Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049

At one point in Blade Runner 2049, the latest belated sequel born from affectionate recollection rather than fiscal fervor, Gosling asks a memory specialist what makes her embedded creations superior to other implants, what makes them so authentic. I could ask Villeneuve the same thing. How is it that his faithful mimicry feels expansive and not derivative? Why does Elton John's grotesque, overlong Kingsman cameo feel artificial while the glitchy recreation of Elvis crooning "Can't Help Falling in Love" rings so true?

This is a massive aesthetic achievement like its predecessor, rococo in its own way. For someone who nods and pretends to understand all the plot strands when talking about the movie afterwards, that's all I ask. It helps that it's the exact way I engage with the original. Both films induce a soporific stupor; the perfect thing to throw on before slipping away and counting electric sheep. Some movies get you drunk, some send you out on a high. 2049 and its grandpappy are opiates.

Starting with the procession of production logos (something Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie sent up so well), our new Blade Runner feels gloriously indulgent, something to bask in. It was maybe a few seconds into this movie that I felt I might adore it. It immediately struck me as a celluloid brother to M83's Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts: a mesmeric, narcotic odyssey into pure techno-bliss. Skyward walls of sound, buzzsaw synths, the works.

Like the '82 classic, my enjoyment is understood through its hazy resemblance to other references. There are these menacing Koyaanisqatsi-type chants whenever we hover around the Wallace Corporation; hypnotic trips through the Atari-sponsored cyber highway Los Angeles has now become; the expected helpings of soupy fog and hallucinogenic neon. To extol the stylistic virtues of a Blade Runner film is to court accusations of "style over substance". Sure. It just seems odd to me that anyone could love Ridley Scott's version and hold contempt for Villeneuve's.

If 2049's general hook feels like a conservative flip of the original's narrative drive, that's because it is. The beauty of the conceit lies in its simplicity; finding new parallels between humans and replicants excavates the ways in which we are human and the unsettling ease with which technology subsumes those qualities. And letting the inherently introspective approach unspool in languid passages and pensive stares (this is a Gosling movie after all) buries that melancholy like a melody in a My Bloody Valentine song. (I'll work on limiting the music comparisons in the future.)

Lastly, I must confess. I nodded off for a couple seconds a few times, but they were micronaps! (Funny how the 2010 Nightmare on Elm Street is simultaneously lost to memory and directly responsible for a permanent fixture in my verbal repertoire.) At the risk of sounding like a kiss-ass, I'm reminded of Kiarostami praising drowsy experiences at the cinema: the movies that put us to sleep are the same ones keeping us up at night.

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