Published on: October 13, 2017
Count me among the folks who were very excited for Blade Runner 2049
, the 35-years-in-the-making sequel to the classic science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott and based on Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?”
I was a big fan of the original, having seen it when it first came out and then watched nit various times at home. Blade Runner
was a film that was a lot more influential than it was successful, at least when it was first released; Scott’s unique combination of science fiction, film noir, and hardboiled detective fiction has served as a kind of template for all sorts of dystopian films and TV series, though I think it is fair that few have done it nearly as well and nobody has done it better.
Despite the fact that I’d seen the original several times, I decided to watch it again just hours before I wanted the sequel. And I made sure to watch what is called “the final cut;” Scott has offered several versions over the years, not having been satisfied with the studio-approved version that first was released.
The original is a model of crisp moviemaking - less than two hours long, a fascinating mix of spare storytelling and voluptuous art direction and physical design, loaded with subtext and below-the-surface heat delivered by an amazing cast - Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, M. Emmet Walsh, Edward James Olmos, Joanna Cassidy and Daryl Hannah. For those of you unfamiliar with the original, Ford plays Rick Deckard, a 21st century detective who hunts down “replicants,” androids who have begun rebelling against their use as slave labor; the movie explores what it means to be human and to have a soul, but never dawdles over these questions as the plot steamrolls along.
(One interesting observation - made in 1982, Blade Runner
was set in 2019, and while it was prescient in some of its observations about a culture in which vast numbers of people are seen as simple commodities by the rich and powerful, it got a lot of stuff about technology wrong. Flying cars are not common, and in the movie there’s no suggestion about the degree to which things like computers, flat screen TVs and smart phones have become real-life everyday tools.)
I’m not sure, in retrospect, that watching the original first was the best idea, because the sequel - which is quite good in many ways - struck me as being ever so slightly narratively flabby. It comes in at almost three hours long, which is almost 50 percent longer than the original. Director Denis Villeneuve had big shoes to fill (Ridley Scott just produced the sequel), so I’m not sure I entirely blame him for this. After all, he didn’t want this to turn into 2010: The Year We Make Contact
, director Peter Hyams’ little remembered sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey
; the sequel would be a pretty good movie on its own, but it was following a classic, and it was an almost impossible task.
Anyway … it is better that I not tell you very much about Blade Runner 2049
, except to say that Ryan Gosling is excellent as a blade runner who still is hunting down recalcitrant replicants, Harrison Ford is back (and great) as Deckard, and the theme remains the very nature of humanity. 2049
doesn’t remake the original story, nor does it exploit it or serve as a simple homage … it actually advances the story and its themes while seeming very much original. While I may not be nuts about the length, I liked it very much, mostly because it actually is about something. Beyond that, I’m not going to be the one who exposes the secrets of Blade Runner 2049
- better to go in a little bit blind, and let its considerable pleasures come to you in waves.
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.