Last night I’d watched the sequel to one of the most beautiful and beloved sci-fi films of alltime. I remember seeing it as a child during the 80s with my parents when we’d stay up late to watch films on VHS; others included Predator, Alien, Aliens, Polterguest, The Thing, Mad Max, Big Trouble in Little China,Temple of Doom, for some reason we alway first see these films with our parents and this leaves an indelible mark on our childhoods.
I can’t imagine growing up the 90s and 2000s where technology and multiplexes have franchised and marketed everything to make it as accessible as possible. I remember first seeing the trailer to Jurassic Park and T2 before their release and almost wetting myself. Mad Mad: Fury Road, Indiana Jones 4, Prometheus or Dredd probably being the last films that made me wet myself. Now every summer there’s another sequel or reboot, nothing’s new or discovered in quite the same way.
At 9 or 10, I remember feeling bored and confused with Blade Runner, but I grew to love it because it remains unique and extravagant and unlike anything that came before or after it, despite its prosaic 2000-AD-style dystopia. For a long time I felt the only comparison to it, purely for its for look and design, was the cyberpunk anime Ghost In the Shell (1995). Which had a similar plot about a special agent hunting a rebel AI sentient, with many shots of polluted urban sprawl and virtual billboards referencing Blade Runner.
Films such as Judge Dredd (1995) and The Fifth Element (1997) created similar worlds but relied too much on wellworn Blockbuster geekiness. It was only until Fury Road (2015) and Dredd (2012) that someone seemed to have a good story and a refusal to compromise or kiddify it for a younger audience.
I’d been intrigued with the US version of Ghost in the Shell (2017), which itself seemed like a sequel to Blade Runner, but I’d felt failed to escape the tropes of bad dialogue, CGI violence and geekiness, which befell most of the Terminator sequels – but it looked really cool.
The critical response to Blade Runner so far has been one of almost unanimous applaude. Many critics are calling it a masterpiece and Villeneuve’s greatest achievement. For some reason the young man with the adorable lisp and bad facial hair who sold me my cinema ticket asked me had I seen Arrival (2016), and I said no (ofcourse I had, I didn’t like it) and he’d said it was one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made and that Blade Runner was as well.
Well, it’s not. It’s good, but like Arrival far from a masterpiece, but nerds have away of labelling everything that successfully delivers an original (did I really say original?) concept a masterpiece. As you can guess, there’s nothing original about it. In fact I’d been reminded of the HBO series Westworld (2016) and Ex Machina (2014), which dealt with the concept of AI and sentient life in a far more interesting way.
It’s different and cleverly invokes the same sombre style and muted pace as the original, which is unusual for a Hollywood film, or any dark thriller I’ve seen since Michael Mann’s Manhunter (1986) or Sicario (2015). The visuals, some of which occur for the first time in daylight, resemble the same brutal architecture and rainy neon plastic of the first film. The music is the same, except for a heavier industrial-metal score during the action scenes.
To an extent it does what JJ Abrams did with Star Trek and Star Wars, or how Dredd managed to remodel what worked for Robocop and Escape from New York, which is to take the events or scenes from the original and carefully weave these into the narrative. By that I mean, do you remember Darryl Hannah’s violent gothpunk/sexbot, well a few scenes are like that. Rutger Hauer’s romantic turn as the dying villian, it’s a little like that too. The creepy creators or the toy maker (‘your eyes, I just make the eyes’), that’s kindof in there.