Blade Runner 2049

Man or replicant?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

In 1982, when replicants hadn’t yet become a Hollywood business model, Blade Runner failed to do what Warner Brothers hoped it would: make a pile of money.

It succeeded, however, in acquiring the reputation of a modern science-fiction classic. Director Ridley Scott’s 2019-set story (based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) entered our popular culture sideways, influencing two generations of filmmakers with its menacing dystopian perspective.

Now comes the sequel. The studio is banking on the original’s cache, if not its cash, to justify a $150 million production budget. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But there’s a real movie to talk about—flawed, yes, flabby, yes, a little wobbly and synthetic on story. And often spellbinding.

Under stone-ground-mustard-colored skies (the air quality’s 30 years worse for wear, according to the narrative timeline), presenting an array of meticulously realized visions of Los Angeles, Blade Runner 2049 is poised to divide audiences just as the original did. Director Denis Villeneuve’s brooding, methodical sequel takes its cue from the tone, as well as the look, of the 1982 film, and while it’s a different movie, it offers a similarly ruminative pace. The sequel is 164 minutes long, roughly 45 minutes more generous (or forbidding) than the first one.

Every effect, each little detail in the Blade Runner sequel adds to a wondrously hideous near future, full of holographic accessories, slave-labor replicants and, as one sinister character (I believe) puts it, the “fabulous new.” Ryan Gosling fits well in this material. That opaque, half-zonked affect he favors as a screen actor is perfect for the role of LAPD “blade runner” (replicant hunter) Officer K, tasked by his superior (Robin Wright) to run down the latest renegade replicants who want more out of life.

The sinister Tyrell Corporation has been taken over by the even more sinister Wallace Corporation, run by a sight-impaired hippie played by Jared Leto. He’s all creepy, measured tones and mythological pretension; maybe he and Michael Fassbender from Alien: Covenant can shack up together sometime. Gosling’s K finds a mysterious set of…spoilers buried near the site of the movie’s first replicant murder. His investigation takes him deep into the annals of the Wallace lair, and inhumanly sleek annals they are.

Vast numbers of replicant memories are stored by Wallace and his minions, the most fearsome of whom, or which, is played with a whiff of pathos and a glint of psycho by Sylvia Hoeks. (Villeneuve’s staging of a key scene between Hoeks and Wright is eerily perfect.) Outside a fancy holographic female companion (Ana de Armas), K has little in his life beyond a nagging sensation that his memories hold the key to something larger.

All this leads to Deckard. Harrison Ford brings weary gravity and surprising subtlety to the old blade runner, now hiding in an undisclosed location, waiting for the younger, more bankable star to show up and hit him with questions promised by the movie’s trailers. The odyssey charted by Blade Runner 2049 allows Villeneuve and his inspired design and effects army to create a world indebted to the 1982 film, but not chained to it.

Chief among equals in that army: cinematographer Roger Deakins, already nominated for 13 Academy Awards, and overdue for a win. He saturates the screen with great, unsettling splashes of color suggesting trouble, or rot, or weirdly glamorous trouble and rot. (That’s noir for you.) There’s a chill in the air in Villeneuve’s film, as there was in Scott’s original, and there should be—all the technological advancements provide dazzling but hollow comfort. When a kiss between K and his “woman” “friend” is interrupted by a voice message, for example, the digital effects actually mean something; the impact is troubling.

Straight off, the script by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green poses the question: Is the Gosling character human or replicant? Deckard has had to put up with that parlor game (the game never ended, really) for 35 years now. Other puzzles enter the story, some more intriguing than others. Perversely, Villeneuve bungles the staging of a couple of key action sequences, one involving Gosling and Ford, the other a waterlogged climax that’s intentionally messy but unintentionally muted.

Like the first one, Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t conform to usual action beats or audience expectations of science-fiction thrillers. It’s a workmanlike screenplay at best. Most of the female characters could be described as mere apps, and there are times when Villeneuve could’ve taken care of some basic storytelling and rhythmic needs while establishing the peculiar, suffocating, brilliantly imagined visual universe onscreen.

But that phrase is worth repeating: “brilliantly imagined visual universe.” A moviegoer can forgive a lot in a movie, when the movie offers so much to see.

More Film...
LA 92
A cautionary tale

Often, documentaries about historic events prompt the question, “Why now?” Sadly, that will never be asked about Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin’s searing LA 92, which arrives on the 25th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots to address an America more conscious than ever of the problems…

more »
The Indians Who Rocked the World

In the fascinating documentary Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, the great jazz critic Gary Giddins says, “The one group that hasn’t really been investigated in terms of their contribution [to music history] is the Native Americans.”

This new film, co-directed by Catherine…

more »
The Pickford handles the truth

We were warned.

I very clearly remember the staff meeting I attended as a projectionist for the Pickford Film Center (then the Pickford Cinema) at which we were told that we’d be showing a movie about a soft-spoken artist who makes sculptures by stacking stones and driftwood. It was a…

more »
Book Group Mixers

5:30pm|Village Books

Bringing history into sharp focus


Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

U.S. Citizenship Class

6:00pm|Lynden Library

Balkan Folk Dance

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library


7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Summer Bike Stories

7:00pm|Cafe Velo

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Bellingham Farmer’s Market
Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds


7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Wild Things

9:30am|Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Book and Bake Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Grand Opening and Open House

11:00am|Social Fabric

Books and Bites

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Clean Eating

2:00pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Coffee Tasting

3:00pm|Camber Cafe

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|downtown Bellingham

Art Night

5:00pm|SpringHill Suites by Marriott

12 Minutes Max Auditions

5:00pm|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Amber Sky CD Release Party

6:00pm|Presence Studio

Gore & Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven, downtown Bellingham

Falliday Vintage Market

6:00pm|Port Transit Event Center

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Wild & Scenic Film Festival

6:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Poetry Party

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre


7:00pm|Village Books

USA Dance


Thriller Dance Class

7:00pm|Moles Farewell Tributes

Halloween Movie Night

7:00pm|BHS Performing Arts Center

Friday Night Flicks

7:30pm|Van Zandt Community Hall

Sanford-Hill Piano Series

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center


8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Holding the Light

8:00pm|Honey Moon

Trove Bellingham Farmer’s Market
Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds


7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Women of Lockerbie

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

Young Frankenstein

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

Book and Bake Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Gore & Lore Tours

6:00pm|Historic Fairhaven, downtown Bellingham

Falliday Vintage Market

6:00pm|Port Transit Event Center


8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Harvest Happens

8:00am|Bellewood Acres

Lynden Breakfast

8:00am|VFW Hall

Ferndale Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Terrell Creek

Scarecrow Stuffing Contest

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|North Fork Library, Nugents Corner

Landscape stewards work party

9:00am|Chuckanut Center

Pumpkins 4 Pajamas

9:00am|Lakeway Fred Meyer

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Pumpkin Patch on Rails

9:00am|Wickersham Station

Port race ponders a wasted waterfront


Everyday Superheroes 5K

10:00am|Squalicum Creek Park

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Bellingham Comicon

10:00am|Ferndale Event Center

Fall Family Fun

10:00am|Glen Echo Garden

Blaine Oktoberfest


Community Cider Pressing

10:00am|Chuckanut Center

98221 Studio Tour

10:00am|Fidalgo Island

Correspondence Club

10:30am|Mindport Exhibits

Enlightened Caterpillar

10:30am|Village Books

Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen

11:00am|Community Food Co-op

Crown Jewel Wilderness

11:00am|Western Washington University Bookstore

Mushrooms gone wild


Fidalgo Youth Symphony

1:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Conquering Writer's BLock

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Winter Birds of Whatcom County

2:00pm|Ferndale Library

Undersea Bubble Fantasia

2:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Brew on the Slough

5:00pm|Maple Hall

Community Library Celebration

5:00pm|North Fork Library

Bellingham Hoptoberfest

6:00pm|Bellingham Sportsplex

Seeds of Change

6:30pm|Edison Granary

The Great Unconformity

7:00pm|Village Books

Skagit Symphony's Gala Concert

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Whose Live Anyway?

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

The Tannahill Weavers

7:30pm|Littlefield Celtic Center

Original Comedy Night

8:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Trove Village Books CWWarrenMiller Mt. Baker Theatre Undersea Bubble