Blade Runner 2049 — 5/10

BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017, Denis Villeneuve)

I bristle whenever the cool cinephile kids pick on Darren Aronofsky’s REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. It’s dismissed as dorm-room posing, style over substance, and the meathead’s version of art cinema. This baffles me, since I find it as emotionally devastating, profound, and effective as any movie this century. Ridley Scott’s 1982 BLADE RUNNER, on the other hand, I can see generating that kind of scoffing. When I tried watching it as a kid, I fell asleep. When I tried again in college, I fell asleep. When I finally got through it a few years ago, I was still bored and annoyed. Some nice shots, a lot of bad dialogue, and themes worthy of no better than freshman stoner babbling.

Take it with a grain of salt, then, that this 2017-sized version left me cold as ice. But that doesn’t mean it it’s totally worthless — it’s yet another argument for putting Roger Deakins in the DP Hall of Fame (if such a thing existed). And the production design, Hans Zimmer score, and costume design is all eye and ear candy. But for a film so big, so bloated, so heavy with its own desperate attempts at profundity, it disappears like smoke the second you leave the theater.

The best stuff involves Villeneuve’s visual ideas for exploring the themes of virtual vs. human, especially the drawn-out sex scene with a hologram clumsily latching onto a person. Then there are the elemental images of water (a grand fight, drowning), fire, dirt (the future Las Vegas), etc. But in being so humorlessly focused on the themes of what it means to be human and to have memories, it crawls too far inside itself and almost doesn’t care if you’re even there watching at all.

The plot falls apart upon further investigation, but Villeneuve doesn’t even really care about it much (nor does producer Scott, picking up where he casually left off 35 years ago). Still, why lean so hard on those interminable, devastatingly bad Jared Leto scenes (come on, Jared, you’re making it really hard for me to keep defending you) and the gotcha flashbacks during the third act twist? The resulting experience is an exhausting one — nearly three hours of sci-fi atmosphere, serious hand-wringing, and noble attempts at making visual something that’s intangible and philosophical. Never thought I’d say this, but it could have used one of Gosling’s musical numbers from LA LA LAND, just to lighten the fucking mood.

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