SilentDawn’s review published on Letterboxd:
*Was a 71, now a 100*
I was way off baseline with Blade Runner 2049. “Not even close”, you could say. But the simple fact of the story revolves around love. I *loved* Scott’s original film. Obsession might’ve been a better word, and yet it was love for a twelve-year-old; numerous posters, DVD/Blu-ray editions, endless late-night re-watches under stormy skies – its world wasn’t enough for me, even though the dystopia of Blade Runner wasn’t exactly Oz. I felt the rain patter on my trench coat when I stepped foot in it. A completely innocent sensual dreamland. Theatrical, International, Director’s, Workprint, Final, doesn’t matter: it was Blade Runner all the same, and it sang to me. Roy Batty’s speech seemed to be the eternal skeleton key. It was a tear-duct earthquake for all my questions and concerns. I could just let them go, blending in like tears in rain. There’s real beauty, I think, in the idea of a movie being ‘there’ for you when you need it most. How an old favorite can find its way to you at any time and bring a dose of comfort, or how a forgotten film can be consistently surprising when you least expect it. But there’s melancholy in that time being limited, as if The Giving Tree reconfigured: knowing that you’ve moved on from a movie you loved, one greater than nostalgia, reaching, instead, towards a personal accord with the art Fate engaged you with. This isn’t simply a discussion of memory (although doesn’t everything, even Blade Runner, break down to that?). Rather, it’s an evolution of palette, experience, and internal conversation. And Scott’s film/Denis Villeneuve’s sequel is the subject.
My initial disappointment with 2049 largely stems from this evolution, piecing together incoherent annoyances that weren’t necessarily problems with the film itself, but with my response, and how the original film was still there, blocking my acceptance of something new. My dismay was real, for I plainly observed the ongoing list of successes within 2049, and it only made it harder to slightly reject it, if only for a while, until I let go. Blade Runner’s personal influence had been weak for a long, long time, because I reached the limit of what it could give me. Does that say more about me or Scott’s masterpiece? I’d say the former, although there’s weight to the concept of a film only being designed for so much, and Blade Runner, as peerless as it is, has stopped giving me wisdom. What I’m left with, then, is a wonderful slice of memory: a film that hasn’t become inferior in hindsight, but detached and ready to affect another moviegoer. It’s moved on from me just as I’ve moved on from it, assessing its impact before drifting away. When I watch Blade Runner now, I don’t feel the smoke, the storms, the shattered glass and loss of life, the boiling eggs and the nails – I feel the recreated sensation of such fondness. ‘More human than human’, I might add. I no longer step into the world; it’s a window instead, and I’m fine with that.
And Blade Runner 2049 was the catalyst. It gave me a new way to see a world I thought I could always return to; a reminder of what I’ve lost, and visualizing a form to gain it back, fresh and anew. Blade Runner 2049 captures Scott’s limitations and contributions, invoking legacy as a necessity for the past, but not the future. Its larger conceit is bound in the thought of icons never passing on their history or superiority, for such an idea is blatantly false: those who are special can rarely comprehend that they are, and those who are chasing their own heroic narratives consistently become drunk on fairy-tales of possibility. The original Blade Runner was one such story, and Blade Runner 2049 lingers on the rest of us, confronting the people we put our faith in and the original film itself. It’s a statement of normality, fear, and eventual acceptance. Not everything can reach what Blade Runner attained, and yet, 2049 rises above its predecessor by precisely acknowledging its standing, while effortlessly expanding on Blade Runner’s own interests. It isn’t really the ‘great sequel’ you had in mind while dreaming of the next step in Scott’s universe – it’s better, and more unconventional than that. 2049 is a leap-forward in many facets - technical bravura, narrative/thematic complexity, nailing the long-winded, roaring snore of its pacing etc. – and yet the component of legacy is merely a side-step. Denis Villeneuve’s masterwork (And it is! It’s the kind of movie we’ll be tilting our head at in awe fifty years from now.) isn’t haunted by Blade Runner. It is a ghost of its own kind: a synth-specter looming over complete refinement of its creation, mournful and in love with itself, terrorizing the hypnotism of the original into a corner. The imprint of the past is merely a disturbance of dust against the carpet – a narrative which takes on greater importance to those standing on the side than it does to those inflicted. Why does legacy matter when it stands in the shadow of a long-lost daughter, a miracle of a wife, an ambiguity of self?
Within cells. Interlinked.
What does matter in 2049 is acceptance – of what you’ve accomplished, who you’ve become. Blade Runner always wrestled with the *what*, and yet, 2049 hums with the charge of disregard, letting loose with the notion of ‘humanity’ being something greater than what’s fabricated or assembled. ‘What it means to be human’ isn’t a genetic thought in 2049, but a spiritual one. Dignity, respect, kindness, love – there’s no artificiality to any of that. It’s all real, and whether it’s deemed sacrilegious to adore the sequel (you could even say ‘replicant’) more than the original, that love is present and true – full in the confines of my red-curtain heart, opening and closing like valves. 2049 is to me now what Blade Runner was to me as a twelve-year-old. It is a grand illumination and an unabashed spectacle, teeming with life and audacity, vigor and heft, delicacy and danger. Many films, even works I hold near and dear, don’t play like this to me anymore. Cascading images - each one more important, effortless, meticulous than the last – and uproarious sound combine in a collective art-show of fruitful design, collaboration, elegance, and intensity. Gumshoe, Romance, Plodding-Synth-Core, Tragedy; its specificity of genre-mashing is only outmatched by its willingness to push the particulars of each to the maximum. Watching 2049 in a discount movie house, the seats peppered with lonely souls, only attests to its heights, equal in stature to a cathedral. And like church, or love, or Blade Runner, or 2049, you’ve got to be a stranger to it, for when the clock agrees, it’ll greet you.
Within cells interlinked. Within cells interlinked. Within cells interlinked.