Blade Runner 2049 @ Les Rendez-vous du Cinema Quebecois

I am sure that many fans of the first film, which is considered essential science fiction viewing, were more than a little nervous when it was announced that director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Polytechnique) was going to make another Blade Runner film. It has been 35 years in between films and fans’ ardour for the original has not dulled any. Villeneuve is a director on a winning streak with several strong films in a row. He was taking a big risk with this one. But if anyone was going to take on this sci fi behemoth he is the man. Enough of an artist that he would bring something new and fresh to the story, but enough of a science fiction fan that he would remain faithful to the film and genre.

This is a sequel to the original which takes place 30 years later. LAPD officer K (Ryan Gosling – La La Land, Drive) is a Blade Runner. His job, as assigned by his boss Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright – from television’s House of Cards), is to locate and “retire” old replicants or artificial humans which are hiding out around the Los Angeles area. While on the Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista – Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick) case he uncovers a long hidden secret which ends up linked to the missing for decades, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford – Witness, Raiders of the Lost Ark). Huge, the secret has the possibility of sending society into a state of chaos.

Make no mistake about the fact that this is an adult film. Meaning the concepts are complex. Your attention and brain matter will both be put to use. It will as much of you, though giving in return. By giving I first of all mean in regards to the visuals. They are stellar. Cinematographer Roger Deakins (Skyfall, Fargo) has turned in what I consider to be his best work here. Every frame gives your eyes something to delight in whether it be colour, shadows, light or crispness. It is so good that at certain points I did not even want to risk blinking to take it all in. The world here is at the same time bleak, but stunning. Blackout, twisted steel structures, empty wastelands, crowded streets, and even an orphanage. All are seemingly without colour and yet still great to look at.

Supplementing the visuals is some great sounds. The soundtrack is by the master Hans Zimmer, so there is not much to add to his already established legend. As for all the sound effects, etc. they are imposing and important. Full of bass and sounding like everything is happening right around you gives everything happening an immediacy and realism.

Like Ridley Scott’s (who is involved in this one as a producer) original Blade Runner, the film asks the most basic of question of what it means to be human. Rather contemplative, it is not a film that is going to appeal to everyone. Some will find it too cerebral and long. Others will delight in all the layers and symbolism. The storyline, written by Blade Runner screenwriter Hampton Fancher, never falls prey to the obvious or predictable.

My whole problem with this film, and it is a rather individual one, is that I am done with dystopian films. There has been such a glut of them in the past five years or so that it has become too much for me. It is obviously something that is preoccupying people. We are worried about the condition of this fragile planet we live on due to all the abuses humans have put it through. We seem to worry about destroying it to the point where it is not habitable. That is a reality. That worry (without much effort from humans to do what it takes to reverse or stop the damage done) has seeped into art. Film being one of the mediums most affected. Oodles of zombie, plague, animals taking over, diseases, catastrophic war films have come out as a result. Apocalypses happen then we are left with a world/planet that is barely recognizable. I have had it up to here with films of this ilk made largely by men that show us they are worried about Earth yet not willing to offer any guidance or answers. Pfft!

Much was talked about, in regards to this film, about how poorly it did at the box office. It has been labeled as a failure. I would not go that far. Like its predecessor I am sure the legend of and respect felt for this film will grow as the years go on.

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