Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 ★★½

The imagistic and physical profiles of Villeneuve's approach to character remains unchanged in this, a relevant context, though the fit is still fine: the roundness and glow of the film's stautes and edifices extend to its characters' bodies, an inherent humanity repressed by nihilist camera staticity, hazy, dim, and cold light (here offset with some ironic warms off of buildings and holograms both sentient and commercial) and a harshness inflected by timing between cuts. The stubborn adherence to this mode even for replicants displays a great, egalitarian respect for them, but it also must be said, it undeniably dulls the visual capacity for thematic exploration. The original film, horribly edited as it is, never lacked for this, fully embodying questions visually this film envisions as two HUMANS OK! speaking to each other, which reads as more as thematic cheapening than emotional profundity under Villeneuve's grandiose brooding. Indeed, the film has no spark of purpose, only artful, middlebrow execution.

One idea brought to visual life occurs when Replicants talk and fight with each other. What one would assume as just an exchange of data is physicalized and given personality, spontaneity and stakes. The fighting, being purely visual, is given an inflection by the aforementioned Villeneuvian humanity, but the talking is not capitalized upon, stuck in neutral as a mere idea. This data-ness stops and starts with intra-replicant exchanges, however, the film failing to reflect upon its own digital object (in fact, it most often looks celluloid), its emotionality eventually superceding its coldness in much the same way as Arrival, but with more (unwelcome) naturalism. Our lead being a replicant, and one aware he is (maybe) programmed into slavery, calls into question just what the outlook of the film is meant to be, as one would assume it should be different from the viewer's own. It appears this quickly paltry lack of a difference is all Villeneuve has up his sleeve. Ghost In The Shell (2017)'s prevailing ambivalence is a far more interesting, productive, and complete perspective than this.

But still, for quite a while the film coasts along on pure awe alone. Fast and steady, speculative sci-fi elements will consume the imagination, usually conveyed via Deakins rather than dialogue. This being, foremost, a better flowing yarn than the original's unwieldy idea dump, these eventually fail to carry the film. But in part due to them, as well as Deakins' company (of questionable appropriateness), a pleasant if disappointingly one dimensional and self disinterested pacing for Villeneuve, and a neat narrative center that twists twist off of itself in ill advised and interest killing fashion, being carried by the film for its duration is balmy enough, if nothing else.

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