‘Blu-ray or Bust’
BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2016, R, 163 minutes, 16:14 ENTERTAINMENT/COLUMBIA PICTURES)
I find it difficult to not judge sequels by their source material—granted, you kind of have to. Typically, the first film has to have been of a certain caliber to warrant a follow up. Even in instances where we are given closure at the end of the first film.
Then there are the money grabs—sequels that exist solely for the purpose of making a buck. Franchises like Michael Bay’s metal-strewn and thoroughly visually confusing TRANSFORMERS flicks are money grabs; there is little or no artistic merit there, just a studio banking on the Teenage Holy Dollar. Let’s not leave out the FAST AND THE FURIOUS turds, either—even though recent attempts have tried to up the “it factor” by trying to make JASON BOURNE-type, globetrotting “thrillers”. But sometimes, follow-ups are done the right way; the best example for me was always ALIENS. James Cameron took a classic film and created a wholly new take on the tale. Instead of one alien, Ellen Ripley suddenly found herself battling an entire hive with the assistance of some well-armed space marines.
Now we have director Denis Villeneuve (SICARIO, ARRIVAL) taking on a film made decades ago—another classic, and my second favorite film from Sir Ridley Scott (…ALIEN, of course). And while the best science fiction tales are the ones that explore the human element, and the place of humans within that possible tomorrow, original screenwriter Hampton Fancher is back to show you that story from the perspective of a machine and its dream of human mortality.
The story centers on “K”, played with a seeming emotionless and muted thoughtfulness by Ryan Gosling, a Blade Runner who starts off hunting another “skin-job”, and winds up neck deep in an investigation which has him questioning his own place in things. And that’s as much of a description of the story as you are getting out of me; you all know I don’t do spoilers, and I won’t ruin any aspect of the tale by giving you any hints of things to watch for or story arcs to pay closer attention to. This is a tale best witnessed by yourself, and it might take more than one viewing for you to get everything. Seriously.
What is most surprising here, though, is the sweet and desperate underlying love story, the human and non-human battles for symmetry and the grace of life, and the struggles with identity and death. Experiencing these slices of humanity through K’s eyes is what helps make this a worthy and beautiful sequel to what Sir Ridley gave to us three and a half decades ago. And at almost two hours and forty-five minutes, you would think it could all get overbearing and really freaking heavy at times. But under the genius eye of cinematographer Roger Deakins (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, SICARIO), every aspect of the landscape, not to mention the perspective of every character, is captured in such a way that you never feel alienated. You are necessary to the viewing of this modern masterpiece; after all, it is your emotions which complete the experience.
There are numerous special features, including the two “prequels” released online prior to the theatrical release. Do not mistake these for padding—they are each thoughtful little mini-stories, rare gifts from a filmmaker that cares about what you are seeing and experiencing. There are also docs on the special effects, including one on how they pulled off a particularly captivating love scene.
Take your time with this one, kids; great science fiction deserves your attention. Just be sure to turn the base down on your surround sound, or you could wind up getting the attention of your downstairs 80-year old landlord. Try explaining an android love story to an 80-year-old…
Special Features: B+
Blu-ray Necessary: Abso-freaking-lutely
-- T.S. Kummelman