‘Blade Runner 2049’ offers intensity, attempts to answer poignant questions

October 17, 2017

Spencer Traut

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Rate: 4 out of 5 stars


    How reliable is memory? Can we use it as a tool to figure out who we truly are?

    These are the questions that “Blade Runner 2049” attempts to answer with stunning imagery and deep characterization.

     “Blade Runner 2049” is the sequel to “Blade Runner” (1982). The sequel does a good job incorporating the 35-year time lapse between the films into the storyline; the time period where this film takes place is now the year of 2049.

    Directed by Denis Villeneuveis, the film takes place in a society that manufactures robotic human copies called replicants in the year 2049.

    Replicants are equipped with incredible speed and strength, and their bodies are almost chemically identical to humans.  However, their intelligence is dampened enough to keep them subservient, so the human population can use replicants as slaves.      

    The film centers around K (Ryan Gosling), a next-generation blade runner who used to be a replicant. K’s character is important as blade runners are officers dispatched to kill rogue replicants.

    Because of his former state of being, K is despised by his coworkers. His character deals with memories he knows are false because they involve him as a child, which he knows should be impossible for a “replicant.”

    K tries to discover whether the past he had was real, whether he is human and has a soul. But he has been institutionalized as a “blade runner” and hunting down his own kind for so long, does it even matter anymore?

    Harrison Ford, who played protagonist Richard Deckard in the 1982 film, makes an appearance in the movie as well.

    Wisely, Harrison Ford’s appearance is saved for very late in the movie, though he does play quite an important role. This tactic allows K’s story to be further developed and gives this new movie a chance to tie up some loose ends from the previous movie.

    The film is a quietly intense sequel about artificial intelligence, depicting a futuristic world which is technologically stunning on the surface but dangerous underneath the beautiful societal advancements.

   Memory is a key theme in both movies. Replicants in 2049 are often created as adults and programmed with false memories of a childhood and adolescence.

    Because replicants are brainwashed with false but vivid memories, they wholly believe that they are human. This means that no person, until a “blade runner” tests them, can rely on their memories – anyone could be a replicant.

    This film makes the audience question what is real and what is false in this world, forcing us to wonder if we can even trust our own memories. For example, when K finds evidence that these memories might be true, his entire identity as a replicant is called into question.

    K tries to discover whether the past he had was real, his humanity and his soul. But since he has been institutionalized as a “blade runner” and hunting down his own kind for so long, the plot begs the questions whether this evidence even matters.

    The movie is thoughtfully directed and edited with deep saturated colors and subtle imagery. There are so hidden details that I’m sure you could spend years dissecting it.

     At times, this movie tries a bit too hard to be dramatic. The lighting is often so artsy that you can’t tell what is happening on screen. Apparently, no light bulbs are present in this future, so the rooms are only lit by redirecting the smoggy sunlight dimly into a room.

    The special effects are well-done and used sparingly; the first “Blade Runner” was not a movie that chose to demonstrate the future of technology through mindless explosions and lasers.

    The inventions shown in both movies, such as a machine that determines who is a “replicant” and photo enhancers that give microscopic view on evidence, drove the story forward rather than distracted from it.

     The sequel does fail to answer the cliffhanging question from the previous movie: is Deckard a replicant?  

     People may not like the decision not to definitively answer this question directly. The movie thrives on keeping the audience baffled; the story is an enigma.      

    With all of this buzzing in your head as you watch this two and a half-hour epic, you might get a little frustrated and confused. Similar to the first one, “Blade Runner 2049” requires multiple viewings.

    The movie’s entertainment value comes from a poetic vision of evolution that flies in the face of our assumption of a beautiful, care-free future.