CELLULORD SHORTS: THE MUMMY


Gonna try something new.  Well, new to me.  It's called Getting To The Point.  Let's see if I write reviews that don't take ninety minutes to read.

Let's start with the latest rehash of The Mummy, out now on Bluray and DVD.  
So, basically, the pitch for this was something like: We'll take the Indiana Jonesy feel of the Brendan Fraser Mummy films and add back the good-natured horror of the original Universal horrors. 

Not the worst idea ever. Add in the still-likeable-despite-all-that-Scientology-twaddlle Tom Cruise and you've got a bankable movie idea.  After all, with 2013's Oblivion and 2014's Live, Die, Repeat (!) behind him, he's got form in off-the-wall SF, why not give off-the-wall horror a whirl? 

Yes, this film is supposed to launch the Dark Universe universe ... Cos every studio has to have its own universe now, thanks to the success of Marvel.  Maybe that’s why the story becomes so convoluted.  That, and the fact that no fewer than six people are credited with writing it (which means that far more were likely involved).

Basically, Cruise plays a mercenary type out in Iraq, who calls in an airstrike and unearths the tomb of Ahmanet.  She (for, surprisingly, this mummy is a she) isn’t as dead as several millennia underground would suggest, and curses Cruise.  He dies, but that doesn’t stop him causing all kinds of trouble for her.  He is recruited by The Prodigium, a group of ghost busters overseen by Dr. Jekyll (yes, that one) - here played by Russell Crowe.

No, Tom, we don't know what the hell's going on, either.
No-matter how crazy things get, Cruise is never less than 100% committed and deadly serious; while Crowe is clearly having a ball taking the mick out of himself and the whole silly affair.

Despite being American through-and-through, this film has a very English feel, and reminds me more of Hammer horrors than the Universal films it's following on from.  There's also a splash of American Werewolf (1981) and a dash of Lifeforce (1985).  Yeah, I know.

Tommy gets to do some running too (I think he has that written into his contracts), Russell Crowe gets to flounce around as a camp Henry Jekyll and then chew the furniture as evil Eddie Hyde,  and London fills up with the medieval dead.  Also, to her credit, Sofia Boutella makes much more of her role as Ahmanet than Cara Delevingne or Oscar Isaac got to do with their versions of, essentially, the same villain in last year’s Suicide Squad and X-Men Apocalypse.

There are creepy moments, chucklesome  moments, great stunty moments and, to keep the gamers happy, running zombie moments.

It's big and it's daft and I have not the first clue what they thought they were doing.  But it's fun watching them find out.  The Mummy is a proper old-fashioned popcorn movie.  Put your brain in neutral and enjoy the ride.

THOR RAGNAROK



            Ever since they put Jon Favreau in the director’s seat for Iron Man back in 2008, Marvel Studios have enjoyed great success, through letting established comedy directors make their action movies.  The same year they put established action director Louis Leterrier in charge of The Incredible Hulk and the results were notably less successful - both in terms of fan love and box office revenue.
            The importance of striking that balance between drama and comedy resulted in the hiring of writer-directors like Joss Whedon, James Gunn and Shane Black, who are all skilled in both.  I would, therefore, characterise the bulk of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films as Action Comedies.  The action is the priority, the comedy is a bonus.
            Thor Ragnarok is a bit different:  It’s a Comedy with Action.  The emphasis is very much on the yucks, with the fights and chases just, sort of, added in by contractual obligation.  This is a very different emphasis from the last Thor film, Dark World (2013), which was criticised for being too po-faced.  It is interesting, then, that the characters who did offer humour last time - namely Darcy, the sarky scientist and Selvig, the mad scientist - have been ejected from this film, in favour of a new gang of misfits. 
            The signal that there would be a significant change of tone with Ragnarok, came with the hiring of director Taika Waititi.  Again, he’s a director with a comedic track-record and, while his movies, so-far, may have been light on stunts and CGI, they were heavy on character and eccentricity.  There is a gentle feel-good to his work, and Thor Ragnarok, despite all the pomp and circumstance of a Marvel juggernaut, manages to retain that.
            His comedy is (deliberately) a little bit hesitant and shambolic.  Natural, you might say.  He doesn’t seem to want either the performances or the delivery of the lines to be too polished.  He likes his actors to improvise and, indeed, does much the same in his own performances.  This being so, casting Jeff Goldblum as the baddie was a masterstroke.  Goldblum’s eccentric delivery is never less than delightful, his characters never less than endearing.  Yes, that’s a problem when he’s playing the baddie ... Because he doesn’t really believe he’s evil any more than we do ... But he’s just so much fun to watch, no-one minds.
Vintage Goldblum.  Did I mention I interviewed him once?  When Jurassic Park was out.  He offered the lightest, handshake ever, it was like his hand passed through mine.  There were three of us interviewing him, for different radio stations; he asked us our names and, when he was answering our questions, used our names, which made us sound more important and him sound more friendly.  Lovely bloke.
            Otherwise, there are a few pointless cameos which are mostly played for laughs (not just the inevitable Stan Lee one), Anthony Hopkins gets to join in the fun by outrageously ripping the piss out of himself, and Chris Hemsworth reminds us of the physical comedy skills he displayed in the first film.  Waititi also gives a mo-cap and vocal performance as a talking pile of rocks called Korg, who is initially hilarious but, unfortunately, I found quite wearing quite quickly.
            Did I mention Tom Hiddleston?
            Okay I won’t.
            Oh, alright, then.  He’s back as Loki, of course.  Still wearing his silly long wig, still wearing the hat with antlers whenever he gets the chance; still very aware of how silly it all is.  He’s also wearing a bit too much pancake makeup now, for some reason.  As usual, he’s sort of a baddie, but not really.  At least Thor is wise to him now, which makes for lovely interplay between the two actors - who have both had plenty of chances to settle into these characters by now.
Planet Hulk (2006-7) was a comic which I never found especially convincing, (the World War Hulk story which preceded it was far better, in my estimation) but it has adapted very well to the screen. 
            As you’ll know from the first trailer, this half of the film features The Hulk (who crash-landed on this alien world after flying off in the Quinjet at the end of the last Avengers movie, in 2015) and a short-haired Thor.  They are matched as gladiators for the entertainment of Goldblum and his planet of Scavengers.  In between bouts, Hulk and Thor find themselves rooming together, as superherodom’s funniest odd couple.  These scenes are a joy, providing some great opportunities for Hemsworth and Ruffalo to stretch their comic muscles.

     Speaking of stretching, poor Chris Hemsworth seems to have had an allergic reaction to all that Australian food, as his arms are massively swollen.  Poor lamb.
            Unfortunately, the second story - the one from which the film actually takes its title - is less engaging and less ... Unique.  Cate Blanchett is not nearly as well served as Goldblum.  She plays the film’s other baddie, the Goddess of Death, Hela, who invades Asgard while Thor is off on his jollies.  Obviously, with a name like ‘Goddess of Death’, she’s not going to get many gags.  But, it turns out, she’s just your boiler-plate megalomaniac, who simply wants the world to bow down before her.
            Then, instead of leading her army to conquer the nine realms, Hela spends her time fretting about why the Asgardians aren’t going along with her plans.  She worries that no-one remembers her and, therefore, she has no authority.  Issues over middle-management and discipline are not, sadly, the stuff legends are made on.
Hela, struggling with the powerpoint projector at another Asgardian staff meeting.
            I fear that this half of the film has suffered from some late tampering.  In the trailer, the moment where she grabs Thor’s hammer takes place in a New York alleyway.  In the finished film, it has been moved to a bleak and indifferently-realised grassy cliff-top, where Odin gets to do some pointless pontificating.  Not sure why he couldn’t do that in New York.  Anyway, this suggests that Hela’s story has undergone some last-minute surgery.  Whether this has made the story better or worse is something which, I suspect, we’ll never know.
            What’s certain, is that the Ragnarok story hangs together less convincingly than Planet Hulk, and not just because of the lack of Thor.  We never really believe that Asgard is in danger, nor that the fate of the nine realms is really at stake.  This is, all too often, the problem with Marvel movies ... Like Bond films before them ... their villains just aren’t scary enough.
            Ragnarok does afford Idris Elba’s Heimdall the chance to do some action man stuff, saving the Asgardian ‘civilians’ and leading them - Moses like - into the wilderness which, apparently, surrounds Asgard.  But there remains the sense (held over from the previous two films) that he is a character they could have done much more with, yet have let him slip through their fingers.
            Similarly, Karl Urban is an actor who seems, for some peculiar reason, to have not (yet) fulfilled his potential.  He hasn’t found his niche.  There’s no denying Urban’s commitment to this film, as he shaved his head and bulked-up for the role, even though he wears armour throughout, so you can’t really tell.
An almost unrecogniseable Karl Urban is just one of a host of Aussie and Kiwi actors director Waititi surrounded himself with.  Here, he meets all the gods, aliens, celestials and magic powers with some good old-fashioned hot lead.
            Those intense eyes of his shine out in every role he takes (with the exception of 2012’s Dredd, naturally), and he’s able to give us chilling villainy (in The Bourne Supremacy in 2004), lovable comedy (as Bones in the Star Trek films) and be a reliable leading man (in the criminally undervalued Dredd), so quite why he finds himself still playing (albeit very interesting) supporting roles, is a mystery to me.  Maybe he likes it that way. 
            Anyway - here he gives a great turn as Skurge, long-term Thor antagonist from the comics.  He witnesses the Warriors Three being despatched off-handedly by Hela, so decides to bend the knee; but his heart isn’t really in this whole lackey-for-hire business.  Like Heimdall, he’s a diverting character who deserves more than he gets.
            Back on Planet Hulk, Tessa Thompson turns up as another Thor comic favourite: Valkyrie.  I confess, when she first turned up, her sulky demeanour and bad-assery made me think she was played by Michelle Rodriguez.  That’s the kind of sass she brings to Valkyrie - who forms an important bridge between the two stories.  The flashback to the last time the Valkyries met Hela is a startling sequence and proves that Waititi can do full-on action, with no sense of irony.  It’s a shame he didn’t do a little bit more of that, at key moments.
The second best ride of the Valkyries ever put on screen.
            They have come up with an audacious and well-deserved way of tying up all the loose-ends of this story and, indeed, this three-film story-arc.  Yet, the crescendo of both stories - the Hammer of the Gods moment, if you will - should have been hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck filmmaking but, because of the tonal shifts throughout, and because Blanchett really hasn’t been given material the equal of her skills; this dénouement, whilst entertaining, lacks the tension it should have. 
            I feel that cutting back and forth between two seemingly unconnected stories cuts into the enjoyment of both.  Planet Hulk isn’t as exciting as it could be, Ragnarok isn’t as serious as it could be.  Also, the light-hearted tone of the one, defuses the end-of-the-world threat of the other.
            Thor Ragnarok is - in parts - a delight.  Mark Mothersbaugh’s plinky-plonky retro music, for example, is suitably eccentric and energetic.  But, as a whole, is not a great film.  It’s not even a great Marvel film.  It’s tone is very inconsistent and its script is very cluttered.  However, the whole messy confection is mixed together in the mighty Marvel manner, which hasn’t failed us yet.
Thor and Hulk as roomies.  So, whose turn is it to clean the toilet?
Dir: Taika Waititi
Script: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Dur: 130 mins
Cert: 12A

BLADE RUNNER 2049




            I remember the chorus of overwhelming indifference which welcomed Blade Runner upon its release in 1982. 
            I remember sitting alone in a chilly 1,500-seater cinema, a faded, dilapidated sepulchre of a building, an edifice from a previous epoch of film exhibition.  Just me and 1,499 lost opportunities.
            I don’t remember if I was aware, at the time, of how fitting a location that was, to watch a film set in a derelict, crumbling world, where the future had become merely an accumulation of accreted pasts, defeated and derelict and haunted by the ghosts of lost glories.
            I remember I went back to see Blade Runner again the following week, but the doors were closed.  The returns had been so low, they hadn’t bothered retaining it for a second week.  It didn’t come back.
            I remember, the following year, the VHS came out.  How many times did I watch it?  I lost count around 50.
            Blade Runner is still my favourite film.  Yes, I know you can fly a car through the plot holes.  Yes, I know everyone else hates the voice-over.  And there’s that ‘love’ scene.  Even I hate the tacked-on ending.  But my love of that film goes beyond rational and intellectual considerations.  It’s one of my safe places.
            I’m fully aware that Scott did not intend the film to be calming and reassuring, to be familiar and friendly; quite the reverse ... he was creating as coherent and convincing a vision of Hell on Earth as he was capable of, at the time.  35 years later, familiarity has made that Hell seem warmly welcoming.
            When I was at university, at the end of the ’80s, I would insist that Blade Runner was the definitive film of the decade.  I wrote essays defending it as such.  It had introduced many of the decade’s fashions - both in women’s clothing and in cinematography - it legitimised the dominance of post-modernism and, by extension, the nostalgia which has brought mainstream cultural progress grinding to a shuddering halt.  It was right on the cutting edge of literary science fiction (in a way cinema rarely is), visualising all of the technological, political and sociological concerns of Cyberpunk.
            Those few benighted fools who believed in it with me, were considered an anarchic fringe for the first decade or so, but time has led to our beliefs being adopted by the mainstream.  Now everyone loves Blade Runner, even if no-one quite knows why.
            All of which is to say that my relationship with Blade Runner is long and complicated.
Nostalgia is all about looking back over our shoulder at what we once had, and wishing we still had it.  If it's a TV show or a comic book, we can still have it.  But, after The Blackout wiped all the computers, that all disappeared.  All the people in 2049 have is their memories.
            The thought of a belated sequel did not excite me.  They so rarely add anything, and they so frequently take away.  But I wished it well.  I’d have to see it.  So, I deliberately didn’t re-watch the original before turning up a 11am on opening day to the first possible screening ... I was prepared to let Blade Runner 2049 be its own thing.
            Three hours later, I emerged from that screening confused and conflicted.  The reviews came flooding in.  People were calling it a masterpiece.  Unusually for me, I reserved my judgement.  I read about it, thought about it, and went to see it again.  About half way through the second viewing, I realised: yes, it’s a masterpiece.  It’s also a failure.
            A lot of what follows will be in fragments as I am (as a different Scott synthetic would put it) still collating.  There will be spoilers, so approach with caution.  Now, let’s see if I can make some sense of it all ...

The Chance to Begin Again in a Golden Land of Opportunity and Adventure.

            Like proper Blade Runner, it begins with an eye opening.  This isn’t K’s eye, because he’s asleep.  Given the dreamy, deliberately paced nature of the film, I suppose this could be implying that the whole story is a dream.  An android’s dream, if you follow me.
            But, since I’m no lover of the ‘and it was all a dream’ ending, even in kids’ books, let’s just assume that this isn’t the case.  So, while he dozes, K is flying over fields of solar panels, which clearly do little in this permanently overcast world.  The only thing that grows now, does so in greenhouses, in nutrient soup.  With this opening image, director Villeneuve erases, once and for all, the impossible, non-sequiturial Shining outtakes that cluttered up the end of Blade Runner.  This is no longer a land with verdant forests hidden just beyond the borders of the  city.
            Indeed, when K’s Spinner lands in this pallid parody of farmland, he lands next to a tree.  Except, it’s the ghost of a tree; white and dead and held upright by high tension wires.
            Let’s just take a moment to think about his name.  It isn’t a name, it’s a serial number KD6-3.7, although he generally answers to just ‘K’.  Later, his ‘girlfriend’, Joi, calls him ‘Joe’.  So, he’s called Joseph K.  References to Kafka’s The Trial (1925) are not obvious in the film, save in the pointlessness of K’s mission, and the soulless bureaucratic labyrinth of the world he navigates.

If, like me, you've only really seen Dave Bautista daubed in blue and joking with a CGI racoon; his subtle, melancholic performance as Morton will come as a delightful surprise.
             When K checks a serial number, it is in the eye and is revealed by looking up and to the right.  This, Psychologists tell us, is what we humans do when we’re lying.  So, the way we humans lie, is the way Replicants reveal the truth.  It’s almost like they are a mirror image of us.
            K feels that he is different to Dave Bautista’s Sapper Morton, because he is a later model, a Wallace Replicant, one where the bugs have been ironed out, one that obeys; whereas Morton is one of Tyrell’s jittery Nexuses.  In this case, a Nexus 8.  Deckard, back in his day, was hunting Nexus 6s.  So, what happened to Nexus 7?  Was Rachael maybe the only Nexus 7?  Her ability to conceive and give birth is certainly the miracle that Morton has spent thirty years in the wilderness, hiding.

The trailer focused on the similarities between 2049 and the original Blade Runner, for obvious marketing reasons.  But that trench coat with high collar annoyed me, when I saw it. Surely fashion would have changed in thirty years?
             So, let’s look at K.  Initially, when I saw the teaser trailer, it annoyed me that the new Blade Runner, thirty years on from the original Blade Runner (in diegetic film time), carries the same gun, wears the same high-collared coat, even flies the same car.  In fact, none of these things are exactly the same, but their differences are cosmetic.  Gradually, though, whilst watching 2049, I realised that progress has pretty much ground to a halt.  It’s like the world has devolved to a more primitive state, with toxic clouds in the sky.  As K’s Spinner flies over LA we see, primarily, a flat world where the light and life exists in the cracks and crevices.  Like Morlocks, humans have effectively been driven underground.
            Where Deckard felt like a private eye (thanks, in no small part, to Scott’s film noir visuals and - you know it’s true - the deadpan voice-over), it is very quickly evident, here, that K is more of a mercenary.  Lt. Joshi tells him, after he ‘retires’ Morton, that he can collect his bonus.  When she sees the beating he has taken, she tells him she’s not paying extra for the wounds.  Oddly, he seems to be the only officer Joshi has, the only Replicant who walks the halls of the LAPD; she certainly relies heavily upon him.  She seems quite comfortable with him, but no-one else is, they abuse him in those halls, and they put him through a de-briefing process called a Baseline Test, to prove he still has no emotions.  The authorities clearly remember the Nexus 6s and remember what happened when Tyrell gave his machines real emotions.

Replicants Weren't Supposed To Have Feelings.  Neither Were Blade Runners.

            But, despite the success with which he passes the test, K does have emotions, he loves his girlfriend.  Or, at least, he acts out what he thinks loving a girlfriend must be like.  But, even if he doesn’t feel love ... He feels the need for love.  And that’s still an emotion! 
            The first time we see Joi, she is a 1950s picket-fence mom stereotype.  She’s a fantasy; shifting and morphing as her mood changes, or as she thinks his mood is changing.  She is his idealised vision of what a woman should be; because, like all sentient beings, he just wants to be loved.  He spends his bonus on her, not on jewellery though, but on an emanator, a little stick which means she becomes portable, so he can take her out of his tiny, bland, functional apartment, for the first time. 

Ordinarily, this would be a supremely romantic moment however, as with the 'love' scene later, Villeneuve undermines the emotion by reminding us that these people are artificial.  But, does that make them less important?
            Her first sensual experience of the world is rain.  She’s an indoor person; indoor people never feel real rain.  But the water makes her flicker, like a mini short-circuit.  Then, as this romantic moment reaches its emotional peak for K (if not for a cynical viewer like me) it is undermined when she freeze-frames.  He has an incoming call, and we are reminded that Joi is really just a glorified smart phone.
            When he turns her on (!), Joi’s signature tune is the opening bar of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.  A musical suite which features a lot of animals.  Possibly this music is used to make the point that there are no real animals left and so, if it’s an animal, it’s a Wallace Replicant.  Everything that looks real, is actually fake.
            The music is clearly significant.  It is Russian.  As is the book Joi and K share, Nabokov’s Pale Fire, a book which purports to be a poem written by one fictional author then annotated and interpreted by another fictional author.  A story about creation, featuring two fake creators.  Part of K’s Baseline Test is taken from this book so, presumably, his liking of it is part of his programming.
            So, you see, all the elements of K’s life have been carefully assembled to have symbolic significance.  There’s no denying the depth of the thought that Hampton Fancher and Michael Green have shoe-horned into this script, nor of the creative ambition to have a film which does far more than simply present spectacular visuals.  The last time a big-budget SF film was put together with this much care, was Mad Max Fury Road (2015).  The difference between these two science fiction dystopias is, of course, a matter of velocity.  Mad Max’s narrative hurtles along.  Blade Runner’s dawdles.  With my second viewing, I realised just how self-indulgent the pace of this film is.  I really wanted to be swept along with it, to lose myself in the visuals and the sound montage and the mind-boggling mise-en-scène, as I had with the original.  But 2049 doesn’t have the heart of the original nor, more properly, the soul.
            Blade Runner was cluttered and emotional and organic, it was exotic and different from the world as we, in the West, understood it.  2049 is too similar to the original in its look, but too different in its feel - like its main character, and the soil in which nothing now grows - like Wallace's Replicants - this whole movie is sterile.  The fact that it snows in Los Angeles is as good a metaphorical representation of this as any.  The film is just too cold. 

Gosling's blank face is a canvas onto which the viewer can project their own reactions. 
            My fear going in to this film was that Gosling would give one of his still, emotionless performances.  And he does.  This is a necessary part of the character - who will be ‘retired’ if he demonstrates emotion.  As the story develops, he gradually develops more emotions, but, by the time he becomes passionate and reckless, it’s too late.  The story has taken too long to get going; the narrative has taken too long to become engaging.
            Gosling is an actor known for his stillness and his emotionlessness on screen.  Look at him in his Refn movies (Drive from 2011, and 2013’s Only God Forgives), and you’ll see a man who rarely delivers a line of dialogue, who moves slowly, who even blinks slowly.  But, with this performance, even he seems to be bored by just how slowly this relatively simple plot unravels.
            This plot also turns on several contrivances which don’t ring true.  The first such clanger comes when K, for no clearly discernible reason, takes over the microscope from the Pathologist, and somehow knows to zoom in and reveal the serial number that betrays the body as that of a Replicant.  I understand the narrative needs to have a call to action for K, and that his narrative arc is the journey from slave to master of his own destiny; but did it really have to be so literal as to have his hand on the focusing ring, when the bloke whose microscope it is, is standing right there?
            Much later, I struggled with quite why his Lieutenant would strip him of his badge and weapon, but leave him with his Spinner - it’s almost like she conveniently knew that he was quit when he came in, now he had his own agenda to pursue, so left him with the only thing he needed to go literally off reservation.

“More Human than Human” is our Motto.

            When they learn that Tyrell created a Replicant that could give birth, it’s fair to say that Joshi doesn’t take it well.  In one of the clangiest lines of the film, she insists that “There’s a wall between kind.  Tell people there’s no wall and you bought a war.”  Yes, I get it, they’re using Replicants as a metaphor for race and this dilemma is a sideways reference to the results of racism.  But her overreaction still seems extreme and unwarranted.  Later, she mutters “am I the only one who can see the sunrise?”  Well, at night, in rain-lashed, fog-bound LA ... Yeah, you probably are.
            K hesitates when she orders him to kill the Replicant child because, he says, “To be born is to have a soul.”  She reminds him that he’s no more significant to her than a toaster when she tells him “You’ve been getting on fine without one.”  If there’s a single moment when K decides to go against his programming ... It’s then.  His Baseline Test may show that he has no emotions, but his pained expression at that comment indicates otherwise.  Hence why he fails the next Test!

Niander Wallace has got wood.  If K's little horse could make him rich, what must Wallace's wainscoting be worth?
            He goes, as he must, to the heart of the matter, to the archives of the Tyrell Corporation, now taken over by Wallace, whose own building towers over the Tyrell pyramids, which once dominated the skyline.  Niander Wallace’s ambitions are, it turns out, far greater than Eldon Tyrell’s were, he wants nothing more than to own the stars.
            We’re given lots of lumpy exposition about ‘The Blackout’, which wiped all records in 2022.  This is an interesting notion, and possibly explains the lack of technological development since the last film.  It is also the reason that ‘the child’ managed to stay lost.
            Luv, in her Right-Hand-Woman role, greets the news of Morton’s retirement with a cool humour.  She refers to it the return of “a prodigal serial number”.  That’s all the Replicants are - serial numbers.  But, of course, if you think about your credit card, your phone number, your pin number, your customer numbers ... We’re all just serial numbers now.  Especially to world-bestriding corporations like Facebook and Google.  They haven’t branched out into creating Replicants yet, but it can only be a matter of time.  This is something that Cyberpunk warned us about when the original Blade Runner was fresh.  I still remember reading about the terrifying powers of the Zaibatsus in William Gibson's novels of the time.
            K has good instincts; when listening to the recording of Rachel’s Voight-Kampf, he notices that she is provoking Deckard, because she likes him.  K also points out that Tyrell gave Rachael a name, rather than a serial number.  She, therefore, must have been special.  Wallace, of course, has named Luv.  Although that name has a fine sense of irony.  She demonstrates emotions by crying when her fellow Replicants are born and die, yet she relentlessly and emotionlessly executes anyone who gets in the way of her pursuit of K and Deckard.  She’s one part Replicant to two parts Terminator.  Talk about Beauty and the Beast ... She’s both.

How Can It Not Know What It Is?

            Why does Gaff have the same silly beard as thirty years ago?  It must be a pain to shave round and he’s old and living in a home, so who would know or care?  He was a dandy in his day, but that day seems to have gone away.  And why does he speak English all of a sudden?  He places an origami sheep on the table - a clear nudge towards the title of the original source novel -  and mutters that he is now retired.  Is this a cunning way of telling us that Gaff is actually a Replicant, or is it underlining the different meanings of the word ‘retired’?
            Okay, so, I guess it’s time to deal with artificial elephant in the room ... the whole ‘Deckard Is a Replicant’ thing.  This idea extends from one shot in the original Blade Runner, where Deckard’s eyes momentarily reflect orange, like Replicant eyes do.  I’ve never bought into that notion.  Never have, never will.  It simply makes no sense.  

There it is, that moment that launched a thousand discussions.
            There is nothing in the original film to suggest that Replicants are made as copies of humans, to replace individuals.  So Deckard can’t have suddenly become one, because Bryant has known him for years.  Besides, why replace a private eye with an expensive Replicant?  What would be the point?  Unless Bryant is also a Replicant ... and so on, and so on ... It just makes no sense.  Why create secret Replicants in a world where there are already non-secret Replicants?
            Yes, in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968), there is a question mark over Deckard’s humanity and, yes, there is a fake police station entirely peopled by ‘androids’; but there a lot of elements in the book which didn’t make it to the film - such as Deckard’s wife, his Mood Organ, his buying a Replicant goat.  If anything, these elements are better represented in 2049, but they are definitely absent from Blade Runner. 
            But, more compelling than this, for me, is the fact that - in Blade Runner - having Deckard be a Replicant makes no dramatic sense whatsoever.  It is the story of a racist who learns to love the thing he always feared.  A hunter who learns to love the thing he hunted.  As with most Hollywood films, it’s about redemption.
            So, having discussed it at length for decades, I remain resolute.  Having Blade Runner be the story of a robot that runs off with another robot, after killing all the other robots ... no ... that’s Transformers you’re thinking of.  It is to the credit of this new film, that it leaves the muddy waters of that discussion, largely untroubled.  Wallace teases Deckard over his love for Rachel: “You were designed to fall for her.”  Then, after the fanboys in the back row have stopped cheering ... Calmly adds: “That is, if you were designed.”

It’s Not an Easy Thing to Meet Your Maker

            Wallace is an odd creation.  His rooms have the Zen-like simplicity of Japanese design.  At first I thought this might be a visual nod to Gibson's Ziabatsus, the corporations which are so big they have political control of the world, but no, I think this stark, minimalist design has a deeper cause.  Wallace is responsible for creating millions of lives and saving billions more and this has given him a God Complex, a sense that he is God at the moment of Genesis.  He has his rooms filled with water, which he moves upon the face of.  He certainly ‘sees’ the world in Biblical terms.  For him, his Replicants are angels.  “We make angels in the service of civilisation.” 
            It is no surprise that Fancher and Green has layered so much Christian imagery into their script.  Fancher will have brought his romantic, Gothic ideas about fallen angels over from the first film, all those years ago.  And, as for Green, he's having a phenomenal year, having worked on Logan, Alien Covenant, and the TV show American Gods; all of which feature sacrificial, Christ-like characters and all of which have the rich imagery of angels and demons rumbling just below the surface.
            Batty, in the original film, brings with him an angelic subtext.  “Fiery the angels fell,” he tells Chew, the Eye Designer.  This is a mis-remembered line (allegedly suggested by Rutger Hauer, who wrote much of Batty’s dialogue), conflating Blake’s “Fiery the angels rose” and Milton’s notion of a fallen angel.  Batty was an angel, banished from Heaven, but returning, fallen back to earth, determined to meet his maker.  Of course, Wallace’s angels are also fallen, literally falling out of the plastic bag in which they gestate.  The process of being born like this is traumatic.  So the first thing a Replicant feels is pain.  “Before we know what we are,” intones Wallace, “we fear to lose it.”
            He speaks in mysterious ways.  I remain in two minds about Jared Leto’s performance here, whether it is just more mannered eccentricity (à la his Joker in last year’s Suicide Squad) or if it is a careful and clever revelation of a mind which functions in a manner which is beyond the comprehension of mere grounded mortals.  Wallace also has several eyes, ‘seeing’ through a flock of floating cameras.  One presumes he can, similarly, patch into CCTV cameras, etc, which will give him something close to omniscience. 
            His ‘vision’ stretches far beyond what can literally be seen, beyond even the nine worlds of our solar system - all of which are, it seems, now being exploited thanks to his Replicants (as, to be fair, some of them already were thirty years previously, thanks to Tyrell’s Replicants - remember all that “A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies” stuff?)  Wallace imagines a human race of trillions spilling out into the “barren pasture” of interstellar space and, thusly, we can “retake Eden”.
            Retake Eden?  Who from, exactly?  That sounds like the meaningless crowd-pleasing right-wing rhetoric of “Make America Great” or Britain’s own Brexit war-cry of “Take Our Country Back”. 

And darkness was upon the face of the deep. And Jared Leto moved upon the face of the waters.
            He’s also a God who has a very toxic vision for the women he creates.  All of his artificial women - whether physical Replicants or virtual holograms - are overtly sexualised fantasies.  Joi is K’s fantasy, quite innocent and twee in its own way; but the hologram advertising hoardings are all naked or semi-naked women (including a giant, naked, submissive Joi).  The Replicant women we meet are prostitutes, working out of a translucent brothel, where their humiliation and abuse can be watched from without. 
            The newborn Replicant which Wallace auditions, drops, in a most undignified manner, out of a plastic bag.  It’s a striking image, if ludicrously impractical.  She is female and, of course, naked, dripping in synthetic amniotic surrogate, struggling to breath and stand.  Wallace calls her an angel, and you’d think this would be a good thing, but then he focuses on her own barren pasture, her functionless womb, and eviscerates her, for the crime of being exactly how he made her: sterile.  She is woman reduced to function, and that function is reproduction.  If she can’t reproduce, then she has no value and can be cast aside. 
            He is a wasteful God, this Wallace, one who will punish his children for being less than he wishes them to be.  A proper Old Testament God, then, a fascistic God filled with disappointment at the poor mortal materials with which he has to work.  Where Tyrell revelled in his creations: “You were made as well as we could make you”, Wallace is dissatisfied with his, he is God as traditional Capitalist - for him, enough is never enough, there will always be more worlds to conquer.  Literally.

Can The Maker Repair What He Makes?

            Indeed, the only real female K meets (and, to be fair, I have my doubts about her) is Lt. Joshi, who is also sexualised, insofar as her uniform is redolent of an S&M Dominatrix.  K does refer to her as “madam” throughout. 
            It is not insignificant that the main prostitute, the one Joi hires for their disturbing ‘threesome’, is called Mariette, merely an ‘on’ away from being a marionette.  Although it’s lit and shot like a genuine romance, this scene is immediately followed by our first view of the Joi billboard, featuring K’s woman, naked and available, reciting her submissive mantra “Everything you want to hear, everything you want to see”.  This is a stark reminder that Joi isn’t a person, she’s a mass-produced fantasy who can only ‘touch’ someone through interfacing with another type of mass-produced fantasy.  I think this speaks volumes about the agency the women in the film experience.  Blade Runner 2049 does pass the Bechdel Test, by the skin of its teeth, as indicated here.

It's not just me, is it?  When I first saw Mariette, I was convinced it was an uncredited cameo from Emily Blunt.  She isn't, she's Mackenzie Davis.  But, have they ever been photographed together, hm?
            But one short scene of a Replicant and a hologram talking, hardly compensates for the saturation of exploitative images and ideas throughout the rest of the film.  Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a perfectly credible depiction of how the business of creating artificial people would work.  The sex industry is at the cutting edge of most entertainment technology development so, of course, if we could create designer people, we would create ‘pleasure models’.  That’s inevitable, and the film reflects that idea.  But it doesn’t challenge it, and that’s worrying.
            By contrast, there’s real poetry in the scene where K is checking DNA sequences by eye and Joi joins him, looking over his shoulder, then passing through him to look over his other shoulder, being closer than a physical being ever could be.  Here, she points out that humans are made up of an alphabet of just four letters (GATC), where virtual people like her are just two numbers (zero and one, in case you fell asleep in IT class).  At the baseline, we’re not so very different.  She romanticises the notion of being born for him: “Pushed out into the world.  Wanted.”  She is his conscience when it comes to matters of sentiment, his Jiminy Cricket.  Later, when she calls him a “real boy” she makes the Pinocchio reference more overt.

This is the most heart-breaking moment in the movie; when K, mourning the death of his hope and Joi, is reminded that she was never really his, that their love was an illusion.
            He discovers that there are two children with identical DNA, one was obviously a smoke-screen to hide the natural-born-Replicant.  The other one died of ‘Galatians Syndrome’.  Galatians is a book of the Bible which discusses God sending his Son to be born of woman,  which ties-in with the theme of the importance of birth, as well as Wallace’s obsession with being God.  Galatians also mentions the value of human values like Love and Joy (!) as well as Peace, Patience and Kindness, etc.  All of these traits have been twisted, repurposed or eliminated in Wallace’s world.
            So K goes in search of an orphanage.  In San Diego.  I don’t know if having San Diego be one giant scrap-heap is meant to be an in-joke; but it’s a landscape of rust and abstract shapes.  This sequence, along with the film’s pedestrian pace, put me in mind of Tarkovsky’s Stalker.  K really is going out into The Zone, here, where the desolation leads him to introspection and epiphany. 
            It’s worth mentioning: those Peugeot Spinners (product placement - clang), they’re built to last!  K’s is brought down by the Scavengers we saw briefly in the first Blade Runner (those dwarves ripping bits off Deckard’s Spinner’s roof), now swollen in size and number to become a small army.  They efficiently leave him powerless and reduce poor Joi to a crackly gif, repeating herself endlessly.
            This sequence presents us with the possibility of some genuine conflict - of actual action!  K versus the Scavengers in the kingdom of trash.  But, no.  Luv brings it all to an end, deus ex machina style; she reaches down from space and blasts the Scavengers by satellite.  She directs the satellite verbally, just like Deckard directed his computer to look round the corners in a photo in Blade Runner, and just like people with too much money direct their Alexabot to dim their lights for them in our overly-commodified real world.

Quite An Experience To Live In Fear, Isn't It? That's What It Is To Be A Slave.

            Lennie James gets to give a once-in-a-career performance as Mr, Cotton, the Fagin of the future, running an orphanage in what looks like an upturned giant satellite dish.  What he’s really running, of course, is a sweatshop, where his child slaves extract nickel from redundant high-tech salvage, by hand.  Not a job with much of a pension plan, I’m guessing.  

Lennie James is reviewing the situation.  After a long and varied career on both sides of the Atlantic ... He may have just hit the Hollywood big time.
           Also, this sequence highlights a question I had about the population of LA.  Where has it gone?  In the Scott version, the streets were teeming with plastic-clad people with glowing umbrellas, you remember.  Where are they now?  The couple of scenes we have on the streets of LA show them to be surprisingly lacking in extras. 
            And, when I think about it, K doesn’t really meet and speak with many real people, so one wonders ... Is the human race dying out?  One of the conceits of the first film was that all the rich people had abandoned earth, so only the poor and unfortunate were left.  Are they now dying out?  That would not be inconsistent with the general sense of tragic entropy which shrouds the film. 
            But, suddenly, we are introduced to a factory floor populated by hundreds of shaven-headed children.  Well, the boys are shaven, the girls, pointedly, are not.  Where did they all come from?  Presumably they are human children, because we are shown that Replicants are born fully grown.  There would be no point in engineering Replicant children, so these kids must be real.  Pushed out into the world, unwanted.  But by whom?
            Anyway, back to the slaves.  Wallace contends that we, as a society, have no appetite for slaves, yet, here they are.  Mr. Cotton states that “Bigger than you” have tried to shut him down, and failed.  This suggests some conflict between him and Wallace.  After all, Wallace’s aim is to manufacture the world’s slaves himself, and here’s Cotton with his real slaves, the sons and daughters of LA, functioning in direct competition to Wallace’s philosophy.
            Back in LA (courtesy that indestructible Spinner) K goes to see the dream-weaver Dr. Ana Stelline, who offers sweeping exposition instead of dialogue - which immediately flags her as being more significant than the plot would, at that point, have us think.  She lives in a sealed room, a literal bubble, and always has - because, as she cheerfully confesses to this total stranger who has just walked through her door - she has a “compromised immune system”.  She, it is, who creates the fake memories that give Wallace’s Replicants the illusion of personality.  K wonders what makes her manufactured memories so authentic.  It’s a fair question, since she’s lived alone in this featureless bubble since she was 8.
            She insists that it’s all just imagination, not siphoned from her own real memories because “it’s illegal to use real memories”.  And why is that exactly?  I can imagine (if you’ll pardon the pun) real people making a decent living by selling their real memories.  But, is she actually real?  I mean, how does she eat in that bubble?  She could very easily be a hologram, like the hologram we later see of Frank Sinatra, in the glass bubble of a 3D jukebox.
            Maybe she’s no more substantial than Joi.  Maybe the real memories she surreptitiously feeds into her Replicant subjects (hence K’s confusion over the wooden horse) are just more fakery.  But, does that really matter?  Are our memories reliable, photo-realistic depictions of our past?  No, they are fictionalised, edited, compromised.  That being so, does having a fake memory make it substantially any different from having a partially imagined real one?

I Want More Life, Fucker.

            The significance of the wooden horse is that it’s a piece of tree, a real tree, and, as such, is impossibly valuable.  Its value is in the fact that it was once a living thing.  Life is the most valuable commodity, in a world largely populated by people who were never born and who have no souls.  When K uploads Joi onto the emanator, and erases her from the mainframe, there is no backup.  So, Joi can be deleted.  Killed.  “Just like a real girl.”  Mortality is the state which separates the real from the artificial.  And knowledge of this mortality is the thing which inspires nostalgia.
            It is pointedly ironic, then, that all the Replicant records are kept on glass slides in huge and innumerable wooden chests of drawers.  The records of the past, those which exist physically and offline and, therefore, were not erased in The Blackout, are encased in natural wood, a substance which is a memory of life made physical.  The records which catalogue every Replicant who ever lived and, therefore, ever died, are filed away in a substance which was, itself, once alive.
            K believes the number carved on the horse (and over the grave on the dead tree) to be his date of birth - just another form of serial number - but one with added significance for a person who believed himself made rather than born.  Consequently, K breaks his conditioning, ignores his orders and sets off to investigate, convinced now that he is the real child. 
            Seeing this, Luv stops relying on surrogates to do her dirty work for her and steps out from behind her desk.  The music which accompanies her is reminiscent (deliberately or otherwise) of The Terminator (1984).  And she absolutely will not stop.  She first visits Lt. Joshi, and it becomes apparent that ‘Madam’ has been working for Wallace all along, supervising the mopping up of those prodigal serial numbers.  That reinforces my suspicion that Joshi is also a Replicant.  Maybe this is why she reacts so strongly to the ‘born’ Replicant, because her programming is to eliminate them all, and now there's suddenly one extra.

Sylvia Hoeks as Luv, with her Genuine People Personality, she's your plastic pal who's fun to be with.
            Luv’s judgement of Joshi is emphatic: “In the face of the fabulous new, your only thought is to kill it.”  Wallace, of course, has far nobler ambitions, his only thought is to monetise and take over the universe with it.
            K ventures out into the desert, a world which is the tonal opposite of LA.  Where that is (relatively) crowded, wet and dark, this is abandoned, wide open and garishly bright.  The palette is the reverse of LA, all warm oranges and browns instead of cold greys and blues.  Whilst it is never named, this is obviously Las Vegas.
            This was the moment when the film lit up for me.  Previously, it had been visually too dreary.  As you know, I don’t hold with any of that 3D nonsense, but I deliberately went to see a 4K presentation, yet even that was dim and lacking in contrast.  It was grey characters against grey buildings and a grey sky.  It was so 2D, it was tonally flat!  That was such a disappointment after the crackling, vibrant spectacle of Scott’s Blade Runner.  I’m used to badly projected 3D being visually dim, but not 2D.  Yet, the Las Vegas scenes show that this was actually a cinematographic choice.  Indeed, I went to see the film again, at a different cinema, in no small part to see if the picture would be more vibrant.  It wasn’t.

Viva Las Vegas.
            So, anyway, when K arrives in the full colour world of LV, it has pyramids (like LA), and giant sexualised images of women (like LA), only its effigies are statues rather than holograms, a throwback to a more analogue age, maybe?

It Doesn't Make Any Difference What Desert, It's Completely Hypothetical.

            Out here, in the desert, K sees the first sign of animal life ... Hives of bees.  Assuming they’re real bees, this suggests that, somewhere out there, plants are growing and being pollinated.  In our world - bees are desperately endangered, and their loss will be catastrophic for us and the environment.  Their extinction will bring about exactly the kind of sterile, dead world Blade Runner calls home.  To have them still exist in this Hellish world, after the fall, is nothing short of an ironic masterstroke.  But there’s more: bees are drones, programmed workers, mindless slaves mass produced by a single progenitor.  They are a metaphor both of what’s been lost in K’s world (nature), and what remains (Replicants).
            K wanders through the haunted splendour of the hotel lobby.  Is this Heaven, for him?  After all, he believes he’s come here to meet his maker.  His father.  A man whose opening words are not some Biblical prognostication but, rather, are taken from Ben Gunn in Treasure Island, a character who, whilst certainly a survivor, has gone mad failing to find the buried treasure he sought.  It's as though Deckard considers himself marooned on a land-locked desert island.  But, Deckard isn’t mad.  He also doesn’t have the bearing of a man who is looking for something, but rather that of a man who has looked for, found and then lost his heart’s desire.
            It’s interesting that LV is the custodian of nostalgia.  In LA, the mediated images are not ones that we recognise, they do not fetishise the past as we do today, possibly because all of our music and movies were lost in The Blackout.  But here, in Las Vegas, the past is ever-present.  Sinatra croons from that domed holographic juke-box (which I desperately want - so, if you’re wondering what to get me for Christmas ...) while life-size holograms of Elvis and Marilyn and Liberace play interminably on repeat, trapped like gifs; all showing that here, at least, 20th century culture survived The Blackout.  It's not insignificant that the song Elvis is performing is Suspicious Minds, with its repeated refrain "We're caught in a trap, I can't walk out, Because I love you too much, baby".

Harrison Ford, still crap at fist fights.  If he is a Replicant, he really needs an upgrade!
            Here, in the capital of the fake, Deckard has hidden for the bulk of the past 30 years.  Just him and his dawg.  The point of the dog, like Deckard himself, is that we don’t know if it’s real or Memorex.  K doesn’t know that about himself.  I don’t know that about anyone here.  Philip K. Dick would, certainly, have approved.
            K asks how Deckard could bear to be separated from his child and he replies “Sometimes, to love someone, you gotta be a stranger.”  That, to me, sounds like one of those meaningless aphorisms which clutter up social media, written over photos of Einstein, Churchill or Abe Lincoln.  A line which, whilst it sounds cool, means absolutely bugger-naff-all. 
            Finally, after the torturously slow, plodding progress the plot has laboriously made; things hot up.  They could have milked the tension leading to the arrival of Luv and her flotilla of Spinners.  The attack by her forces could have been a massive action set-piece.  But this isn’t that sort of film.  It is a brief moment of aggression in an otherwise still, stately film.  Instead of building up to a car-chase or a shoot-out, it builds up to the film’s moment of greatest tragedy - Luv fulfilling the telegraphed inevitability of Joi’s death, killing her by simply stamping on her emanator.
            So, the greatest loss of life in this film, is the moment when a fake person’s fake girlfriend is switched off by another fake person. 

It's Too Bad She Won't Live. But Then Again, Who Does?

            Where Vangelis’ music, in the original, was exotic and elusive, sensual and unobtrusive; here, from it’s opening moments, the music features ghostly echoes of Vangelis (just as the film features ghostly echoes of Scott) mixed in with atonal rumbling and thrumming which sounds like nothing so much as recordings of pipes in a wall, or organs in a body.
             The instruments and the effects that Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch have used are harsh and atonal and certainly synthetic; rather as synths were in the 80s.  Vangelis' music, by contrast, was warm and soulful and, despite being played on 80s synths, did not sound cold and mechanical.
            Apart from the extras, and the emotion, the narrative drive, and the exotic music ... the key element Blade Runner 2049 lacks, is conflict.  Protagonist and antagonist never meet.  Wallace is just as poetic and grandiose as Roy Batty was, but less vibrant, less physically dangerous.  He doesn’t need to resort to physicality, he has Luv for that.  Besides, his province is that of the mind, rather than the body.  To him, bodies are disposable.
            Now, I’m not saying we needed to see Wallace running around a leaky building, in his rubber underwear, but we needed to at least see him and K engage in some form of conflict ... Even if it were simply verbal
            In the absence of that conflict, we find ourselves with a small gathering of lesser villains, the loathsome Cotton, the coolly efficient Luv, the traitorous Mariette and, finally, the inflexible Freysa, the leader of the Replicant Rebel Alliance (!) who has gouged out her own right eye, presumably because its serial number offended her.  She tells K that “Dying for the right cause is the most human thing we can do.”  There it is again, mortality seen as the defining characteristic of humanity.
            If Replicants are reflections of real people, this scene illustrates that most clearly, as it mirrors that of Deckard’s meeting with Wallace.  Both take place in flooded rooms, with characters who seem to walk on water.  Both are filled with reflections. 
            In the Deckard half of this binary, Wallace quotes Genesis “God remembered Rachael ... And opened her womb” and presents Deckard with his fantasy, his memories of Rachael made artificial flesh once more.  Unlike him, she isn’t allowed to age.  But, of course, Wallace doesn’t understand the relationship Deckard had with Rachael, he doesn’t understand that, to Deckard, she was real and unique.  She can’t be reproduced.  It’s ironic in a meta-textual way, then, that the CGI version of Rachael, is entirely convincing, except, of course, for the eyes.  As with all of these synthespians, the eyes are dead.  But, in this case, Deckard points out that the eyes are wrong.  They are the windows to the soul, and they should reflect orange.  They’re more than just the wrong colour, they’re entirely wrong, because she is entirely wrong.
             The eyes don't lie; except Wallace's milky blind eyes are impossible to read.  His real eyes are floating about the room, watching his (presumably) Replicant fish.  And Freysa, well, she's the one-eyed character who would be king of this kingdom of the blind.

And between those giant Tyrell pyramids, oh look, it's the uncanny valley.
            Wallace suggests that Deckard was designed to love Rachael, that it is in his programming.  But that’s too simple and reductive an explanation.  That makes no more sense than Deckard being replaced by a Replicant in the first place.  And, even if it were true, he proved decades before that he can defeat his programming, just as K has.
            Then Wallace sticks the verbal knife in “Pain reminds you that joy was real.”  But Joi wasn’t real to Deckard, only to K.  The pain K feels at her death, is what makes her real.  She could die, like a real person and he can feel the pain of that loss, like a real person.  Standing in the rain, looking at a giant projection of the woman he loved, flirting with him and calling him ‘Joe’, makes him ache inside.

Maybe In Those Last Moments He Loved Life More Than He Ever Had Before.

            And so, finally, K acts.  He stands in the rain, and he's lost everything.  He's lost the woman he loved, and the giant projection of Joi, flirting with him and calling him ‘Joe’, just reminds him that he isn’t real, he isn’t special.  But he knows who is.  He understand loss, and he understands the value of family.  He has seen his miracle.   
            Motivated by the pain of his own lost love, he decides he must reunite father and daughter.  Because that love is real.  This becomes his self-determined mission. 
            He forces Luv’s pod down onto the shore of the Seawall, holding back the raging Pacific (not sure why the pilot suddenly can’t fly and finds himself crash-landing the Spinner, but still ...) and a brief fight ensues.  I have to say, given that the planet is polluted and sterile, and the water K showers in is only 99% decontaminated - that sea water is crystal clear! 
            So, anyway, if the Deckard-is-a-Replicant freaks are right, what we have here is a fake human fighting a fake human over the fate of another fake human ... To protect the whereabouts of yet another fake human.  No real people need apply.
            Despite filling up with that suspiciously clear water, the pod continues to float, allowing K and Luv to have their final fight, before K rescues Deckard - once again the damp damsel in distress, once again snatched from the jaws of death by a sympathetic synthetic, just like at the end of Blade Runner.  And they crawl out of the sea and onto the shore, like new life emerging from the oceans for the first time.  This metaphor, then, is evolutionary, rather than Biblical; the ultimate victory of the rational over the superstitious.
            Or, is it them both passing into the afterlife?  When K drops Deckard off at his daughter’s lab, the world is white over, scoured clean by the snow, almost heavenly.  “You should have let me die,”  Deckard remarks.  “I did,” K replies.

A typical midsummer's day on Cleethorpes seafront.
            And so this is a new life for Deckard.  The chance to begin again.  He goes in to see his daughter, the child he never thought could be, never thought he would see.  The child who was sending out breadcrumbs, by planting her real memories into Replicants' minds, as though waiting for someone to piece everything together.
            But, is Stelline real?  Is she the product of two Replicants reproducing or - as I believe - a Replicant and a human?  If this latter, she proves Joshi wrong; the world didn’t end when the walls fell between kind.  It ended a long time before that.
            And, has K’s sacrifice made him real, in every way that matters?  Like Roy Batty before him, he simply shuts down, lying down peacefully on the steps - a stairway to heaven?  Or, is he Caesar, stabbed to death on the steps by his own kind?
            Either way, he dies gazing up, contentedly, at the real snow while, inside, the (supposed) real girl bathes in fake, imaginary snow.
            The film might end here, but the story doesn’t.  Even if she is real, Stelline is an indoor person, like Joi was; and Joi only came to harm once she moved out of her natural environment.  Will Deckard take Stelline out of hers, as he did with her mother, all those years before?  Will he take K’s Spinner and fly off into the wilderness with her?  How will Wallace respond now he knows, for a certainty, that the child exists?  How long will it take him to realise she was right under his nose all along?  If he comes after them, what will Deckard do, he can’t be a stranger anymore?  He'll certain find them because he has eyes everywhere.  Literally.

All Those Moments Will Be Lost In Time, Like Tears In Rain.

            There isn’t really a sense of closure with 2049.  But that, by itself, is okay.  The torturously slow pace of the investigation is, by itself, okay.  The elusive and enigmatic subtext, the unanswered questions, the contrived conveniences, these are all very okay, by themselves; but all combined, I felt that they really damaged the film.
            I hate films that barrel along, bombarding you with empty images, giving you no time to think about what you’ve seen.  These films are virtually devoid of signification, it seems to me. 
            I love the fact that 2049 is deep enough and complex enough to leave the audience debating hidden meanings.  It’s rare for a big budget Hollywood behemoth to generate so much discussion.  I’m still thinking about it, still having moments of revelation.
            However, I still feel that it failed fundamentally as drama, as epic, as a coherent, well-structured narrative.  It failed both at maintaining the Blade Runner legacy and at reinventing it.  It failed at being entertaining.

If the Replicants are a reflection of humans, are the holograms a reflection of the Replicants?  How many iterations can you go before sentient life ceases to be life?  Or is it all life?
            I’m still disappointed by it.  I’m still bored by it.  I’m still infuriated by it.  But I’m also entranced by it and intrigued by it.
             And yet, I still find myself captivated by the film.  I know I’m going to watch it again.  I’m going to continue reading about it and maybe, just maybe, it might soak through my reservations and find its way into my affections.
            It’ll never be the equal of Blade Runner because nothing could be as unique and unprecedented and world  changing.  Blade Runner is an incoherent mess, some of the performances are laughable, its hero is a wuss who loses all of his fights (so, no change there), but I love it.  For me, Blade Runner always ended when the elevator doors closed, with the possibility of happiness.  Blade Runner 2049, however, still hasn’t ended, it’s still alive in my mind, still growing, still evolving.  The doors haven’t yet closed.




Dir: Denis Villeneuve
Script:  Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
Dur: 163 mins
Cert:  15