Thursday, December 21, 2017

Edge of Human (Blade Running Blues)

[Spoiler-free review of Blade Runner 2049]
  • Replicants are bioengineered humans, designed by Tyrell corporation for use off-world. Their enhanced strength made them ideal slave labor.
  • After a series of violent rebellions, their manufacture became prohibited and Tyrell corp went bankrupt.
  • The collapse of ecosystems in the mid 2020s led to the rise of the industrialist Niander Wallace, whose mastery of synthetic farming averted famine.
  • Wallace acquired the remains of Tyrell corp and created a new line of replicants who obey.
  • Many older model replicants - Nexus 8s with open-ended lifespans - survived. They are hunted down and 'retired'.
  • Those that hunt them still go by the name... Blade Runner

It’s a very quiet movie. The score is used sparingly and there are long pauses in dialog. The theater (surprisingly full) is filled with occasional coughs. Loud coughs, small coughs, short coughs from in front, behind, the side. I imagine a plague, a superflu that starts slowly. The human race is always weak against slow builds--they never have chronometry, the depth, to forsee creeping doom.

I thoroughly enjoy seeing movies spoiler-free. I do watch much-awaited movie trailers, but not too close to the release date to allow me to forget I saw a clue or a hint of plot. I loathe early reviews, the critics and starving writers wanting their opinion to be the first. Don’t get me started on the ridiculousness of seeing something rated before you’ve had time to form a personal thought, an opinion of your own mind.

I remember 1998’s fated Godzilla big budget blockbuster. The early trailers avoided showing the monster’s full face and figure. Eventually, as summer came and the movie premiered, the face and body were no longer a spoiler. I remember feeling spoiled when I saw the full lizard, because I didn’t see the movie until it was on VHS. Now, I shield my eyes from TV teasers, so I can go in pure, unfettered. I’m thinking, “maybe I can outguess the director and discover the plot using my Holmesian powers”. Usually, I am surprised and pleased to see a movie unfold different from my dreams. And this happened for Blade Runner 2049.

A few days before I saw BR49, I went to the Wikipedia article on it to look up a character name. For some reason, I had to know what Ryan Gosling was doing in this film. And, to my dismay, I thought I had seen too much. The next morning in bed, I woke up with an epiphany to the plot. I knew the director (Denis Villeneuve) had a penchant for plot twists, and I believed we were going to get a “twin” event. If you’ve ever seen his Enemy, you’ll know where my head was:

I dreamed up a movie where Ryan Gosling was playing both a replicant and a human. Each scene with a Gosling would jump between the human and the copy. They looked and sounded the same, but one was real and the other was manufactured. We wouldn’t find out until the end that there were two characters on the clock. It seemed very Villeneuvien to me, so I went with it. But, to my joy I was totally wrong. That dream-movie would make a great sequel to what I witnessed in 2049.

The Harrison Ford and “Rachel” scenes were the least interesting in the film. But I guess there  was some old fans to placate. A CGI Sean Young seemed tacked-on. What I’m impressed by is the new sci-fi ideas. Novel ideas thrown onto the screen like:
  • A portable hologram girlfriend that can be erased forever (just like a real one)
  • Farming synthetically (replicant animals that humans eat?)
  • A terrorist attack, deleting all cloud data
  • Memory fabrication
  • Nuclear Vegas
If it were to be compared to the 1992 or even 1982 version of the original, I would say ‘49 has 90% less Asian influence with 80% more detective work.

I remember bleak silence. Silence (with no coughing plague).

The only thing I distinctly remember from the PKD novel (Androids/Sleep) is the ending. I was on a plane to somewhere, reading in my seat. At the end of the book, Decker is outside of the city and he finds a toad. He believes it is the real thing and it uplifts him immensely. He goes on thinking that for several periods, but in the end, it turns out to be synthetic.

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