Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Blade Runner 2049

As I mentioned, I finally got around to seeing this movie on Sat.  The room was relatively packed, so I am a bit surprised to hear the media narrative of this film is that no one is going to see it and that it will lose a ton of money (actually it has sort of broken even already if you don't count marketing, and I saw very little marketing, so I don't know what they spent). In a way, this almost seemed like a throwback to 80s era films with a fair bit of nudity, some in the service of the plot and some a bit more gratuitous.  It felt like a long film (and many people slipped out in what was essentially the third reel just to hit the rest room).  I just read that the original cut was 4 hours long!  So perhaps there will be a director's cut as well.

Minor SPOILERS

I agree that it is ridiculous to say it is misogynistic just because the main villain is a female (even one who is gratuitously evil to another woman).  You can say that there are some tired tropes here.  The way that female replicants (androids) are disposed of without a second thought when they don't measure up (whereas the male replicants at least have a fighting chance literally).  There is a bit of a Handmaid's Tale vibe going on where women are sort of reduced to their reproductive ability.  (And yet children were not actually valued at all, given the frankly unbelievable number of orphans.)

I will also agree that there are some ideas that work better than others, but the reveal about the Gosling character (K dash something) was actually pretty good.  (This article agrees with me, though warning that it has major spoilers.)  Still, the internal SF "world building" rules don't seem to make any kind of sense.  Also I thought there were a few specific plot holes, particularly how LAPD of the future has apparently no meaningful internal security or even metal detectors in its building.  I thought K, the Ryan Gosling character, 1) might have realized he was easily trackable (this is a neo-noir after all) and 2) would likely have had to give up his cool flying car (maybe this is better explained in the 4 hour cut).  Also, why replicants need their own apartments (rather than living in a cubical at work for instance) and are paid actual money for their services is unclear (again see the odd "world building" rules).

But I did enjoy it.  The visuals worked well, both the rainy LA setting and then the exploration of what was presumably Las Vegas.  I was a bit less sold on the soundtrack, which was a bit too much of a rehash of the original.  I'm quite glad I saw it on the big screen before it vanished.  This may be one of those films that has an audience that grows over time, just like the original film.

Major SPOILERS

I might as well put the rest of my thoughts down before I forget them.  Many of them are about the world building issues.  I don't quite understand why Las Vegas would be this radioactive hellhole and Los Angeles is unpleasant but still livable.  Are they imagining that the seemingly endless rain (brought about by climate change) somehow washed more of the radiation out of West Coast cities?  But a bigger issue is how there could presumably have been a nuclear war and then society had already recovered from it.  Unless the bombing of Las Vegas was a bit of a one-off, perhaps a missile launched by North Korea.  Bonus points if this was what led to the "Black Out" that wiped out most digital records from the period between the original Blade Runner and the events in this movie.

Society seems to largely have collapsed with the middle class emptied out, with most people fleeing to the outer colonies (presumably the work of the original replicants has finally led to them being habitable).  However, unlike the original movie where there were many abandoned buildings, here LA has become as overcrowded as Delhi with poor people living on the landings of K's building.  And then the huge number of orphans working on scrap piles in what used to be San Diego!  Still I guess we do get a few flashes of average people still living in LA having coffee (so maybe not everyone left after all), though a huge number of people are actually replicants.

I think it is a bit unlikely that the Wallace Corporation could have really convinced the government(s) to allow it to start rebuilding replicants, even with more internal brain-washing and control.  But more to the point, it's odd that Wallace really thinks in the long run it would be cheaper to come up with replicants that could reproduce rather than just being grown in vats, if for no other reason that they have such a long time to grow to maturity whereas the grown replicants are adult sized and ready for work right away.  It's also unclear whether naturally-born replicants would have the proper slave programming (and indeed the film suggests that they would not), so once the government found out about this, they would definitely shut down the program with prejudice.  But the weakest link really is that he wants millions of replicants to go off and explore the stars, but aside from the fact that finding inhabitable planets light years away is pretty useless, if it just a matter of bodies to stuff into spaceships (as the slave programming will be broken anyway), why not just develop "generation ships" and put all these orphans in them?  No one will miss them.  I guess there is the matter of radiation poisoning.  Somehow replicants are biologically-based and yet are immune to radiation, which is a bit of a cop-out. Like so many SF movies, the androids have near super powers most of the time, but then have human vulnerabilities when necessary to advance the plot.  It didn't really seem consistent.

I still don't quite understand why the LAPD didn't just have holding tanks where they stored the replicants between jobs, as it would have resulted in less friction with the general human population (that really hates "skinjobs") and probably would have made it easier for the replicants to maintain their baseline.  Also, why they don't just provide the minimum nutrition and necessities of life -- rather than paying the replicants a salary -- is not clear.  Not only does K get paid, but he often gets bonuses for retiring particularly difficult cases.  I'm a little disappointed in how K didn't realize just how easy the Wallace Corporation could track him (presumably some kind of internal chip, that they didn't bother to disclose to the LAPD), based on the time when the Wallace Corporation rained down missiles to save him from a battle with a bunch of scavengers.  We also don't see him restarting his flying car after it was taken down in San Diego, so I am not sure how he gets back to LA.  For that matter, his car is completely destroyed in Las Vegas, and he has a high powered one shortly after this that he uses to shoot down Luv's car.  In this case, I presume he borrowed it from the rebel replicants.  In a way, I kind of thought it would have been more logical that when he turned in his gun (and badge?) to the LAPD (because his baseline readings were way out of wack), then he should have turned in his car as well.  It certainly seemed pretty high powered with some extra features not available to civilians.  But maybe it was his personal property.  I admit it would have been hard to advance the plot if K had to get to Las Vegas on camel or something, but that could have been interesting.  (Really, I just thought it would have been super cool to have "Nobody Walks in LA" on the soundtrack...)

One nice touch when we finally meet Deckard and things calm down a bit is that there is a dog, presumably a replicant dog (because again, radiation levels off the charts).  This in many ways is the closest that either scripts really gets to the original PKD novel where there are different sorts of artificial pets.

These issues don't detract too much, but it isn't a perfect movie, particularly if you don't like plot holes or are concerned with how everything hangs together in this future society (as I noted, this world seems improbable at best).  It does have a number of nice neo-noir touches and in some ways is a more legitimate mystery compared to the original Blade Runner, which is more a police procedural with considerable violence doled out along the way.

No comments:

Post a Comment