That sense of fun is not a prerequisite for a movie, but the movie does live in a very somber place. The audience is given a level of responsibility to the film. They must come in, ready to be patient. In many ways, this movie is like going to the opera. It is beautiful and challenging and long. You feel great for having seen it and you probably would see it again. But did you have fun? Probably not.
Great. Now I made enemies with the opera crowd that reads my page.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.