Do Androids Cry Over Electric Sheep [Review: Blade Runner 2049]

What stands out about the world of Blade Runner 2049? Firstly that it's really, really FUBAR. The pollution smog is just the start of it - Los Angeles an expanded city surrounded by favelas and then giant dykes keeping out the rising sea level, another famous American city a radioactive wasteland, Wall-E style refuse dumps, children extracting metals from old circuitry in giant orphanages, the human population fed by millions of acres of protein-maggot farms. The Off World Colonies are a distant dream for a lucky few. And it doesn't appear to be a great time for women generally - more on that story later.

Secondly, give Gosling's character a helmet and this would be Judge Dredd. The LA setting is completely Mega City One (the cheap-n-cheerful plastic version from the 2000AD comics, not the boring Stallone movie version). Gosling might not have Dredd's stature but he's the same no-nonsense dispenser of justice, at least when it comes to running down old Nexus 8 replicants. This is perhaps a real influence - Dredd first appeared in 1977 so may well have influenced both films.

Thirdly, the writers have mercifully avoided another 35 years of boring film buff conversations by revealing early in the film that Ryan Gosling is a replicant. This will also come as no surprise to anyone who saw "Drive."

I enjoyed the atmospherics of this film. Over and over again we are taken to a landscape that isn't just bleak and evocative but also tells a story. I also enjoyed watching a melancholy, thoughtful movie with a slow-burn plot and a languid, ponderous pace, a real contrast from action cinema even though it's not devoid of action. And K's flying Peugeot is iconic.

The cast is good - the decision to bring Harrison Ford in late as a kind of supporting character allows the rest of the cast to breathe and makes this an ensemble film rather than a Ford vehicle. Smart move as later in the film Harrison still steals every scene he's in. Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks and Ana de Armas all stand out.

I did think the plot was a little simplistic - even with the twists, this isn't as complex a film as the original Blade Runner, and the moral ambiguities aren't quite as troubling. There's still a lot to think about - the idea of replicants is developed further from the original film, typical Philip K. Dick themes of reality or human identity are challenged and subverted, with the emphasis on self-deception, and there's a side plot about an A.I. entity that leads to one of the film's saddest moments. And why are so many characters pictured crying?




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