Waiting in line at our local community-owned cinema, there was a great buzz in the air. Like me many spectators had seen the original Blade Runner when it was first released in 1982. The popcorn was popping and expectations were high. Too high as it turns out.
To be fair, Blade Runner 2049 has big shoes to fill.
It tries very hard to be faithful to the overwhelming atmosphere of gloom and hopelessness in the original and its opening scenes are memorable and haunting, starting with the flight over a massive solar farm, yet I am left wondering how such a farm could be viable in a world which seldom sees the sun and knows no trees.
Perhaps the solar farm is a relic, long un-used, but some clarity would be helpful. Also, in what must pass for a future Los Angeles, sometimes it rains and sometimes it snows, yet away from the big city, the land is barren, showing little sign of precipitation at all—again, a little explanation wouldn’t be amiss.
An emotional relationship with a holographic character does push to another level the question of what it means to be human. Can one love a person who has no physical reality at all? Apparently. Though a replicant you can actually wrap your arms around seems a better option. Of course this question was addressed a long time ago with the doctor on Star Trek Voyager.
I think what troubles me most about this movie are several fuzzy points in the plot line. The big “reveal” is the knowledge that somehow (via a “miracle” as described by one character) one of the replicants has given birth. So now it will be possible for the replicants to reproduce themselves without the aid of a human engineer. I might swallow this premise if it were part of the Star Wars franchise where there is no pretence about sticking to scientific principles, but the first Blade Runner movie is very self-consistent in this regard and doesn't depend on “miracles” to advance its plot. And even if one replicant has managed to give birth, is this any guarantee that its offspring will be similarly fertile? What about the male replicant’s contribution? None of these questions are addressed.
Also it is never clear to me why there are two groups of replicants with quite different aims: one group, freedom-fighters, I suppose, and the other led by an evil character, Niander Wallace, who seems intent on creating an army of slave robots for his own self-gratification. This villainous character belongs in a Bond film, not here.
I admit that I may be confused about the dynamics between these two groups, but that is no great testimony to the overall impact of the movie. Maybe what I need to do is watch Blade Runner 2047 a second time, 45 years later, to get a proper perspective. Good luck with that.
Perhaps the moral lesson to be drawn from the two Blade Runner movies is that--human or replicant--take any self-aware creatures, and some will be good and some will be bad.
It’s also worth noting that there is a lot shooting and stabbing the Blade Runner 2049—quite a bit more than in the 1982 movie. Is this one of the a priori elements of American Cinema? More guns, more explosions, more gratuitous violence? Where will it all end? There is one scene where Niander Wallace stabs another replicant for no apparent reason that I can see except to show that he is evil. Hmm. Surprised this scene didn’t get
cut. . . .
The 2017 version of Blade Runner has its strengths: The special effects are very good. The movie is more than respectful to the original. The acting is adequate though not spectacular, though Harrison Ford stands a little above the rest in my eyes. Certainly he makes a more interesting blade runner than the dour Ryan Gosling who spends way too much time wondering if he can ever become a “real boy”.
Overall rating: Nice try, but not quite . . . 7/10