Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Blade Runner 2049 - Movie Review

Back in 1982 the Dieselpunk classic Blade Runner was released. This movie set the standard that would inspire the Dark Deco look later found in Dieselpunk productions such as Batman: The Animated Series.

In 2017 Warners Brothers studio released a long awaited sequel, Blade Runner 2049, which is now on DVD/ BluRay.

The protagonist in this sequel is a Blade Runner named K (Ryan Gosling), which is short for KD9-3.7. K is not only a Blade Runner but is also himself a replicant. He dutifully does his job of ‘retiring’ rogue replicants and then goes home to his holographic girlfriend (think of her as an holographic Alexa with artificial intelligence) named Joi (Ana de Armas).

The world of Blade Runner 2049 is even harsher than it was in the original. The environment is more devastated and more bleak. Most people are packed into slums where they’re dependent upon food processing technology since the world-wide ecology, which had been in decline in the original, had completely collapsed several years prior.

The corporate bad guy in Blade Runner 2049 is Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) of the Wallace Corporation, which is the successor-in-interest to the Tyrell Corporation. The Tyrell Corporation had gone bankrupt shortly after 2022 when replicant technology was outlawed. Niander Wallace had successfully lobbied for a return to replicant manufacturing and has a monopoly on their production as well as the food production technology.

The sequel brings back three characters from the original. Harrison Ford reprises his role as Rick Deckard while Edward James Olmos appears briefly as Gaff. We even see a CGI creation of Sean Young as Rachel.

Blade Runner 2049 opens with K hunting a replicant named Sapper Morton who is superbly played by Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and 2). What K discovers at Sapper’s farm sets into motion events that threaten to blow their society apart.

Blade Runner 2049 is a visually stunning movie. The sets are amazing and the special effects are awe-inspiring. I’m reminded of Buzz Aldrin’s description of the moon as being “Magnificent desolation”. His poetic description of the lunar surface also applies to the world of Blade Runner 2049.

In addition to grand sets the technology is intriguing. The technology is at times retro while at times futuristic. The technology has a hands-on depth to it. There's definitely an alternate history feel to the tech.

One criticism I have is its length. It’s a loooong movie. Blade Runner 2049 clocks in at 163 minutes, which is nearly the same length of 2001: A Space Odyssey. In addition, I found much of the pace and acting as subdued. Gosling’s acting I found to be especially subtle, which made moments where he did express emotions all the more poignant.

Another criticism I have is that I thought the characters of the sequel were less interesting than those of the original. None rise to the level of those in the original, human or replicant. Of all of the new characters I found the holographic Joi to be the most interesting.

This is a Dieselpunk blog and therefore I want to address the question that’s probably on the minds of all of my readers: “Is this sequel Dieselpunk?”

In a word: no.

While Blade Runner 2049 is an amazing movie it lacks the dark decodence of the original. There’s one scene with a holographic Frank Sinatra singing ‘One For My Baby”, which he did record in 1943. However, the scene was placed in nuclear devastated Las Vegas and it therefore had a more of a early 1960s Rat Pack setting than one of decodence. And the creators of Blade Runner 2049 focused on giving Los Angeles less of a Metropolis feel and more like a dystopian future Beijing.

While Blade Runner 2049 is an amazing movie I can’t call it Dieselpunk.

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