Blade Runner 2049

Let’s start with a confession: I’ve never seen Blade Runner. Not one of the seven versions of Ridley Scott’s classic. I’ve seen bits, clips, heard the music, read the speeches but I’ve never watched it all.

I don’t really like sci-fi when it’s all rain and dark and dystopian – that just seems a rather too-obvious way for the world to be heading and I have more faith in the human soul. I think somewhere in the future, no matter how bad it gets, we’ll still be laughing and dancing. 

Not in Denis Villeneuve’s vision we won’t. The best we’ll have, according to him, is a nice sheepskin coat and a girlfriend who’s a hologram. That’s what Ryan Gosling’s got as he carries out his miserable job as a Blade Runner, policemen working for the LAPD hunting down rogue replicants and decommissioning them.

Now, I couldn’t work out why he was doing it or what threat they posed and to whom. Can you just shoot them, do they bleed? They don’t have a soul, I figured that out, and that’s despite them being programmed with fake memories and several other qualities that make them human. The ablitiy to do jokes isn’t one of them.

That’s the thoughtful part of this movie, which of course looks great (shot by Roger Deakins) and fizzes with ideas not usually found in current blockbusters. What makes us real, what makes us love, what makes us human? How can we tell between real and fake. Very timely, in a thumpingly obvious sort of a way, underlined by another pompous Hans Zimmer score. All of this is raised, if not answered.

For all its epic sweep, the film is entirely centred on Gosling’s character K (or Joe, as he calls himself later on) and I was really looking for an insight as to how we might live, how our cities will look, how and what we might eat. That wider picture was better handled in Minority Report and in the recent Ghost in the Shell. It’s there in Blade Runner 2049, in the shape of a giant wall and some flying cars and Stygian apartment buildings, but it never feels part of the film’s purpose, its DNA.

And that’s what’s missing. There’s no real soul. Gosling has a baleful mournful look, but I didn’t feel his pain. I didn’t feel anything, really – not fear or threat. I didn’t understand why replicants being able to breed was such a breakthrough – are there humans left? How many Blade Runners are there? Why is Jared Leto’s character such a villain and am I supposed to be scared of him? I wasn’t.  

Even when Harrison Ford turns up, I didn’t know why he was there or where he’d been all these years

Three hours is a long time to not feel. Or smile. And this movie is not my future.

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