On Saturday I went to see Bladerunner 2049 and I’m going to talk about bits of it now. The post will contain major plot spoilers so if you haven’t seen it, don’t read any further.
We are in the middle of a heatwave in Paris and it had obviously taken the cinema’s climate control system by surprise. The theatre was packed to the brim and the film 2 hours and 43 minutes long during which we sweltered to the point a number of people got up and left. Perhaps it was the heat which caused tempers to fray in the back row about three minutes in, when an argument started between a black guy and a bearded hipster over the latter’s smoking of an e-cigarette. Harsh words were spoken by the black fella before he belted the hipster straight in the face, causing half the theatre to gasp and the other half to shout at them to shut the fuck up. People intervened to stop the hipster getting destroyed, and he slunk off to find one of the few empty seats. Calm was restored and we got on with the rest of the film. I have to say, I’ve spent a lot of time in cinemas and I’ve never seen a fight break out before. Headline: Is Paris the new Manchester?
The first hour and a half of the film was excellent. The visuals are stunning and the story builds slowly, something rare in blockbuster films these days. Most modern sci-fi or fantasy films lurch from set-piece to set-piece at a pace I think is designed to stop the viewer picking up on glaring inconsistencies in the story or asking awkward questions. Or perhaps it’s just lazy writing? Either way, these films are more like special effects demonstrations than proper stories. Prometheus and Alien:Covenant were possibly the worst offenders I’ve seen in recent times. The Dark Knight Rises was like watching a football match consisting of only free-kicks and corners with no build-up play in between. Refreshingly, Bladerunner 2049 let the plot unfold slowly, too much so for some I’m sure, but for me it was perfect.
That said, the film was too long, probably by half and hour. There were some scenes which could easily have been removed: the police chief turning up in K’s apartment drinking vodka, for example. The character of Wallace could probably have been dispensed with almost entirely, or his scenes cut down. The one where he kills a new replicant while mumbling the gibberish of a God complex added no value whatsoever. I realised afterwards that I couldn’t recall what happened to him at the end, so little did I care. But the film’s biggest mistake was bringing back Harrison Ford as Deckard.
Half the problem is that we’ve already had a film where Harrison Ford turns up partway through as an old man, reprising a role from when he was a cool young buck in the 1980s: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (You could even argue that this is the third time, if we count the God-awful Indiana Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). Ford looked practically the same in each film, with the same mannerisms and way of speaking, to the point I felt like I’d seen these scenes already. If Bladerunner 2049 wanted to be a masterpiece it probably shouldn’t use a similar plot device from another film using the same iconic actor.
The other half of the problem is I thought the film lost its way at that point. The fight between K and Deckard was unnecessary, as was most of the subsequent dialogue. The scene in the bar with the whisky was cute, but seemed out of place and undid much of the film’s painstaking work in building up a tense, surreal atmosphere. I felt from then on the focus on Gosling, which had been wonderfully intense, became diluted as the scriptwriters were forced to include Deckard. I get the impression the producers thought writing in such an iconic figure would be a good selling point, but in doing so they weakened the film. Personally, I thought it went downhill from the moment he entered the story.
That’s not to say it was ruined, though. The magnificence of the first half, particularly the visuals and sound – this film really does need to be seen in the cinema – and a solid enough performance by everyone throughout carried things through to a decent conclusion, and I don’t think anyone would be disappointed. Their arses might be numb though, and at least one person will have a sore hand and another a sore face.