Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Sooooo much good in this sequel, and yet so much troublesome stuff too.

Let’s start with the good, shall we?

Blade Runner 2049 is an excellent sequel. It picks up, runs with, and explores further the themes raised in its predecessor; what does it mean to be human?, what are memories?, even issues of slavery and the destruction of the environment. It weaves in characters from the original film just when they are needed, and, as with the original, it leaves some questions mercifully unanswered.

It is absolutely beautiful. Roger Deakins’ cinematography coupled with Denis Villeneuve’s vision and direction are a perfect match here. I splashed out and saw this in IMAX and it was worth it – sweeping cityscapes, never-ending dust storms; the scale is immense and all-consuming. The scene where two women merge into one was exquisite (more about that later).

There are some interesting characters and performances too – some of whom stick around longer than others. It would have been great for Robin Wright and Dave Bautista to have had a few more scenes. Gosling is fine as the Blade Runner who doesn’t quite know where he fits in to the world, and of course there’s Harrison Ford. I generally find him a bit same-y in everything, but he’s solid here.

As a premise, and as a sequel, this film is good.

I have a few niggles. I honestly can’t remember a single thing Jared Leto said and I think people should probably stop casting him in stuff like this now. He gets in the way of every character he’s played recently so that I switch off when he’s around.

I am getting a tiny bit fed up with Hans Zimmer’s honking scores, too.

But you don’t have to go too far to work out that my biggest gripe has to do with the female characters. (Potential spoilers coming up).

The aforementioned scene with the two women – looks good, yes, but we end up with one woman ‘becoming’ another, and the second woman being irrelevant apart from her physical body. Women are frequently treated violently and the only reason seemed to be Jared Leto. In this world, women appear to be there only to be the recipients of either violence or sex, ie to be subservient, and it’s just getting a little wearisome these days.

Here’s a question. Would it have been too much of a stretch to have Ryan Gosling’s character be female? I can’t see why there couldn’t be female Blade Runners, and then a lot of things in the film could have been different without changing the actual story one little bit. Win-win.

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