Thanks to Jennifer Cheuk for an alternative take on Blade Runner 2049
The original 1982 Bladerunner is a masterpiece of cinematic nuances. The plot shifts and intertwines with other narratives seamlessly. Perhaps this was the reason for so much of the ‘boredom’ this film seemed to cause. To me, this was one of the aspects of Blade Runner’s original style that gave way to such a classic and innovative sci-fi film. Each scene folds in on itself like origami. The densely-layered structure feels detached and disconnected until the final scene; the final fold in the creation. Brilliant.
Now, after I have raved about the original, I can move onto Blade Runner 2049. This movie felt like a kid trying to make an origami crane, but making random folds every now and then, producing an unrecognizable mess in the end. The movie had an awful lot to live up to. If this movie had had no correlation to the original, I would have probably really enjoyed it. But its connection to the original forced me to consider some stark differences between the two.
Blade Runner 2049 follows K, an LAPD bladerunner replicant hunting older replicant models. The discovery of a replicant who died in childbirth leads to the crux of the action and some very blatant themes of class, freedom and morality. The character development, if any, is generally done in epiphanic moments rather than gradual changes. The film is fast paced, until the director remembers the original’s style, and slips in quieter, contemplative scenes. These moments made me hopeful, but the film quickly falls back into fast-paced action, lest the audience get too bored.
When I was sitting in the movie theatre watching the interesting — unnecessary, perhaps — sexual encounter between K and his projected girlfriend (a very clear homage to Her), I started to consider how the mechanics of this film reflected the mechanics of our society. Much of the subtlety, the nuanced noir of the original was lost. Perhaps this was done for good reason, considering the amount of complaints voiced about the ‘montonous’ original. From the NZ Herald article ‘Millenials really don’t like Blade Runner’ come some amusing lines about the confusing style and pace of the original: “[he] wasn’t really sure what anyone was doing” and (my personal favourite) “it was just slow…it took a long time to get anywhere”.
But what was tedious about the original? The lack of violence (There wasn’t really a lack thereof)? The lack of overt sexual interactions? The lack of explicitness. What has become of our society where we crave gratuitous scenes? Where a film focussed on conceptual ideas over visual ideas is deemed ‘boring’ (consider the Lost in Translation (2003) hate)? Blade Runner 2049 clearly sought to rectify the apparently monotonous original. There was potential in this film, but the director was much too focussed on retaining interest through bright colours, simplified plots and clearly anticipated twists: An underground replicant revolution? Very unexpected. Unlike the original, Blade Runner 2049 assumed that I was an easily distracted kid who did not understand intellectual inference. Implications were lost, thematic subtlety was lost. Everything was explained excessively and because of this there was a lack of individual style.
The real drawcard of this movie was the compensation for its lack of complexity, which it tried to make up for with its special effects. People were so blown away by the fantastic world of Blade Runner 2049 they had no time to consider the over-simplified plot. The world, I do admit, was phenomenal. If they had only paid that much attention to character and plot.
Finally, what was the point of the gargantuan nude female projections around the city? I understand that it was supposed to emphasise the corrupt, sordid atmosphere of such a dystopian world…But was this really necessary? Was it just another tool to keep audiences interested, fearing that Blade Runner 2049 will become like, god forbid, the tedious original!
Blade Runner 2049 was a sad indication of our society’s deteriorated state of mind. The necessity for explanations and gratitutous action to maintain interest was saddening. Superficially, the film was good and was visually captivating. Compare it to the intricacies of the original, however, and you expose its empty shell.