Blade Runner 2049 is Mad Max: Fury Road for drunks
The movie is most notable for its terrific cinematography and painfully deliberate slow pace.
The original movie was barely revered when it was first released in 1982, but over time, despite its narrative shortcomings and irritating pacing, it slowly gained the status of a sci-fi classic, highly regarded for its extraordinary vision of the future and its outstanding aesthetic.
Blade Runner 2049 operates in the same vicinity as its predecessor as it explores the fundamental rights and humanity of machines that have been programmed as slave labourers by humans.
To its credit, Blade Runner 2049 operates with a more expansive narrative and interesting characters than, perhaps, the original, but it fails to escape its familiar shortcomings.
With tedious pacing and a tone so mournful it demands your introspection, 2049 introduces us to K (Ryan Gosling), a new age bio-engineered replicant who works as a blade runner for the LAPD by hunting down and killing older model replicants that disappeared after a blackout event that occurred in the time lapse between the last movie and this one.
If you thought the visual masterpiece that the technology of 1982 could afford for the original was an impressive feat, the sweeping shots of the world of 2049 might be too much for you to take in.
The gorgeous cinematography is capable of making destitute wastelands look like a holiday resort you'd pay through the nose for just to party with your friends for the weekend.
Director Denis Villeneuve has the perfect eye to improve on the original's depiction of a dystopian Los Angeles with magnificent neon lights and terrific costume designs.
However, with the grim persona of the lead character, you're not allowed to take all of these at more than face value.
Most human jobs have been rendered useless, and everything about this future appears impersonal and sculpted by the whims of greedy corporations.
The movie opens with a listless K tracking down an old farmer who he soon adds to his catalogue of dead runaway replicants before he stumbles upon a disturbing discovery.
This discovery sets him on a course to questioning his whole purpose as a machine and carving out a path for himself that's not guided by the wishes of his human creators and employers.
While his journey of self-realisation is an interesting conundrum to keep the story alive, the narrative motivation behind it creates a plot contrivance that just doesn't completely convince.
After finding out that Rachael, the replicant from the original, had delivered a baby, K's LAPD handler, Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) asks him to discreetly 'retire' the baby as the realisation that replicants can reproduce could unnerve the public's perception of mass-produced machines.
While it's a little problematic to see how this could be a real issue, the motivation of the movie's villain sinks it a little bit more.
Jared Leto adds another cartoonish villain character to his profile as he stars as Niander Wallace, the creepy founder of the replicant-manufacturing company that took over from the Tyrell Corporation from the original movie.
With his distracting silver eyes and dreary kimono-inspired pyjamas, Wallace is a representation of 2049's pretensions of a nuanced well-rounded narrative.
The knowledge of a reproductive replicant tips him over the edge as he tries to acquire it to improve his production line of soulless human-like machines.
Wallace plans to take over new frontiers for humanity by stretching to other worlds with replicating replicants as, for some reason, he's reached the production zenith of replicating.
The movie makes a demand of you to let this logic slide because "Wallace is just a lunatic, you know?"
He enforces his plans with the help of his own personal killer-bug, Luv(Sylvia Hoeks) who is a formidable adversary for a crisis-ridden K going through an introspective phase of his morbid existence with his girlfriend, Joi(Ana de Armas) who is nothing but a holographic corporation-manufactured app.
With characters like K, Luv and Joi who must have been named by a 12-year-old social media user, 2049 plods along with a painfully deliberate slow pace that requires you to glance at your watch more than a few times.
As the movie drags along, K spends more than a good chunk of it battling with the identity of who he really is until a cruel twist towards the end throws some much-needed verve into his story.
Towards the end of the movie, we get to meet Freysa (Hiam Abbass), the leader of replicant freedom fighters with her own interesting motivations for the miracle replicant baby, and Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) who was the star of the original movie and an important one in this one.
One of Villeneuve's most pivotal choices that makes 2049 tick is making sure that every conflict has some personal stakes involved for the characters, no matter how misguided.
Gosling's broody K gently humanises a programmed machine with such heart and emotion that the audience could have been fooled into thinking that he was really what he turned out to not be.
Where the movie really excels is with every mesmerising frame of the camera as Villeneuve really takes his time to fashion out an epic that furthers the world of the Blade Runner instead of making the easy mistake of simply retreading it.
Blade Runner 2049 is a legitimate blockbuster without the signature feverish action-packed blockbustring, like a Mad Max: Fury Road for a slightly inebriated audience.
While I don't harbour any particular love for this new Blade Runner, the same crowd that fell in love with Ridley Scott's original is definitely in for a treat.
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