Blade Runner 2049 – Commentary
Heads up, there will be some spoilers here, so I am going to insert a nice big graphic about Blade Runner that I stole from the internet, and then discuss openly. You have been warned. I don’t typically review movies – I leave that to the experts – because my general expertise and thoughts after I see a movie are two things. First, Did I like it? And secondly, How did it make me feel? I have trouble judging what a good acting performance looks like, progressive cinematic directorial erm.. shindigs? Shenanigans? See, I can’t even make up the right jargon! It’s like how I review wine on Vivino. I can never discern or discover the hints of jasmine undertones and juicy aromatics in a glass of wine. It’s red. It tastes good. It’s affordable. Although when I am really inspired I can explain that glass of wine on how I feel – recent reviews of Ports that I have enjoyed include:
“I went back to this one to see if my tastes have matured. Nope, still a 4. Could have guessed the maturity angle by realizing I still love superhero movies”
“Remember your first kiss? It was probably awkward and sweet. Remember your first French kiss? Yeah this Port is like that. More complex and exciting.”
OK. Time for spoiler territory and low-set expectations movie discussions.
First off – if you haven’t seen the original Blade Runner you will not understand most of what is good about this movie. This is not a reboot, or a vehicle to introduce new people to the world of Blade Runner. If you go without the prior knowledge you will be treated to a visual treat and three hours of what the f*ck is going on? I am in camp one. Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies. I have watched it too many times. I have not watched it in 10 years, however, and coming into BR:2049 I was pulled back into that place of wonder – so mission accomplished. I think. I enjoyed every minute of the movie.
The picture above I chose very much on purpose. BR:2049 has a lot of social commentary that can apply to what is going on in the world right now but none so interesting and engaging (to me) as the relationship between Joi – a purchasable video AI companion and Officer K – our replicant Blade Runner. This relationship is introduced early on when K returns home, wading through hundreds of human beings, to lock himself into his apartment. The AI quickly establishes that it has memory (“I am getting cabin fever”) and a sense of understanding that she loves K and is an important part of his life. Throughout the movie that relationship is deepened, challenged, and eventually, destroyed. This made me think deeply about if Joi ever did exist and if capable of thought – is she alive?
This is all thrown for a loop near the end when K interacts with the giant Joi billboard above – where pieces of what she used very personally to K presents itself in an advertisement to buy the AI that “tells you what you want to hear”. Was Joi capable of thought and connection with K, or was she just following a script as programmed? Throughout the movie the former was explored and seemed a sure thing but this moment cast that doubt. Which makes sense in a movie that was designed from front to back to question what it is to be human anyway. This made me think of our current social media and the interactions we share with people there. Are they true interactions? Are they meaningful? Is that possible through a digital lens?
Adding to my struggle with Joi and what she represented in the movie is that she looks like a woman I have had a crush on since high school, and who I only interact with via social media now (as friends). So it has a real world theme to me. (Defining crush here – we are both married and completely happy – but high school nostalgia is a thing, you know?) Seeing her reminded me of the young her and of course with my beer-goggle Ryan status (Reynolds, not Gosling – but hey, stretching! On both.) The scenes where they interacted had an emotional impact on me. It was very strange, uncomfortable and unnatural. Much like the K’s journey of changing from a robotic bounty hunter to unique being (replicant born, not created) to conceded pawn grasping at what it means to be human (via sacrifice).
And, if you haven’t seen the movie and still read this post anyway, not worried about spoilers, you are probably as confused as someone who didn’t see the first movie and walked into this one. And congratulations – what I just explained covers less than 10 minutes of screen time of the whopping 2 hours, 45 minutes. So plenty more to discover and be curious about. There are so many themes to explore and so much homage to the first all wrapped up in incredible visuals (with slight peaty undertones). Sorry about those last four words, confusing my next whiskey review with this one. They all feel the same.
I label this movie a must watch for fans of the first, and a must watch for science fiction fans who are willing to watch the first movie before seeing this one. It is time well spent.