Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Film Review: Blade Runner 2049

A gorgeous-looking belated sequel to a cult classic. But does Blade Runner 2049 have a fatal flaw, asks Michael Moran

 

Ryan Gosling as K

    Blade Runner 2049 is an absolutely beautiful film. Director Denis Villeneuve’s return to the world Ridley Scott crafted in the 1982 original shares its progenitor’s evocative believability as well as its hallucinatory aesthetic appeal.

    Ryan Gosling is a compelling lead as (Josef?) K., a Blade Runner charged with hunting down rogue replicants in a near-deserted future Earth. His only relationship is with Joi, a hyper-sexualised Siri played with luminous appeal by Cuban actress Ana de Armas. K’s quest for some sort of meaning to his own existence drives the noirish plot through a luscious, futuristic wasteland dotted with dream factories and odd pseudo-Dickensian orphanages.

    But that meaning is wrapped up in a secret that could destroy what remains of society.

    A billboard image from Blade Runner 2049
    A billboard image from Blade Runner 2049

    The film is, that rare beast, a sequel that equals and in some way surpasses the original. Harrison Ford returns as Rick Deckard in fine, grumpy form but Gosling holds the centre of the film as a fundamentally decent man carried down a dark road by his need to belong.

    There’s also, for Bible readers, an interesting allusion to the story of Rachel the wife of Jacob intertwined with ingenious expansion on the mythology established in the 1982 film.

    The original Blade Runner was set in a bustling, neon-larded metropolis of 2019 studded with advertisements for now-lost brands. The new film plays with that parallel-future dimension by throwing in a huge Pan-Am billboard alongside the six-storey holograms advertising artificially-intelligent companions. 

    As well as the reappearance of Ford and the beautiful soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch which evokes the classic Vangelis underscore without ever quite straying into pastiche there are a couple of other nostalgic callbacks to Scott’s original that will delight fans. Blade Runner 2049 is an orgy of futuristic nostalgia.

    Harrison Ford
    Harrison Ford

    But the film’s great flaw lies in its treatment of women. When they are not dewy-eyed biddable holograms they are real-life sex workers or one-dimensional bosses.

    And no matter what their job description is they are, all of them, victims. Villeneuve seems to have hewed more closely to the gender politics of 1982, rather than 2017 or (we would hope) 2049.

    Jared Leto is Niander Wallace, the apparently blind industrial magnate at the heart of the plot. There are a few dozen ways that we could be shown that he’s not a very nice man that do not necessitate the graphic evisceration of a mute naked woman.

    Whether you believe the world of tomorrow will see an expansion of current women’s rights or a resurgence of religious fundamentalism the idea of products being advertised by naked female bodies seems an unlikely eventuality too.

    Blade Runner 2049 is an absolutely beautiful film, and I enjoyed watching it. I can’t help thinking, though, that many women will quite justifiably enjoy it rather less.

     

     

The Diary

Spielberg set to produce WW2 adventure Blackhawk

Michael Moran

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Spielberg set to produce WW2 adventure Blackhawk
The Diary

Waititi calls New Zealand 'racist'

Michael Moran

Monday, April 9, 2018

Waititi calls New Zealand 'racist'
World

Children's book about 'Great Leaders' features Hitler

Michael Moran

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Children's book about 'Great Leaders' features Hitler
US News

Zuckerberg, Cambridge Analytica and the evidence

Michael Moran

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Zuckerberg, Cambridge Analytica and the evidence
UK News

Michael Rakowitz unveils new work on Fourth Plinth

Michael Moran

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Michael Rakowitz unveils new work on Fourth Plinth
World

Hezbollah releases video war game

Michael Moran

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Hezbollah releases video war game
The Diary

Jewish winners at The Oliviers

Michael Moran

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Jewish winners at The Oliviers
Israel

Rabbi says pork is kosher, if it's cloned

Michael Moran

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Rabbi says pork is kosher, if it's cloned
The Diary

Spielberg reveals Indiana Jones start date

Michael Moran

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Spielberg reveals Indiana Jones start date