Bladerunner 2049 (spoilers)

I watched Bladerunner 2049 at Goldsmith's Curzon cinema and was occularly satiated yet left underwhelmed. The film is visually sumptuous, pacing is indulgently slow and there are some theatrical, almost operatic in stark brutalist interiors, scenes - the most OTT example being the Niander Wallace moments. As dystopian eye-candy goes it was wonderful.

Sadly, the indulgence didn't quite end there and there were times when the presence of an executive's patrician wrinkled white hand was all too obvious. The sex-scene between K, an android, Joi, a hologram product that K is in love with, and Mariette, another android working as a sex-worker felt needless and served nothing other than titillation. It was also, a hologram version of the awkward surrogate sex scene in Jonze's Her. Except in Her the awkwardness and strange distance between the human and the AI's voice felt more poignant for the doomed effort of inserting a corporeal subject into the etherial partner's place. It also served to illustrate the crushing distance between the film's male protagonist and his idealized and incorporeal beloved. Put short: it contributed to the viewers sense of the characters' relationship. But in Bladerunner 2049 there is no doomed, striving, wanting emotion in this scene - because one is already distanced from the relationship between K and Joi. We know they are both machines, the viewer is constantly reminded of K's android nature. Of course, in the first film we empathised with Replicants such as Pris and Roy Batty - but K is a Replicant so stoic and vacant it is difficult to root for him. Perhaps Gosling was the wrong choice for this role? An actor with a more expressive tendency, or just directed to be more expressive, would've been better. This is not a matter of if one can empathize with holograms and androids or not, but a failure of creating a being, be it android, hologram, human or otherwise, that the viewer can empathise with.

The second instance of conservative American values being shoe horned in result in something more fundamental: the ending. I'll make this quick, K finds Deckard, the old android Bladerunner, holed up in the cadaver of a hotel living on whisky with a chummy pooch in tow. Deckard and Rachael had a Replicant child and K takes it upon himself to unite Deckard with his estranged child. After much fighting and some explosions they are reunited. The subtext is that procreation is important, something sacred and precious and family is important too - something that many androids (in a bolted on underground rebellion swell narrative) are willing to die for - not for their own sake but for the principal of their kind being able to procreate. Honorable self sacrifice for a traditional set of values. You'd have to be quite creative to argue that this film is about radical post-humanism. The original was much less wholesome and Spielbergian - at least Deckard was driven by money and his own volition (this is more evident in the Philip K Dick book).

My final irk is the film's willful referencing of the original. I do not mind references to the book (the salesman who tries to sell K a goat or horse is a nice example of this). But the laboured parade of 'fan-doting' passages weighed the film down. In discussing film franchises many excuse this tendency, and chalk it up as a given handicap of sequels and franchises 'oh, but they HAVE to do this for the fans' - but it is not necessary. Mad Max: Fury Road is a brilliant example of a film that departed from its fan-world and previous iterations and emerged as not just more original than all its predecessors but also one of the best, if not the best, action film of its year. Scott could've taken a shot from this flick.

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