I normally write these as soon as I get home from the theater. I don’t check out any other reviews. Usually I post my first draft and come back to it in a few hours or a day and then make edits. For Blade Runner 2049 I waited and checked out some other reviews. Specifically I watched The Cinema Snob and Red Letter Media. And they both gave the movie good reviews. Brad and Dave from Cinema Snob were more glowing but they were both very positive.
My feelings on Blade Runner 2049 are complicated.
I want to work through this movie in its entirety. To do that I’m going to need to get into spoilers (not yet don’t get nervous) but I owe you the 30 second review.
I would suggest you wait until you can watch this movie at home. This is a gorgeous movie, layered, getting rave reviews from critics. Everything positive those two sites above said about the movie is true. It is also plodding, confusing at times, and long. I saw Blade Runner for the first time at home about ten years ago when the Final Cut came out. Maybe I would’ve liked this one more if I felt I could pause it for a break 2 hours in. I called the Dark Tower a bad movie I liked. I said Doctor Strange was a good movie I wish I liked more. Blade Runner 2049 is a good movie that I don’t really like…yet.
From This Paragraph Forward I Must Declare Spoilers. Go no further if you wish to see the movie unsullied. If into the security recordings you go, only pain you will find.
I mean it Spoilers.
All these unspoiled moments will be lost. Like teardrops in the rain.
Time to Spoil.
The opening text in this movie says that Tyrell Corp did away with the 4 Year Lifespan for Replicants. Also they’re not gear/circuit robots, they’re engineered humans. I realize that actually human part might’ve been obvious for you but it needed stating. Replicants rose up again after the first movie and were outlawed. Then the Wallace Corporation succeeded the Tyrell Corporation and Made Replicants Obedient Again.
Ryan Gosling is a Replicant working as a Blade Runner. He is publicly known to be a Replicant. In the opening he finds and kills Dave Bautista (Drax the Destroyer), one of those hidden Replicants. Dave says that he is at peace because he bore witness to a miracle. While investigating the scene, Ryan Gosling discovers a box buried beneath Dave’s Home.
When he gets back to the police station they discover a skeleton. A woman. From the pelvis they can tell it’s a biological woman and they died in childbirth. Then they realize there’s a serial number on the bone. It was a Replicant. This throws the cops into a tizzy. Apparently up this point no Replicant has ever become pregnant. They’re not made to do that. His police boss, Robin Wright, orders Ryan Gosling to find the child born from this Replicant and kill it if necessary. This fact, she believes, would drive Humans, Replicants, or both into war.
So…question. Replicants can come out of the test tube as trained soldiers, medics, anything. Real life humanity can travel to space, split the atom, and we can grow human embryos in a pig uterus. Is it really that shocking that Tyrell, the person who originated the Replicants, could create a Replicant with a functional reproductive system? In Asimov’s I, Robot and Bailey/Olivaw series the characters say that the Three Laws of Robotics are fundamental and absolute in the creation of a positronic robot brain. Even if someone wanted to those laws cannot be ignored. Now, Asimov had a great deal of fun exploring how those laws could be bent, circumvented, and taken to disturbing logical conclusions in the name of great hard science fiction storytelling. But the certainty that these character in Blade Runner 2049 confront this revelation of The Replicant That Became Pregnant stretched my sense of disbelief. The Four Year Lifespan was something determined at the conception of the Replicant that could be done away with. Is it really beyond belief that 1-2 Replicants could be designed with functioning reproductive systems?
But there’s no movie if this fact doesn’t shatter the earth. So off we go. Much like Harrison Ford in 2019, Ryan Gosling begins to investigate the case. Harrison Ford was looking for four renegade Replicants hiding in Los Angeles that were killing people. Ryan Gosling is looking for a kid born decades ago. So Ryan Gosling’s case is harder. Ryan Gosling walks around the temple like Wallace Corporation for a long time and it is revealed that The Replicant Who Bore A Child, The Woman in the Box, was Rachael from 2019. Implying that the father is Harrison Ford.
Ryan Gosling finds clues that trouble him. He traces the birth, implied to be a boy and girl but no one seems to be concerned about twins, to an orphanage in the ruins of what was once San Diego. And at the scene of Rachael’s grave he find a date. A date that he remembers. In his memories, that he assumes were implanted since he knows he’s a Replicant, he remembers hiding a toy in an orphanage to prevent it from being stolen. A toy with the same date on the bottom. He goes to the orphanage, which is basically a sweatshop of slave children harvesting rare metals from garbage. And in a very slow, laborious scene, what the fuck do you think happens? He finds the fucking horse.
So then he goes to the person who designs memories for Replicants. She uses her technology to determine that yes, this memory of the horse toy really happened. Ryan Gosling is…gasp…the Child. So Ryan Gosling goes back to the station and lies to Robin Wright, saying The Child is totally dead. Except the 2049 version of Voight-Kampf shows that Ryan Gosling is emotionally compromised. This is verboten for Police Replicants I guess. Robin Wright gives him 48 hours to solve the case or the mayor will be on her ass. No, wait, she gives him 48 hours to resolve his emotional problems or he will be fired/summarily executed. They both know that this is impossible so it is really more of a head start than anything else.
The only clue Ryan Gosling has left is this little toy horse, on analysis, it shows radiation that is particular to the ruins of Las Vegas. I couldn’t remember why Ryan Gosling needed to go to Vegas. I knew he needed to go there because at this point it’s two hours into the movie and the trailer said Harrison Ford was in the brightly lit place. Ryan Gosling takes about 10 minutes too long to actually find Harrison Ford as he flies slowly through Vegas and slowly into this large building.
He and Harrison Ford confer briefly on philosophy. Then the Wallace Corporation shows up, right on cue. They followed Ryan Gosling, leave him for dead, and kidnap Harrison Ford. They want this Child so that their corporation can increase the number of Replicants which I guess they think will benefit them? So Robin Wright is certain that Replicant Child will lead to unruly Replicants not obeying humans, humans not buying Replicants, or both. Wallace thinks this can only be to his benefit. Someone here is going to be fucking disappointed.
Ryan Gosling is found by an underground resistance group of Replicants. They want to use this child to start a revolution. I guess this kid will circumvent the perfect obedience that Wallace promised by emotionally compromising everyone just like Ryan Gosling. But wait, wasn’t Ryan Gosling the kid? No. He is a Replicant with a serial number and shit. He can’t be. But then how does he have this real memory of a horse toy?
The memory maker is the kid. Uh oh.
Wallace Corp start by offering Harrison Ford the carrot. They can bring Rachael back! And that really looks like Sean Young from 30 years ago! I’m going to start taking points away from movies that do the “CGI De-Aging of Character.” Logan, Rogue One, Civil War, Ant-Man, at least two Terminator movies, I get that they’re doing it because they can. In Logan and Rogue One I didn’t even have a problem with it. But this is turning into a trick that movies are doing because they can. It’s taking me out of the movie by making me think, oh, the movie is doing that thing that’s become really popular lately.
You can imagine that Harrison Ford doesn’t go for it. So they offer him the stick. They’re going to get him off world in a deep hole and torture the shit out of him. And then Ryan Gosling gets a quest from the Replicant Underground. To preserve the secret of the child, Ryan Gosling has to kill Harrison Ford. Things don’t look very good for Harrison Ford.
Ryan Gosling rescues Harrison Ford, fakes his death, and reunites father and daughter. Then Ryan Gosling dies from the wounds he has sustained.
There were a couple things in this story that happened I didn’t mention because they don’t really matter. For one thing, Jared Leto. He’s in two scenes of this movie and they suck. Between this and Suicide Squad, I don’t know if he got a new agent after Dallas Buyer’s Club or what. He spouts this vague philosophical bullshit with every line and I just hated it. I much preferred Eldon Tyrell’s bluntness. I hope it chafes Wallace’s character that he is chasing and failing to match the achievements of a man 30 years in the grave.
This movie also has a love story. It doesn’t suck but it is kind of pointless. The point is that we the audience are questioning artificial person Ryan Gosling’s emotional connection with this “Her” inspired AI at his apartment. I’m meant to ask “Why do I care about this program?” and the screenwriters go “why care about Ryan Gosling, he’s an artificial person too!” Yep, got the point.
That’s not to say every small moment or event unrelated to the plot is meaningless. Just because the love story was pointless doesn’t mean it’s not well done. There’s one scene I really liked when Robin Wright goes over to Ryan Gosling’s place to ask him something. There’s this quiet moment where you can tell that she is contemplating telling Ryan Gosling to fuck her. And he’ll have to because he is designed to obey her orders. Then she decides nah and leaves. She has this look on her face like someone turning down an offer to go out drinking when they really ought to get some sleep because they have work the next day. It’s not something she is having a moral dilemma about, it’s completely “I should really do laundry instead.” She’s not even considering that Ryan Gosling might or might not consent to this, his consent is a non-factor. It’s good acting even though it has nothing to do with the rest of the movie.
Finally, maybe this is a nitpick. After Robin Wright gives Ryan Gosling a head start to escape, one of Wallace’s Replicants shows up at her office. This Replicant character is sort of like Jared Leto’s Dragon. She is the antagonist in this movie, out doing things while Jared Leto is in the movie for five minutes. So this Replicant goes into Robin Wright’s office and wants to know where Ryan Gosling is. When Robin Wright doesn’t give her the info the Replicant kills her. This scene is clearly meant to echo the moment when Roy kills Tyrell from the first movie. Which is the bigger stretch? Roy and Sebastian getting into Tyrell’s private apartment with no one noticing or A Corporate Replicant walking into the Police Headquarters and killing a lieutenant?
I don’t know how I feel about this movie. As gorgeous as the slow panning scenery shots are, could they have trimmed this by 20-30 minutes? I don’t think 2049 commits any sins that I didn’t forgive in the first move. And we don’t get these kind of slow paced movies anymore. This was the kind of movie I was hoping Prometheus would be more like until I started to hate the characters. I didn’t hate any of these characters except Jared Leto. I was expecting a dumber movie and feel almost angry at myself for not getting into this more. I feel like I turned on this movie unfairly when it was repeating over and over again that Ryan Gosling was this mystery Replicant child and I was like “AHHH FUCK I GET IT CAN WE MOVE ON?” Then it twisted that moment into something clever but part of me didn’t care or forgive. Part of me stayed angry through the rest of the movie and just wanted it to be over. Got it, Harrison Ford is reunited with his fucking daughter, can I go now?