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Monday, February 05, 2018

Blade Runner 2049

This week's movie rental was Blade Runner 2049 ...

a 2017 American science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green. A sequel to the 1982 film Blade Runner, the film stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, with Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, and Jared Leto in supporting roles. Set thirty years after the first film, Gosling plays K, a blade runner who uncovers a secret that threatens to instigate a war between humans and replicants.

I've been looking forward to the movie for some time. I had read the book on which the original 1982 film was based ... PK Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? ... and have seen the first film a number of times.

For those who aren't familiar with the book and earlier film, they depict a dystopian future in which there are few animals left alive (hence the query about electric sheep), where the wealthy and healthy have mostly moved to other planets, and where replicants (artificially created people with superior abilities) are used as an underclass. The main character in both book and early film was Rick Deckard, a California cop, a blade runner, whose job was detecting and eliminating rogue replicants. In the 1982 movie, Deckard was tasked with finding a group of homicidal replicants but along the way he met and fell in love with another replicant, Rachel, and after he took care of the others, they disappeared together. Here's a trailer for that past film...

I don't want to give too much away about Blade Runner 2049 but here's a bit about what I thought of it. It's a lot like the early film in its setting and pace. The special effects are really neat. The soundtrack is ominously good. The acting, especially that of Gosling, is good. The main character, K (Gosling), is a blade runner like Deckard was 30 years earlier, but he himself is a replicant, one of the tamer revised versions used as unpaid labor in society, and he hunts down earlier models of his own kind. There's a lot of pathos in K's life and this only inevitably deepens when he discovers a mystery of which he is a part and follows it to its end. I liked the film and recommend it.

But ....

The movie is, as one reviewer put it, "eye-gougingly sexist" to the degree that it kept taking me out of the story. There are a lot of completely naked women in the movie (the guys don't even ever take off a shirt) - it's the people in control, now and apparently in the future, who get the protection and dignity of clothing. We also see a naked replicant stabbed in the belly (female reproduction is a theme), and huge statues of naked women (with high heels) as relics in a an irradiated Las Vegas. And then there's the programed holographic girlfriend of K who hires a hooker for her man when she can't "satisfy" him (can you imagine the opposite version of this icky trope ever showing up in films?). Some have opined that the movie is just showing us the logical future, given present day sexism. Call me cynical, but I don't really buy that - I'm tired of science fiction being produced as if only teen boys were the consumers.

Here's a bit from a review in The Guardian ... Is Blade Runner 2049 sexist – or a fair depiction of a dystopian future?

[...] While I was transfixed by the film’s visual prowess, score, fascinating plot and fidelity to the original, I was troubled by the character of Joi (Ana de Armas) in particular. An operating system who is bought by K to act as a doting, doe-eyed housewife, she appears to him in hologram form as and when he dictates, wearing and saying whatever she thinks suits his mood. Understandably, Joi has been called “a sci-fi fanboy’s wet dream”. Her owner’s emotional demands dictate whether she is in sexy or demure mode (flashback to Arnold Schwarzenegger creating his dream girl in Total Recall). How are we supposed to admire a hero whose key relationship is with a woman of his own creation who will submit to his every demand and can be switched on and off as he pleases? ....

[T]here are a number of characters. Robin Wright is terrific but underused as K’s slick, strong, black-clad boss, Lieutenant Joshi, and Sylvia Hoeks’s icy baddie Luv is great fun, but in thrall to her male boss (sinister replicant-creator Wallace, played by Jared Leto). Mackenzie Davis’s Mariette shows initial promise as a strong character who can give as good as she gets, but she is also a sex worker who is literally used as a puppet. Visually, sexualised images of women dominate the stunning futuristic cityscapes, from pirouetting ballerinas to giant statues of naked women in heels looming over K as he goes on his journey. Of course, one of the themes of Blade Runner 2049 is a world littered with artifice, from replicants to sexbots – but these mainly seem to cater to heterosexual males. A hint of a woman considering a “pleasure model” is brief and unexplored. Meanwhile Wright’s Joshi appears attracted to K, but she is not permitted to use him for her sexual pleasure. Where is her holographic lover, her Joi? ...

And here's a trailer ...


Blogger Megashare9 Movies said...

123movies - OK, let's stipulate upfront that the visuals are stunning (stunning visuals are a commodity in today's cinema); the rest is a total downer. The storytelling is slow and boring, unfolding for nearly three, excruciatingly long and unnecessary hours. The plot is weak and implausible, with a final twist, except that the plot is too thin to support a any twist. Still, the movie carries such a pretentious air, kinda "hey, watch carefully, I am really an important movie", that I found irritating. Now, I walked into the cinema after a self-brainwash: don't expect to see a sequel to Blade Runner, I told myself, icons cannot be replicated; I did not want my judgment of the new movie to be biased by a nostalgia effect for the original; yet I was still hoping to see a great movie. Well, it's not...and it was painful too see Ridley Scott giving away, after Alien, another of his franchise.
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