BLUNT: BLADE RUNNER 2049

BLUNT: BLADE RUNNER 2049

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In 1981, Scott directed Blade Runner, a vexing, iconic work of noirish science fiction adapted from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a novel by author Philip K Dick.

Dick is presently enjoying a posthumous, contemporary renaissance — see Stan’s Philip K Dick’sElectric Dreams, produced by Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, for example.

Thirty six years on from the original release of Blade Runner — Scott’s original, critically tepid meditation on identity and humanity — has warranted a belated sequel.

Blade Runner 2049, released today, was not directed by Scott.

Scott, instead, opted to film a sequel to Prometheus, arguably the fifth film in the Alien franchise. That sequel, this year’s Alien: Covenant, could fairly be dismissed as an unfortunate cover version of the original Alien film.

In the annals of adult science fiction cinema — meaning we’re not counting The Empire Strikes Back — there are generally two classic sequels considered beyond reproach.

Terminator 2, written and directed by series mastermind James Cameron, raised the bar in terms of scale, special effects and blockbuster emotional stakes.

Aliens, which was also directed by Cameron — fresh from the original Terminator — adapted his military fetish while tweaking the nascent cinematic feminism of director Scott’s sophisticated horror aesthetic from the original Alien.

One wonders what would have resulted if the English director, like Cameron, had returned to film the sequel to Blade Runner, which has become, over time, his most critically dissected work.

Instead, feted French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, who engineered last year’s timely, contemplative alien visitation film Arrival, is at the helm.

Frustratingly, the notion of simulacrum — the disappointing reproduction of an original — lurks at the heart of 2049, much as it does Scott’s Covenant.

Villeneuve’s film, like Scott’s recent, ill-considered remix, obsesses on creation myths, from the Bible to Shelley’s Frankenstein and onwards, prodding at the fringes of profundity whilst also wallowing in sophomoric ennui.

A character actually walks into hell, for example, whilst another expounds upon matters existential and then murders his own creation.

Philosophising on the notion of creation seems to be an especially de rigueur trope of late — see Darren Aronofsky’s recent mother! for another, considerably more histrionic example.

Blade Runner 2049, unfortunately, evokes thematic and aesthetic comparisons to this year’s heavily derided Ghost In The Shell — ironic considering the latter’s heavy debt to the former’s cinematic language.

Ryan Gosling plays the lead role of Officer K, a blade runner whose job it is to find and kill artificial humans ‘replicants’ while Harrison Ford returns as the original film’s contentious protagonist, the blade runner Rick Deckard.

It also features veteran actor Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica) and the frequently derided Jared Leto (Requiem for a Dream).

Villeneuve’s film, whilst often visually arresting, is mostly akin to swimming through warm, slowly setting thematic concrete.

Typical of 2017 filmmaking, Blade Runner 2049 must conform to certain tropes — whilst also aspiring to the lofty bar set by the original.

Unfortunately, these tropes include the erasure of women, predictable fisticuffs and the confirmation of protagonists as somehow ‘chosen’.

Blade Runner 2049, whilst immaculately crafted and reverent to the original — to a fault — is a Greatest Hits album with a couple of extra tracks, begging the question: was it really necessary?

This review originally appeared Crosslight.


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