The best place to start to review this film would be to recommend another viewing of Blade Runner, the vastly superior original from 1982. That film had the aura of a mystery. The Ridley Scott film had so many small details, the film noir elements as well as the sci-fi ones, that it kept you thinking and wondering as you watched it unfold. Ironically, at the time, it wasn’t considered a ‘hit’. Based on the Philip K Dick short story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the central question that permeated the film’s progression was the nature of what it means to be human.
It dealt with the issues surrounding what it means to have a soul, and how we know what the nature of our humanity is. It was a subtle message that was interspersed with a foreshadowing of doom and an apocalyptic pall that worked as a thread pulling us through each scene.
In this film, the dull and plodding nature of the plot line, where we find not an interesting protagonist, but a rather dull hero in Ryan Gosling, who is a pale stand-in for Harrison Ford, leaves us yearning for more in the end. The film clobbers the audience at times, hitting us over the head with the blare of the theme that is begging us to ask what it takes to be human, and what constitutes a soul.
The mystery of the film, the search for the mysterious child that is the central figure looming over the plot plods slowly along, It is a point that is neither cunning or strange. The story is one where we have an expectation of waiting for Godot, with the audience expecting something to happen, and the film always ends up holding back any type of cathartic release.
The villain, or villainess in this case, is about as interesting and predictable as a bowl of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. She is much less interesting than the girlfriend of Ryan Gosling, who turns out to be a hologram, and the hologram is the only one who is multi-layered in this dull affair. And even that sub-plot is done with much more subtlety and charm in the superior “Her” which this film emulates in some manner.
The futuristic nature of the landscape, and the apocalyptic message for the audience is pretty much wasted in this version. Harrison Ford’s entrance, late in the action, is anti-climactic and even he looks bored and really past the point of even trying to make sense of the plot. There is little humor in this film, and although Gosling is competent in his execution, his character has strict limits as to how far you might want to go to be able to emote with the nature of the beast that is his straight-jacket of a role.
Robin Wright also looks slightly bored, as she valiantly tries to bring some interest to this slow moving affair. This film didn’t need to be almost three hours. It needed editing, as mentioned a few weeks back by a noted director who seemed to be itching to cut about one half hour or more from most of the feature films that boast the need to tell the story for almost three hours.
The story here is not a mystic tale or a fantasy romp, there is no CGI miracle or even a continuation of the Ridley Scott attention to detail which made the 80’s film so relevant and cutting-edge. The music was a large part of the allure in the original, and this one has almost no soundtrack other than a running commentary of rain and smoggy mist. In short, this one is only for die-hard Blade Runner devotees, of which I am one. No one is going to appreciate the origami figures, the memory implants, the futuristic ads and landscape of CGI unless they have specific memories of the superior version.
I would recommend waiting for the small screen to watch this film. It’s not unwatchable, and there are certainly good actors and a continuation of the themes that were explored in the original film. But there’s no need to rush to the theatres to see this film. And in some ways, that’s a shame. Bladerunner was worth the trip to see it on the big screen. If you get a chance, go see the original. Leave this one for home viewing.