For over a year now I have tried to unsuccessfully write a blog entry about my life. The failure is mine alone. Problem is that I am happy (mostly) and found the love of my life. Though we occasionally fight (seriously I could use some pointers on dish washing) we seldom have anything that is blog worthy. I still write, just nothing worth posting. The other day however I found something I wanted to spout off about. A movie. So without further dithering, here is my review of Blade Runner 2049.
SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW
So to begin, let’s start with a little bit of my history with the source material, that is both the original Blade Runner, and the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? that it is based on. I grew up reading Philip K. Dick. My teenage angsty soul was mostly governed by weird Sci-fi takes on existentialism, paranoia, and psychology.
The original Movie, and book posited an interesting question, “Do Machines have souls?” It even went so far as to setup a screening test for machines that involved a modified Turing Test AKA Voigt-Kampff Test. The idea was sound, and haunting. What makes us human? What is the difference between me and a sentient toaster, aside from the fact that I still cannot make toast (another mini fight I am sure I had not too long ago with the girlfriend, let’s call her Blaire for future reference) and am not nearly as shiny?
The original Blade Runner answered this query with an alarming, “NOTHING!” and proceeded to haunt my view of a world in which I could easily be replaced by a talking fridge with a personality setting that had both sarcasm and wit. So naturally when I was told that they were making a sequel to a movie that so massively shaped my childhood existential crisis, I was thrilled.
Within minutes in the theatre however my illusion was shattered. Blaire noticed me seething with anger as the character (whose name is appropriate for the kind of depth and range he exhibited) Joe (Ryan Gosling) appeared to shrug off the original movie’s notion that you need a Turing Test to tell the difference between humans and machines, and just scanned the Iris of the potential replicant. This was such a slap in the face to the concept that it was hard to recover. Thankfully there was no need to try to. The plot went straight down a shit slope from there.
Before we get to the main issues I have with the film, let’s first mention the little bit I did like. It was pretty. BOY was it pretty. From the music, to the long form shots of a city scape almost perpetually draped in darkness, there was no end to the sense of dread, you feel for our future. This was something that was captured in the first movie, and did not disappoint this time around either. I would suggest getting some sleep before stepping foot into the theatre as the beauty, while astounding, is certainly sleep inducing at late hours. Blaire nodded-off repeatedly, and who could blame her? I only wish that she remembered some of her dreams, they may have made for better plot development.
So back to Joe, and his meandering plot elusive romp through Wonderland. The main plot centered around the villain, Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), trying to come up with a way to make more replicants. Leto’s character is almost as sadistic as he is lazy. I have had little love for Jared Leto over the years, and it gets worse and worse every time I hear about his theatrics when it comes to “method acting” that oftentimes include accosting female actors on set.
Wallace is a sadistic character, that the writer presumably thought would have more depth if he were blind. This character trait adds little to the performance, that is stifled by a lack of both backstory, and emotional attachment to the portrayal. I cannot hate Wallace, because he evokes so little emotion from me that I literally have to find a reason to stay involved during his scenes. With the rigid element of something on rails, Leto plods from one predictable moment to the next. “This replicant is not perfect therefore I will monologue and then kill it! To show my sadistic nature!” This predictability led to an over eating of the popcorn every time Leto graced the screen, and a stomach ache the next day from the artificial butter. So to put it bluntly Jared Leto’s acting literally caused my stomach to churn.
Niander Wallace does however present us with the main plot point, and what a doozy it is. Apparently making a replicant is a labor intensive PROCESS, that is insanely time consuming. Somehow we ignore that this was never the case in the original movie, or that even in their own opening screen scroll setting up the universe we are in, it is mentioned that replicants are used in many off world mining operations. Instead we set this up as the major problem the villain is trying to address with a lengthy monologue about how Humanity has grown to hate slavery, but has no problem with enslaving replicants.
If only there was an easy fix for this problem?
Well Wallace comes up with one. Replicants that can give BIRTH. Which thankfully can be made by finding the child of the one replicant that did. Yes, somehow machines that were never designed to, were able to give birth. Also bafflingly this is the solution to the replicant shortage, replicants who can birth new replicants. Let’s ignore the literal question of “What came first, the baby or the egg?” and jump right into HOW IS THIS A SOLUTION TO ANYTHING?!
Why would it ever be more efficient to give birth to a child, raise it for 18 years, and then have it be a slave, rather than just pop out a robot. EVEN if (and this is actually contradicted in the movie) it took 18 years to make a replicant, it would still be more efficient than raising one! Also presumably (and there is no evidence in the movie saying it would be different) giving birth is a process, it means that for 9 months you cannot do the same things you did before, and then there is a post birth recovery that is needed.
Yet the very mention of this idea doesn’t inspire a single question as to “why is this remotely a good course of action?” Even more quizzically, the argument that it is easier to birth a replicant than just design one from scratch is contradicted in the very next scene Leto stumbles his way through. Decker (Harrison Ford) is captured in an attempt to track down the replicant that was born, and they tempt him with a re-creation of the very woman he fell in love with all those years ago, crafted in literally the few hours he has been a captive. When Decker claims she has “the wrong color eyes” she is instantly terminated. In fact looking back at it, Wallace tends to terminate replicants randomly and with no regard for the process it presumably takes to make them. Surely there is a reason to find use for even a bad replicant if they are so hard to make. Perhaps the sole reason why they are having such a supply shortage when it comes to new replicants, is Niander Wallace just spends his free time murdering them.
We are going to take a brief timeout from the linear progression of what the writers mistakenly call a plot, to briefly mention that this movie has literally ZERO redeeming female characters. Might be why I have forgotten to include them in this review till this point. So the following is just a list of them, and why they suck:
Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright):
Her skirting of the line between anti-replicant sentiment, and respect for Joe can best be described as a computer in a boot loop. The character is written with so little insight into humanity, that I spent the first half of the movie wondering if she might be an early replicant model. She isn’t.
Joi Hologram (Ana de Armas):
Carried by Joe throughout the movie, she makes Lt. Joshi seem like a dynamic character. Joi, in a sense of non-intentional literary irony, is a literal hologram, with the personality of Siri. Her sole purpose in the movie, is to bluntly state the obvious, in the event we missed it being presented to us 30 seconds earlier. Her brilliant, yet appropriate insight early on in the movie, could not be more accurate.
Joi: 4 symbols make a man: A, T, G & C.
Joi: I am only two: 1 and 0.
Freysa (Hiam Abbass):
Is an older replicant introduced to divulge that SHOCKER Joe is not the main replicant we are looking for. She progresses the plot slightly, but has no actual depth of her own.
In fact it appears that whenever the writers couldn’t write a character to have a personality, they would just give them a deformity that drove the plot. Freysa is missing an eye. Joi is a hologram. Dr. Ana Stelline (Carla Juri), who I did not even bother to mention in my breakdown of female characters, has an immune disease that does not allow her to leave her bubble. Niander Wallace is blind… You get the idea. I think that if I ever write a movie all of my character will be missing their left eyebrow, hopefully this will be viewed as an amazing character trait worthy of a $150 million budget.
Anyways Freysia, tells Joe that he is not the replicant, and I honestly couldn’t give a shit one way or the other at this point, so the existential crisis and sudden showing of emotion by Joe was more irritating than plot progressing. It later turns out that the replicant everyone is looking for is Dr. Ana Stelline. Freysa tasks Joe with killing Decker before he can spill the secret of who this mystery replicant is. A secret we have established throughout the movie Decker doesn’t know.
Joe sets out on his task, and randomly wanders around town for a minute before going anywhere. This meandering stroll through the city streets is utterly irrelevant to plot progression, or anything, but I find no fault with it, because (as mentioned previously) it is pretty enough to at least dull my hatred of the major plot points.
The scene is quickly enough ended though, in favor of a space car chase. Yes, you read that right. Joe quickly blows all the other space cars up with his space car. There is no explanation for how Joe got a space car (the one he had used was blown up) or why his space car was so much better than the other, more expensive space cars, that it was able to destroy all three, or for that matter, how he knew who was on the space cars, or to follow them, but who cares?! SPACE CARS!
The rest is borderline predictable and at this point I see no reason to go on further with the actual retelling. I left off some bits about his holographic girlfriend, that could not possibly have mattered less, and an uninteresting interaction with a police captain played unremarkably by Robin Wright, but I swear it wouldn’t have a made a difference. The movie is three hours of visually stunning plot devoid scenery.
Overall the experience was not worth the time spent in the theatre. I could have streamed 3 hours of Planet Earth II and got the same visual experience, and with way more of a relevant plot. I am not asking for someone to make a film similar to the Soviet Era Solaris, or even the original Blade Runner, but something in the realm of digestible plot would be nice. The problem is that I am alone in this. Most people who watched it missed the flaws, and enjoyed the visuals. In the end the movie is setup perfectly for future projects that will be just as doomed to have zero plot. That being said, none of this really matter, and neither does my review, because undoubtedly in 2 years when Blade Runner 2052, or whatever it’s called, comes out I will be dropping down my $70 dollars for the 3D IMAX experience.
See for all my talk about the horrible shit writing, and flaws of this film, it doesn’t matter, because I would still pay to see it. So Hollywood figured it out, there is no need to actually write plot into your sci-fi, when people are just willing to watch 3 hours of CGI porn. With that I think I have found the one thread tying together all my previous posts, and this one… pornography. So long as our eyes pop, it is utterly irrelevant what else happens.
Anyways I will try to go back to posting on a more regular basis… and hopefully it will be before the next awful sequel to Blade Runner.