quinta-feira, outubro 12, 2017

Minor SF Movie: "Blade Runner 2049" by Denis Villeneuve, Ridley Scott


As much as everyone should respect the unbelievable amount of hard work needed to bring to life such a world, I've found it disappointing. I had just watched the original, before going for Blade Runner 2049. At the beginning I appreciated the fact that the movie was apparently trying to give time to the spectator to get immersed in the new world. Not even the original gave out many details about the background of the action: what's happened to Earth, what's the overall condition of Replicants, who really are the characters. Leaving a number of things to imagination is good, when it's done in a balanced way. I don't care to know who (or what) Deckard really is as long as the movie provides me with sufficient hints to guess and to actually appreciate not just the truth but how much and in what ways the truth takes its toll on the characters. Under this respect, K is really a character for which I felt sorry. But at a certain point during the movie, one gets the annoying feeling that SO MUCH is going on in the background that is crucial to the main plot lines and is ready to explode BUT of course that won't be happening in this movie. To this, people and critics may replay that 'the focus of the movie is something else'.

Yes. The original was capable of making us appreciate the sheer nonsense of a degenerated world true the eyes of the characters. This one is extremely vast, grand, that on the one hand succeeds in showing us the void of this vast and ruined world, but on the other hand the characters' reactions, the plot twists, are weak enough to give you the feeling that not much has happened. Sincerely, I think the same has happened with Blade Runner 2049 that had happened with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There are things to be praised. People calling it 'shit' are undercover bots of rival companies. But R. Scott's vice of hinting at things without having the courage or a complete idea of how to play them out is lurking. Alien: Covenant was plagued by the same problem. So much potential.

The original film was a small story that took place in a big world. The small story ended up giving a vivid context for our understanding of the wider world as a whole. This film falls in to the modern trope of the individualist myth where we are once again interested in ‘The Chosen One’. Albeit in this case the hero ends up being adjacent to The One, although we are left thinking that it was him for too long. Thank goodness though, the idea that K is the son of Deckard and the future leader of the Replicant rebellion because he is born of replicant womb is just too eggy for words. This is a shame IMO, the world of the first film extended past the edges of the frame, Deckard seemed to be a small part of a big machine. Just think of the giant police station in the start of the film, it was bustling with people working on cases that we never hear about. Here, K feels like he is in the Truman show, everything is there to inform his story. Even the prostitutes who we think are real inhabitants of the city turn out to be a part of the plot. We never feel the police who yell Skinjob at him in the station are on the way to somewhere else here, they are only there to give context to K. While this is not unusual for a film, I think it is a terrible shame because one of the great strengths of the original was the way active life seemed to be so active beyond the story. Aside from a couple of moments, this new film’s world feels dead.

The other point I think is worth raising is that the plot of replicants having sex and having baby replicants is just plain stupid. It is stupid for a great many reasons, without getting into the absurd technical issues, primarily, it’s stupid because it totally undermines the central question of the original film - At what point does a machine have a soul? Here, we are offered the entirely unsatisfactory answer, at the point they are able to be born of womb. Huh? Really??

From there, we are headed down the all-too-familiar story of protecting the Chosen One who can unite the rebellion against the oppressive regime, while the baddies who want to find her to exploit her for the powers of evil. Yadayada Sigh.

The ending is still also bugging me. The film's spell started to unravel for me when “dying for the right cause is the most human thing you can do” woman turned up (I thought that assertion, assuming you agree with it, should have been something that K realised for himself) and I didn't feel anything when K died. Which was a proper shock, a nasty "is that it?" moment. And once the unraveling started, things like the appearance of another Rachel during Deckard's interrogation just seemed slightly silly / self-indulgent, even though it was something that someone as unhinged as Wallace would do. It destroyed my hope that the role of Deckard + references to "Blade Runner 2019" would be minimal and subtle. And after that, fading interest / involvement meant that the action set-piece at the end was just that. The only part of the finale that worked for me was K's realisation of what Joi really was (or might have been), and that worked because I had fallen for Joi too / had started to believe that she was more than a mere program (but humans and replicants are mere programs too etc.), and the contrast between his developed Joi (possibly the best thing and the best performance in the film) and "blank" Joi was startling. I wondered if that scene would have worked better as a death / final scene (with "you are a real normal Joe" being this film's iconic line").

Bottom-line: Didn't want or expect Deckard to survive. Didn't want or expect to have the identity of the child to be revealed. Didn't want or expect them to be reunited etc. That's just where I thought the film was going; I didn't have a different story in my head at the beginning. I'll have to watch it again and see if I connect with the ending more, might be worth it just for transition where the embers from a fire turn in to lights in windows...After just one viewing I think the movie should have been about much much more.


4 comentários:

Book Stooge disse...

I watched the original twice just to make sure I didn't like it, so my expectations for this are about zero. I'm expecting an action SF movie that I'll watch while typing up some reviews or reading and commenting on other people's posts, ie, how I do all my movie watching recently :-)

The thing is, I keep saying "I'm going to watch movie X when I get a chance", but I've said that about 5-10 movies in the last year and you know? I've not watched one of them. Tv shows, movies, I just can't pay them full attention. I wish I could say that I was getting wiser and more mature but honestly I'm just getting less and less patient with things that don't matter to me.

Manuel Antão disse...

As the years go by, I'm more and more like that... I'm choosing more carefully what I read and watch...

Anónimo disse...

I was quite impressed by the film, though I'm sure that when I watch it again I may become more critical. I was tickled by the one joke, when K meets Deckard's dog - "Is it real?" "I don't know. Ask it."

Perhaps the one impression I took away from the film was the realisation, about half-way through, that nearly all the characters we were seeing or had seen were either replicants or other AIs. Is this how our world will look as we get replaced by robots?

I gather that this film has also recapitulated the box office performance of the original, in that it's not been a stupendous success. Perhaps we will have to let it mature in the shelf before we can come to any conclusions about it, either for or against according to our tastes.

Manuel Antão disse...

Thanks for commenting Robert.

The only thing I know is that I loved Blade Runner in 1982 when I first watched it, and not so much the 2017 version.

We'll talk again in 20 years time. :)