Bladerunner 2049

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.

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14 thoughts on “Bladerunner 2049

  1. I’ve been avoiding this film based on what I saw in the preview. One of the things that made the original film work so well was the fact that Ford was always almost out of his depth. With each replicant battle he just scraped through by the skin of his teeth.

    And yet in the preview we have Gosling looking positively bored as he calmly blows all and sundry away, which seems to be the standard moniker for action heroes these days.

    Also, what about the music? The original Vangelis score was one of the best aspects of the film. Have they just ripped that off or is it mostly forgettable? (The fact that you didn’t comment on it makes me assume the latter.)

  2. And yet in the preview we have Gosling looking positively bored as he calmly blows all and sundry away, which seems to be the standard moniker for action heroes these days.

    Yes, he’s pretty much immortal. Seems to take being knifed/shot/beaten rather better than I would, at any rate.

    Also, what about the music?

    Alas, I’m the wrong guy to ask: I saw the original a couple of weeks ago and didn’t much notice the music. Unless there are specific songs in the soundtrack, I tend to focus more on the cinematography.

  3. Well, there’s also The Dark Knight Rises, but I wasn’t going to mention it.

    Oof. Monday morning…

  4. I still can’t make up my mind whether I liked it or not.

    The plot did go all squiffy towards the end and I agree that much could be cut, apart from Jared Leto, who ought to have been cut and then slapped for his self-indulgent wank.

    The action scenes suffered from being like all the action scenes in everything for the past 20 years or so. Sub-chop socky nonsense. Never mind replicant Ryan being tough, even if Deckard was the world’s fittest 70-something (unlikely since even his dog’s an alkie) he ought to have been dead.

    I liked Harrison Ford though. I thought he was much better than in Indy Jones 4 and Star Wars v2. Of course both of those films were absolute rubbish (even though The Force Awakens had some good bits).

  5. Also, even in a nice cinema with comfy seats and aircon, my arse was starting to go numb about 2 hours in.

    Is vaping allowed in French cinemas? A punch in the face is a bit harsh, but I wouldn’t tolerate it (it’s illegal here in HK). I can barely imagine how annoying a French hipster would be…

  6. It was a great sequel. I winced at the trailer, thinking they had just created an action film with Blade Runner in the title. I was so glad it was like the original and slow.

    Quality sequel. I cant see any blemish on the first film, this adds a lot. A rare thing in cinema where a sequel extends the enjoyment of the original rather than takes it away.

  7. Rob, agree with that, considering how badly it could have been, I think it was great. Miles, miles better than trash like Prometheus.

    Would be quite happy to see all of Jared Leto cut though. He didn’t add anything at all.

  8. Is vaping allowed in French cinemas?

    Probably not, but this being France:

    1) Who knows for sure?
    2) Even if it were against the law, would it still be allowed?

    A punch in the face is a bit harsh,

    I thought so too.

    but I wouldn’t tolerate it (it’s illegal here in HK).

    No, it’s pretty anti-social and if he got asked nicely once and mouthed off…well, you takes your chances.

    I can barely imagine how annoying a French hipster would be…

    To be fair, they’re not as annoying as Anglo-Saxon hipsters. They’re basically normal, annoying Frenchmen with slightly longer beards than normal.

  9. To steal from my Twitter post and expand it a bit: It was a very good 115-minute SF movie made by Blade Runner fans given $200 million, intercut with an above-average 50-minute SyFy Original Movie called “Blade Runner 2”. You can almost see the seams where the two different films were jammed together.

    I liked it. I don’t think I feel any need to see it a second time, although I’ll probably buy the Blu-Ray.

    I really wish that they’d just made a whole movie about Ryan Gosling and his 2-D Waifu; or a whole movie about Jared Leto’s musings on how to create a race from nothing, and what it means to create empathetic beings and then force them to murder; or a whole movie about how you do police work in the future. And instead we got, um, bits of all of those, wrapped up with a Hollywood-style laser fight.

    Adam: There’s a reason Gosling is so blase about getting punched and stabbed and shot. Say what you want about the film, there’s no ambiguity to who the characters are the way there was in the first movie.

  10. Welcome DensityDuck, and thanks for the comment!

    You can almost see the seams where the two different films were jammed together.

    Yes.

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