‘BLADE RUN­NER’ SPELL

Gor­geous ‘2049’ breaks the

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Film - Re­view: Jake CoyleC AP Film Writer Images: Warner Bros. Pic­tures via AP

“We’re all just look­ing out for some­thing real,” says Robin Wright’s po­lice cap­tain in “Blade Run­ner 2049.”

Wright, an icy, steely ac­tress seem­ingly born for the world of “Blade Run­ner,” is speak­ing to her repli­cant de­tec­tive whose name is his se­rial num­ber: KDC-3-7 — or “K,” for short (Ryan Gosling). But it’s a line that res­onates be­yond the ro­botic re­al­ity of “Blade Run­ner.” What con­tem­po­rary movie­goer won’t nod with un­der­stand­ing?

Ri­d­ley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi neonoir orig­i­nal ex­tracted the fright­ful premise of Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do An­droids Dream of Elec­tric Sheep?” — the hor­ror of not know­ing if you’re real or not — and over­laid it across an eerie and mes­mer­iz­ing sci-fi void. Its slick sur­faces and the rad­i­cally at­mo­spheric syn­the­sizer score by Van­ge­lis — not to men­tion Daryl Han­nah’s hair and some se­ri­ous shoul­der pads — made “Blade Run­ner” an elec­tric por­trait of ‘80s soul­less­ness. Its fu­tur­is­tic grandeur came with a cyn­i­cal shrug.

De­nis Vil­leneuve’s im­pres­sively crafted and deeply re­spect­ful se­quel, set 30 years later, has — more than most of its re­boot­ing ilk — care­fully pre­served much of the orig­i­nal’s DNA. The pho­tog­ra­phy, by Roger Deakins, is res­o­lutely gor­geous, filled with stark per­pen­dic­u­lar lines, glow­ing or­ange hazes and yel­low pools of re­flected light. Gosling, a wor­thy heir to Har­ri­son Ford, shares his pre­de­ces­sor’s in­cli­na­tion for both re­straint and a smirk.

But while “Blade Run­ner 2049” is al­ways some­thing to look at, an overly elab­o­rate script and some other bad habits com­mon to to­day’s se­quel ma­chin­ery — such as glar­ing prod­uct place­ment — have bro­ken the “Blade Run­ner” spell.

It may be too harsh to grade “2049” against the orig­i­nal, es­pe­cially when so many copy­cats have since di­luted its dystopian won­der. Yet while “2049” still stands out from the pack, it lacks the mys­tery of the orig­i­nal. (Or at

least the di­rec­tor’s cut. The 1982 film was it­self a repli­cant with too many ver­sions to keep straight.) This lat­est up­dated model, less punk-rock in attitude, wants to con­nect the dots and il­lu­mi­nate back­grounds that stayed dark the first time around.

There are hints, one fears watch­ing “2049,” of a “cin­e­matic uni­verse” scaf­fold­ing be­ing erected. Scott is a pro­ducer this time around, but he had his hands in the film’s de­vel­op­ment, along with “Blade Run­ner” scribe Hamp­ton Fancher (who co-writes here with Michael Green). Scott in­stead went off to make “Alien: Covenant” but there seems to be some grow­ing con­nec­tive tis­sue be­tween the fran­chises. Cer­tainly there’s much of the same tire­some cre­ation mythol­ogy and Christ-im­agery, along with the throat­clear­ing mono­logues about an­gels and demons (here de­liv­ered by Jared Leto’s crazy-eyed AI vi­sion­ary).

The larger ap­pa­ra­tus de­tracts from what is, at heart, a de­tec­tive story — and a fairly good one, at that. Like Ford’s Rick Deckard, K is a Blade Run­ner seek­ing out-mod­eled repli­cants to “re­tire.” But whereas Deckard’s iden­tity was — depend­ing on whom you ask — up for grabs,

K is def­i­nitely a repli­cant. He un­der­goes “base­line” ques­tion­ing af­ter each mis­sion to es­tab­lish that he hasn’t started feel­ing emo­tions. (In this quiz, the cor­rect an­swer to “How does it feel like to hold a baby in your arms?” is “In­ter­linked.”)

Gosling has lit­tle about him that sug­gests an­droid, un­less fu­ture sci­en­tists are plan­ning to work ex­tremely hard on a “charm­ingly be­mused” set­ting. I per­son­ally pre­fer his more alive and loose-limbed L.A. de­tec­tive from “The Nice Guys,” but Gosling’s na­ture plays into the movie. We’re con­vinced K is more, es­pe­cially af­ter, while on a mis­sion, he stum­bles on to the re­mains of a repli­cant wo­man who ap­par­ently died in child birth.

As Wright’s char­ac­ter puts it, repli­cant re­pro­duc­tion would “break the world.” Hu­mans would no longer hold do­min­ion over their cheap, dis­pos­able work force; a re­bel­lion would spark. If “Blade Run­ner” was the night­mare of be­ing soul­less, “2049” is the dream of be­ing real, with a leather jacket-clad Pinoc­chio in a fly­ing car. The search for the child from 20 years ear­lier sends K in strange places.

Ques­tions of au­then­tic­ity are else­where, too. K’s lone com­pan­ion is a dig­i­tal wo­man named Joi (Ana de Ar­mas), a holo­graphic prod­uct ad­ver­tised to be “what­ever is your fancy.” He comes to be­lieve in their re­la­tion­ship, only to look crest­fallen at the bill­board ad­ver­tis­ing Joi. K is re­minded again and again that any feel­ing of unique­ness is imag­i­nary, or a mar­ket­ing gim­mick.

It’s a ques­tion Vil­leneuve’s movie asks it­self, too. A holo­gram of Elvis plays while a fist­fight ca­reens through a Ve­gas lounge. The latear­riv­ing Har­ri­son Ford is there in the flesh, but he’s com­ing off a “Star Wars” fran­chise that re­an­i­mated ac­tors, in­clud­ing a dead one, in younger dig­i­tal fac­sim­i­les. “Blade Run­ner 2049” qui­etly pon­ders its own ex­is­tence amid to­day’s block­busters: Can a repli­cant movie be real?

There is much to like here, but “2049,” like “Alien: Covenant,” feels too en­rap­tured with its own headi­ness. Even Nabokov’s “Pale Fire” makes a cameo. Maybe “Blade Run­ner” wore its com­plex­i­ties on its sleeve, too. But it’s hard not to agree with the old blade run­ner who turns up late in the film and tells K: “I had your job once. It was sim­pler then.”

A scene from “Blade Run­ner 2049.”

Ryan Gosling (left) and Har­ri­son Ford in a scene from “Blade Run­ner 2049.”

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