Blade Runner 2049 (2017) directed by Denis Villeneuve
With a movie so much about memories at hand, I would deem it the most inappropriate to not let you, dear reader, to not partake in one of mine while we are talking about it. While I was six of age, I was standing in a line to get my book checked by my English teacher. In front of me was a girl, and by God, she was the most beautiful thing I had laid eyes on till then. Quite unacquainted in these quandaries (as I should have been at six, and unfortunately, as I still am), I took the approach which had been tried and tested and had the indelible approval of Bollywood on it – I dropped my books. And guess what ? Cliches exist for a reason. She did bend down and help me pick up those worthless books ! I thanked her and smiled, and the motion was duly reciprocated. I introduced myself and so did she, and that was all that took for me to fall in love with her. And then ? Nothing. I never could muster the courage nor an approach to use it for, and as it always does, life happened. A decade later, she has shifted to far away, has a boyfriend and as far as I know, is quite happy with him, and I, well, I am talking movies to y’all. Over the years, I have revisited this above memory now and then, or to put it more correctly, this memory has revisited me now and then. For all the disappointment it holds, I still treasure it for the singular perfection is seemed to hold and the promise of much more. But more than that, it is that feeling of it which transcends words, so rare as if in the likeness of one of those misty halos that sometimes are made visible by spectral illumination of moonshine. This memory is what K (Ryan Gosling) would have died for, for in all its messiness, it is still as profound as the sound of bells in a Christian county. All that pain is all there is to be human.
With a pace reminiscent of a river eroding a rock, 2049 is beauty in the midst of all imperfections. It is a hybrid of science fiction, film noir, detective thriller, bounty hunter, western and a love story, that is to say it hasn’t strayed a bit from its origins. I could never write a proper review for the predecessor, instead resorting to hide my inadequacy in a mishmash study of its groundbreaking world with that of Cuaron’s Children of Men. So it comes off as no surprise that I can’t write a proper one for the sequel as well, yet for wholly different reasons. In the original Blade Runner, it was the imperfections that drew me in. I have rarely revisited it for its heartbreaking climax or for the ambiguity on whether Deckard is a replicant or not. No, more often than not, I find myself switching off my sound system when I watch Blade Runner and just let that eclectic visual style wash over me.
The towering skyscrapers of 2049 strain upward, gasping for air through the polluted skies. Sinister alleys and dark, cavelike crannies conceal unspeakable crimes against humanity. Nature has gone berserk, deluging the teeming city with an almost constant downpour. Smoke, steam and fog add to the fumigated congestion. It is a city of dreadful night, punctuated by neon signs in day-glo colors, cheap Orientalized billboards and a profusion of advertising come-ons with hunks of long-discarded machinery littering the landscape. The music by Zimmer provides no relief from the oppressive gloom, throbbing with eerie sounds, echoes, pounding pistons and the noises of flying vehicles shuttling through the poisonous atmosphere. Yet, through the eyes of the great Roger Deakins, the settings can be sinister and terrifying, or strikingly beautiful like an enchanted landscape depending upon the character focused on.
Denis Villeneuve, who has ascended to the ranks of Hollywood elite in a sparse amount of years, has incited criticisms for a number of reasons but character development has never been one of them. The love story, unlike its predecessor, stays with you, deeply involving us in the struggle of these lovers to feel love. When the Deckard angle enters, it does not feel like a forced attempt to cash in on the nostalgia of the original but rather to relieve it, and even better, comprehend it a bit more.
But the question here, and I am sure you are rather impatient about it by now, is whether it is as good as the original or not ? Objectively, no. Subjectively, yes. And this is because ignoring all the faults I singled out, which are too technical and boring to jot down here, I find a reflection of me in these characters longing to love yet finding no one to. I am not too sure to advertise my opinion since it is too fickle, but it is what it is and that is all I can manage to get onto a paper as well. Well, I guess I am only human.
But regardless of whether my judgement is a fallacy or not, go to the biggest screen you can find and experience 2049. Whether you like to admit it or not, the return of the world of Philip Dick to the screen is not just another movie, it is a cinematic event. So recline in your seat, forgetting the overblown air conditioning, that annoying couple getting to second base behind and the ever meddling Censor Board. Recline a bit more and let the lights, the sound and the emotions wash over you, and find yourself in the midst of the city choking on its own technology.
Personally speaking, as I always am, 2049 is everything I have wanted science fiction to be :- universal in its scope and personal in appeal.
written by Anand Nair