In a time where old franchises are dug up from the grave, we now have Blade Runner 2049: the latest movie we never asked for but then Alcon Productions fought for the rights for 12 years and here we are. Because after all, there’s always money in nostalgia.
Yes, the movie is a visual masterpiece with mind blowing sets that truly take your breath away. However, it leaves a lot to your imagination and makes you wish there was more time to explore all the side quests.
Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch do a brilliant job of using elements from the imitable theme from the original soundtrack and make it even more. The acting is well done and everyone more or less delivered. Sylvia Hoeks was definitely the stand out performer, even in the midst of greats such as Robin Wright and Lennie James. Unfortunately, that’s as good as it gets.
One of many problems is the story itself. It reeeeeally took its time (2 hours and 43 minutes to be exact) and had the same slow pacing as the original film, but felt too long, if not longer than the first film. It meandered too much in its attempt of taking its time and relied heavily on nostalgia instead of driving itself. When I said that the cast more or less delivered, the one who made it less so was Jared Leto. He over delivered in the only way a method actor who may have become notorious in his technique would do. Everything he did was unnecessarily dramatic and quite frankly, did nothing for the story itself.
Then there’s a They-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named-Because-I’ve-Been-Told-I-Really-Can’t-Actually-Say-Much-About-The-Movie-Itself-OR-ELSE character who got the Bryan Cranston treatment in the newest Godzilla but when s/he does appear, the movie considerably picks up in significance.
For a film whose predecessor was a source of inspiration for all things sci-fi, they sure did a great job of taking a mosh pit of ideas from other popular science fiction today and tried to make it their own but completely and utterly fail at it. Movies such as Her, The Matrix, Pinocchio, Tron Legacy, the show Westworld, and even the anime Chobits, are influences that can be clearly felt in this. Whether it was intentional or not, you can’t help but think of them while watching Blade Runner 2049. It’s like when Apple introduces a new iPhone and attempts to claim innovation.
Even with the ‘strong female roles’ given to a few actresses, the world of Blade Runner is still a very misogynistic one. While the new film has been considerably beefed up with meaty characters and scenes for some of the actresses, women are still second to men. Their bodies are presented as toys and gimmicks for the men to shower with the male gaze and touch (oh god the touch). Let us not forget the extremely problematic and physically-forced, dismal excuse of a romance Decker and Rachel had in the original film.
No matter how you justify and spin that scene, seeing Decker physically restrain Rachel and demand her to tell him to kiss her, touch her and in the end of the movie, say I love you, does not in the slightest spell out romance, let alone love. Blade Runner 2049 has not forgotten that story and has run with it, showing that even in the future, women are here to serve men. While I’m sure there are male robots that are created for sexual purposes, we never see that. Not in the original Blade Runner, not in the new Blade Runner. Breasts abound, women are presented fully nude and touched by the men, for the men. There’s a brief bit of where you see a couple of naked male extras but it’s not shown in a sexual manner like how the women are presented.
And now, the best for last. Yet again, another film that is overrun with Asian influences because in this world, America is LITERALLY run by Asia, yet utterly devoid of Asian representation. For a movie that is set 30 years after the original film, which was sprinkled with diversity, this one did a really good job of setting themselves back. We’re to believe this is Los Angeles 2049? Have the filmmakers never set a foot in LA? Because this is un-fricking-believable. In the original film you have James Hong in a small supporting role, but still an Asian in a speaking role. You have Edward James Olmos for Harrison Ford’s supporting partner cop who is iconic with his littering the world with his intricate origami. You can literally see people of color filling (and I don’t mean just token PoC) out the background, with Asian influences abound. There is Asian food, Asians selling the Asian food, and a lot of other PoC milling about living their extra lives. And this was the ’80s! There wasn’t a lot of representation in media nor as many applicants back then, but yet they were able to make it remotely believable that the future of Los Angeles would be proliferated with PoC.
Now here we are. Actual future 2017. There’s been a lot of change in regards to representation. There are countless PoC actors in LA, let alone all over the U.S. and the world, who are doing anything they can to be seen. But SOMEHOW, Blade Runner 2049 decided to take a few hundred steps back and show white is might and erase the progressiveness of what the original Blade Runner tried to be.
Yes, we have a few black actors and one hapa (who straight up passes as white) who are getting top billed. But trust me when I say you will be supremely disappointed with what they are given. They were the throwaway roles. Completely and utterly wasted. They were given the pity roles of ‘hey, let’s check off our PoC quota by giving them whatever crap we roles we have left.’ They were given the Jubilee treatment from X-Men Apocalypse. You see Jared Leto wearing a kimono and Ana de Armas wearing a qi pao. Yet despite all the Asian influences present throughout this sequel, there are even less Asians than before, as if they all died out since the first film. Even the holographic advertisements that had Asian models in the original have been erased in the new movie. Now it’s just white people selling their whiteness. AS USUAL.
But what’s this about Benedict Wong? He’s Asian! Isn’t he in something pertaining to Blade Runner? Yeah, I guess you could say he is. He’s in a short film that is part of a collection of shorts to fill in viewers as to what happened in the 30 years between the films.
Dave Bautista, who is Filipino and white, stars in another one! Oh boy! Another Asian lead!
And then in the anime short, you have a black and Asian character leading the EMP attack on the humans.
Oh man. SEE?? People of color as leads!! Oh ho ho you are so right! But lest you forget, these are shorts. Short little films that average about 5 to 15 minutes. Short films that are side stories to the main films. Short films that the general public is probably not going to watch because only people who will go out of their way to find them, want to know every little thing about Blade Runner and are completely obsessed will want to watch it. So. PoC in leading roles but only in insubstantial, not-actually-vital-to-the-whole-story, generally overlooked shorts? Okay! Whites in leading roles but for the main films that is the actual main story and are getting lauded as masterpieces? Same old, same old. Sounds about white.
Yes, the original Blade Runner was a pioneer of its time. While I feel it’s an overrated film and have struggled to stay awake through my multiple viewings of it, I can appreciate it for what it tried to do and the world they built. I can see its influence in popular culture today and value what they achieved. Because of all that and the amount of time that has passed, Blade Runner 2049 has a lot to live up to.
But like with many properties that have been revitalized because Hollywood is afraid of doing anything new, Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t go beyond the original. The story is weaker than ever and tries so hard to make itself more but has caught itself up in its own self-importance. It meanders. It becomes convoluted. It loses its vision of what the first film was about and now it’s all about banking on the success and hype of the first film in hopes the sequel will be just as good. Worst of all, it’s a tired, hot mess of reused ideas that try to claim them as its own. Just because you take what worked once, doesn’t mean it’ll work again. (Looking at you, The Force Awakens. Really? Another Death Star? IS THAT THE ONLY WEAPON THE EMPIRE CAN BUILD? INFINITE GALAXIES TO WORK WITH AND THAT’S THE BEST YOU CAN DO?? I get that history repeats itself but no need to show it literally.)
Blade Runner 2049 will probably be this year’s Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s beautiful to watch. The colors are vivid and electric. The cinematography is astounding. The action scenes are full of action. It’s set in the future where the majority of PoC have seemingly died out. Most of the clothes look like they are part of a Yeezy collection. It has a lot of star names that do what they need to do.
Many will praise it and suck its metaphorical peen. If you look at the story, there isn’t much there. But because of all the vibrant visuals, overly significant pacing and nuanced acting, people won’t even notice what a boring story it is. Denis Villanueve hasn’t yet exhausted all his colorful narratives and people will still praise him instead of eye rolling at the pretentiousness of it all. The executives will make all the money because of the star power and Rotten Tomatoes hype, pat each other on their backs because it’s another movie that prove white people sell and then they’ll think of the next nostalgic property they can bring back to ruin. That being said, even if there were diverse actors playing significant leads in this, it still wouldn’t have saved the film.
In summary: Blade Runner 2049 is an overrated, painfully long, beautiful looking piece of work where, once again, the future is devoid of any meaningful diversity.
P.S. In case you haven’t seen the mystical shorts, do watch them. (Links above.) And if you’ve already seen them, watch them again because their stories were much more interesting than the entirety of the sequel.