Well, if ever there was a movie I was hoping to like, it was this one. The trailers looked good, and when the reviews came, they were largely positive. So it was a bit of a bummer to find myself deep into its running time while still completely uninvolved, and make it to the end only to realize that what it has to offer is quite, quite thin. I went home and hopefully read “explanations” of the ending, only to discover that yeah, I did get it, and there’s just really not all that much to it.
The difference between the theatrical Blade Runner and the director’s cut [and all subsequent versions] was a revelation, as the removal of the voiceover gave the viewer time to think, which transformed the experience of the movie. This film certainly gives you time to think, but the ideas just aren’t there. In the first, we are contemplating the very essence of life itself. Here the conceit is that two androids can have a baby, and all the issues that spring from that, which I am just not all that interested in. Oh, babies again. The miracle of heterosexual reproduction, again. Sorry if I just find the “ideas” here to be a bit banal and verging on cliché. However, I guess we should be thankful that we don’t have a Blade Runner taking care of and protecting a young, innocent girl.
The other thing is that in 1982, this vision of the future was utterly shocking. What we had then was the optimism of Star Trek, the grubby but still ultra-cool world of Star Wars, or dystopian futures that were still pretty cool, with domed cities and white, minimalist spaces. Blade Runner asked us to consider that the future might look a lot like what our current world is heading toward; a really shitty, corporate nightmare where all the people who can afford to have left. So it was a shock, and shockingly true-to-life. That same future has little impact anymore, and the more accomplished special effects don’t add much, and don’t intrinsically hold fascinating content, as they did in the original. Other trademarks of the original are sorely missed; the explosions and flames coming from smokestacks, the circular lens flares that made the flying cars look stunning, the fact that daytime was so dark it may as well have been night. I found the numerous daylight scenes in the new film to be quite jarring.
This film feels derivative, with heaping helpings of Her, a gentle sprinkling of Logan’s Run, a hint of Soylent Green, and etc. The first was a detective story first and you could think about the big ideas if you wished. This is a grand canvas for big ideas with a detective story invented in order to hang them on. It ret-cons the story of the first film while setting up a big new world of sequels to come, which will probably not be realized now that this tanked at the box office and they realized; “Oh. No one really wants another Blade Runner.”
I spent the majority of the film waiting to become involved in the story, and then it was over. The film is certainly well made and looks gorgeous, but they make a mistake in assuming audience engagement and offering nothing to encourage it. And then the boring big ideas, which are all a bit common—more WAR! The threat of WAR! Factions that could erupt in WAR [in any of the exciting possible sequels, advance tickets available now!].
And then there’s just that je ne nais quoi. Toward the end, simulacrum of Rachel from the first film appears, and the mere sight of her is electrifying, the way so many images in the first film were just fucking electrifying. Ridley Scott knew how to do it (then), to make images that sing and invite you to think without forcing ideas down your throat. Whatever that film had, it ain’t here.