Thursday, October 5, 2017

Blade Runner 2049: Everything You Want To See

In 2001, while on the set of CNN Headline News for a lawyer client interview, it was my great pleasure to shake hands with the legendary film director/producer Sir Ridley Scott.

He was in-studio to promote his latest work of the day -- "Black Hawk Down" -- and during a commercial break, with just enough time to ask one or two questions, I vaguely recall bringing up any potential for a sequel to one of his science fiction masterpieces, "Blade Runner."

He did not say much in response, and honestly his reply is long forgotten by this starstruck observer, but tonight watching "Blade Runner 2049" about 25 years after seeing the original, it was impressive to see Scott's likely touches and influence on the sequel in his role as executive producer. 

WOW, what a show! 

Here's a taste:

"Blade Runner 2049" has more Easter Eggs than a holiday ceremony on The White House lawn. They packed so many minor and major piques of interest and points to ponder the uber-fans will take years to decode and pontificate. 

This film really delivers on all fronts. 

First, the excellent writing/script provides a thought-provoking and shape-shifting story built upon Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" (inspiration for both films). Audiences will savor an enjoy almost three hours of simmering plot and reveals. 

Loved the futuristic touches like a sunroof-turned-drone, wingless stone-shaped cameras, in-home projection units and monolithic video advertising across the concrete landscape of Los Angeles in 32 years. 

There's also outstanding music with movements inspired by Vangelis' work in the original film now treated by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, who brilliantly advanced the score another few decades.

Driving to the theatre, I reflected on the thousands of times my "Blade Runner Soundtrack" cassette and later CD got played, and now that the new film's soundtrack is available, it's likely to get played thousands of times as well. 

For the most part, the acting is strong, too. Of course, Harrison Ford makes a dramatic and impressive entrance and, come to think of it, a near-miss exit, each reminiscent of his early action star work in "The Fugitive" as well as "Patriot Games" and "Star Wars." 

Ryan Gosling is a rock as the protagonist Replicant named "K" assigned to exterminate Nexus 8 Replicants on the lam. More on the story in a few lines. 

I enjoyed many of the cameos in this version, including Edward James Olmos still divvying out origami creations (a Taurus in place of a unicorn ... any guesses as to why?). Sean Young's character Rachel returns -- some of the film's most creative, memorable and intense lines of dialog set up her reunion with rolling cameras. 

The strongest newcomer is Mackenzie Davis, sort of Part II's answer to Daryl Hannah's knockout "Pris" of the original. Robin Wright impresses as the stern top brass of the LAPD. 

The film's early sequences take "K" to a stretch of rural pasture that looks like snow-covered farmland from a bird's eye view, quickly revealed as a maze of "farmland" completely covered by synthetic greenhouses. Elements of nature like trees, grass and other flora and fauna are all but extinct -- small pieces of genuine wood command top prices by collectors, it is later revealed. 

Gosling quickly puts down a fellow Replicant before answering the fugitive's question "Have you ever seen a real miracle?" To reveal the answer to this leading question would be a giant spoiler; let's just say, discovery of a buried body under what's left of an ancient tree -- and a race to find a person related to that corpse -- sets in motion the adventures ahead. There's both crime and genetic sleuthing, visits to incredible sets (filmed in Hungary, Iceland, Spain, Mexico City and the deserts of Nevada), and great action.

I can't even start on the astounding and seamless special effects, but noted a team of 56 CG artists collaborated on the film. They take the audience from desolate arid lands to new wetlands behind a new Pacific Coast Sea Wall, across endless miles of favela-style urban neighborhoods to the most massive rust belt junk yard one can imagine. 

Most interesting visual: A surprising tech-infused threesome with Gosling, Davis and one of the film's other starlets, Ana de Armas. 

Most moving scene: Swiss actress Carla Juri -- cast as a specialist in creating Replicant's false memories -- as she engages Gosling in an updated version of the "Voight-Kampf" exam. 

Best line (one of several): "There's a bit of every artist in their work." 

Runner-up best line: "This moment is beautiful, isn't it?" (for me personally the context in which this line of dialogue appears is reminiscent of an introduction to my own "Rachel" of days gone by). 

And yet another great phrase: "Sometimes to love someone you've got to be a stranger." 

Watching this gem, I was on the lookout for architectural cameos like The Bradbury Building and Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House of the 1981 edition. No such luck, but there was a brief cameo by what may be a Wright-designed office chair. 

For Jared Leto's villainous corporate tycoon of "Blade Runner 2049" there's a breathtaking all-wood indoor platform surrounded by a fish-filled pond, showcasing his fabulous wealth as if to project, "Ahhh, to own that much authentic wood and real koi, not to mention an army of on- and Off-World servants!" 

Ford's splash pad turns out to be an entire floor of a decades-old Las Vegas high rise with his own in-hotel theater and jukebox that play virtual reality Elvis and Frank Sinatra concerts, respectively (nice touch).

It's rare to see a new release in a theatre and wish to view it again right away. "Blade Runner 2049" is one such film, and like the towering billboards peddling unknown products to its inhabitants, enjoy "Everything You Want To See" when you screen it. 

Images via Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment 

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