Capsule review: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

By: Edo Muric

After a long anticipation, Hampton Fancher returns as a screenwriter, more than 30 years after he co-wrote the original Blade Runner. At the same time, Denis Villeneuve proves to be a visionary director, just as capable as Ridley Scott. Together they got involved in creating one of the most ambitious Hollywood films of our time.

The sequel makes gigantic steps forward, be it as a piece of entertainment, as a philosophical work or as a work of art. Unsurprisingly, it goes back to the beginnings of the genre by addressing the moral conundrum of Metropolis-like two lane totalitarian society and the techno-capitalistic Moloch - in the shape of a company which literally produces slaves.

An interesting aspect given is how the film channels A.I. Artificial Intelligence, not only through hommage but also by exploring its theme of authenticity and almost repeating its fable-like narrative. Like in Spielberg’s and Kubrick’s futuristic re-telling of Pinnocchio, at the center of the story is an artificial being on an illusory all-too-humane quest to become a "real boy". Hereby, Fancher focuses on the significance of memory (a constant theme in the work of Phillip K. Dick, whose novel inspired the original Blade Runner) as an authenticator of individuality. For this purpose, the film uses the original Blade Runner as a sort of a cinematic memory in its own right. Its vast spectacular dystopian universe is populated by ghosts, shadows of the past in forms of holograms and hi-tech copies. On a meta-level the original film exists as a similar kind of shadow in the narrative of the story, be it as its origin myth, or as reoccurring specter of memory. The film comments on its own technological mastery of reproduction of the past, while incorporating the similar technology as one of the technical marvels of its futuristic world.

As such, Blade Runner 2049 is a profound allegory on cinema itself – indicating that film is in fact a collective memory hub of the western culture. Just like films, memories live in its idealised, overtly emotional versions. As false as they are, it is their illusory inauthenticity that paradoxically creates the authentic. In a similar way it tackles the idea of masculinity itself, by refreshingly refusing to critically deconstruct it. Like culture and memory, masculinity is also a product of its own falseness. Real or not, like Metropolis’ mediation between hands and mind, together with culture and the most radical universal uniter - love - it will be a crucial precondition if the suffocating neoliberal monster is ever to be defeated.

With masterful turn of the entire cast, especially Ryan Gossling in the titular role (163 min.).