I can’t say I “enjoyed” watching Blade Runner 2049 last night, but I can honestly say this morning that it’s gained upon reflection.
I’ve sat through my share of futuristic jizz-whizz fantasy flicks — nutrition-free wanks that you don’t respect the next morning. Denis Villeneuve‘s 30-years-later sequel to Ridley Scott‘s 1982 Blade Runner is no cheap-high ride — it’s a grim dystopian dream-trip, ruinously “beautiful” but soul-draining — but if you just surrender to the toxicity and allow it to pollute your system and your soul, you’ll probably realize the next morning that Villeneuve has deepened and expanded the overall tale. He’s made a serious film to which attention must be paid.
Perhaps not in a way that will matter all that much in the general realm and yes, you might feel a little sick from all those residual poisons, but a few hours later you’ll be glad you submitted. Because as much as I disliked sitting through it, Blade Runner 2049 stays with you, and that’s always a mark of something profound or at least high-fibre-ish.
It lasts an eternity — I checked my watch at least five or six times, and my muttered mantra all through it was “I don’t give a shit about any of this, I don’t give a shit about any of this, I don’t give a shit about any of this” — but it’s certainly a major vision thing. Pay your $16 dollars and sink into a thoroughly gloomy realm of super-holograms (including ones of Frank Sinatra and Vegas-era Elvis Presley), rot, ruin and industrial scrap, a toxic shithole populated with grim-faced characters you would just as soon squash as look at, a world of hair-grease and sprayed sweat and impassive, cold-death expressions, and all of it blanketed with rain, snow, sludge and chemical mud-glop.
And oh, yeah, for a story that you won’t give two shits about. A dingleberry doodle plot involving memory implants and oscured lineage and a secret no one must know (no one! just ask Jared Leto!) and a little wooden horse with a date (6.10.21) carved into the base, and some shit-hooey about original replicant creator Eldon Tyrell having given Rachael, the experimental replicant played by Sean Young in the ’82 original, the organic potential to reproduce and blah blah. And a narrative pace that will slow your own pulse and make your eyelids flutter and descend, and a growing need to escape into the outer lobby so you can order a hot dog and check your messages.
BR49 should have run two hours, not two hours and 44 minutes.
Do yourself a favor…seriously. Before seeing it this weekend, read the Wikipedia synopsis. Doing so will remove the irritating, hard-to-follow story tease and allow you to just concentrate on the visuals, which is all this thing is about anyway. It doesn’t matter anyway — nothing does, it’s all shit and distraction, you’re all just contributing to the Warner Bros. bottom line, to Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford‘s wealth while you subtract from your own. We’re all punks, fools, suckers, knaves. Warner Bros. pours a little whiskey onto the plastic floor, and like Ford’s Blade Runner wolf dog we lick it right up.
Fuck the story, fuck the lineage factor, fuck it all. Just sink into the chilly murderous vibe and Gosling’s impassive, glazed-over robot eyes, and Ford’s subtle emotional delivery (has he ever cried before on-screen?). Nobody cares and it doesn’t fucking matter if RG or Ford or Kevin Tsujihara are replicants. I’m a replicant with the capability of siring children and writing a daily column. What difference does it make if I’m an android or not, or if I dream of electric sheep? Nobody cares, nothing matters, it’s all bullshit.
What of the virtual-reality ho chick, the homicidal super-bitch and the brittle, tough-cookie supervisor played by Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks and Robin Wright? Smart women will not be pleased. (After the show a friend was listening to a whipsmart feminist deploring these characters and the phony, piss-poor writing.) For these are cardboard, non-dimensional figures (women acting like men or fulfilling men’s fantasies) who would never be hatched by a woman screenwriter. Grow some soul and awareness, Hampton Fancher and Michael Green.
How important is Gosling’s little wooden horse, and how does it feed into everything else? I’m still scratching my head about that, but I’m sure someone will explain it later today. Is Gosling’s “Joe” the replicant son of you-know-who? I didn’t give a shit. Is there any kind of emotionally satisfying undercurrent in any of this? Fuck no.
There’s one moment — one! — that made me sit up in my seat and say to myself “wait, hold on, this is semi-poignant.” But the spoiler whiners will kill me if I get specific. It involves Ford and a younger woman — I’ll leave it at that.
I knew this wouldn’t be a glorious, all-around triumph. I knew it would be brilliant but problematic. I knew not to trust those rave reviews written by balding, bespectacled and/or heavyset dweebs. If they’d written “it’s a bear to sit through and it makes you feel like shit, but it’s a masterpiece,” okay, but too many of them just wrote “it’s a masterpiece!” This is why people don’t trust critics. They live in their own world.
Will Roger Deakins finally win his long-sought Best Cinematography Oscar? He’s done his usual first-rate job here and everyone knows he’s well past due, so I guess, yeah, probably. But the real whoa-level work is by production designer Dennis Gassner and supervising art director Paul Inglis . Who of course designed and created everything with Villeneuve’s meticulous input, so this is really more of a world-class Villeneuve, Gassner and Inglis collaboration than a career-capping feather in Deakins’ cap.
I was also hugely impressed by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch‘s atmospheric throb-crank score or whatever you want to call what I heard last night…1000 synthesized tubas blasting out some kind of non-musical, industrial-strength, glass-shattering whuuhhaahhhhnnnkaahhhh.
I caught an 8pm showing of Blade Runner 2049 at the Cinerama Dome, in row O, seat 27. I needed a break after an hour (messages, hot dog, staring at Sunset Blvd.), but when I returned I plopped into a second-row seat and that, let me tell you, was really cool with that huge curved screen and distorted convex image looming above me. The only problem was that the dialogue wasn’t as crystal clear as it was when I was in row O.
All that said, I will never, ever watch Blade Runner 2049 again. Really. You can take that pledge to the fucking bank.