I don't normally go to movies alone. Theater going is a social experience. You get to share a movie with someone you care about. There's something cathartic about that to me. But...
I went to Blade Runner 2049 alone.
Why? Well it's a 3 hour movie and finding a baby sitter for our children would be tough. Furthermore I'm fairly certain that my wife wouldn't enjoy it much. So I'd be dragging her to a 3 hour movie that she would get bored of within 15 minutes, wasting an opportunity for a nice dinner and some conversation. It would have been selfish of me to do that.
So I went alone.
The last time I went alone to a movie was Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. I was still in high school and wasn't able to go to a midnight showing with my friend. Instead I bought tickets for opening day and went by myself. Teenage me liked the film and may or may not have had a crush on Natalie Portman. Grown up me now realizes how bad that movie really. (really, really bad) I don't think I lost much of the social aspect as there were plenty of nerds in the audience to clap, laugh, and whoop with.
This time was very different though.
I was one of four people in the theater. No words, no sounds, no clapping. When the opening paragraph appeared on the screen there was only silence.
I don't think I've ever been blown away by a movie in the first minute. It was jarring to say the least but not in a bad way. I was in awe with the first shot and the loud, almost hornlike, blare that accompanied it.
There have been a lot of sequels/remakes of 80's cult classics lately. Fright Night, RoboCop, etc... It seems like studios are grasping at anything to cash in on those nostalgia dollars. One particularly egregious example of this was Total Recall. The original was this gritty, gory, flashy, campy at times, whirlwind through a dystopian future. You finished it the first time and thought: Hot damn, another great Arnold movie in the books!
Then you watch it again. You start picking up on all the little pieces left for you by the story. You realize that there's a lot more to this movie than you first assumed. You watch it again and it seems like on every rewatch you pick up some new tidbit until eventually you reach a point where you don't even know if what you're watching is real.
That's what made the original great.
And that's where the remake utterly failed. They turned a cerebral sci-fi classic into a generic action movie. They slapped Colin Farrell and Brian Cranston in it and called it done. It made money and Hollywood moved on to cannibalize another piece of my childhood.
That's why I wasn't terribly excited about Blade Runner 2049. Sure the dude who directed Arrival seemed like a good choice to direct but still, Hollywood would find a way to fuck it up. Another classic blemished by a shitty money grabbing extension.
I have been wrong about things in my life. I thought in undergrad it would be a good idea to switch to Psychology from Comp Sci. I one time lost an axel on my car by driving like an idiot in the snow.
None of those compared to how wrong I was about this movie. From the very first moment that horn music blared and that shot over the grub fields of future LA I knew that this was a classic. Not a classic sequel, not a great extension to the first. No.
I know that's a stretch but I'll get there. Trust me. I'm still in shock from watching it so I might be a bit high on its newness but I think my statement will hold up.
The original was amazing, and according to me, possibly the best science fiction film ever made. It had an amazing world, a fantastic antagonist, stunning visuals, and a kick ass soundtrack. The one thing it didn't have though was a protagonist.
Now you're probably grabbing for your pitchfork right now but hear me out. The protagonist from the original was a barely conscious guy with a gun. He "hunts" the replicants then kills them and there is very little development in between. Sure he has struggles but none of it involves choice. He's forced to hunt and kill them one by one. No moral quandaries, no indecision, he shoots each and every one of them.
Sure it's fun to see him get the shit kicked out of him a bunch of times but there's almost no development aside from his relationship with Rachael. Even that is kinda messed up because he sees her as some damsel in distress and then in a super rapey scene, forces himself on her while giving her directions. I love Harrison Ford and his performance was pretty good but that is a shit character.
And that's where Blade Runner 2049 excels. The protagonist is deep, nuanced, makes meaningful decisions and doesn't corner the target of his affection and assault her. (Yes, if you can't tell that scene bothers the shit out of me.) He changes over the course of the story in subtle ways until he is pushed to story changing decisions. He's a damn good character.
But David, what about the antagonists?
Let's be fair. 2049's Luv was good but Blade Runner had Roy Batty. Roy Batty is probably my favorite villain of all time. The essential humanity of something non-human. The desperation. The heartbreaking way he goes from aggressive to something we want to cry for. That's because we can identify with him. He just wants more life and is trying anything make that happen. Like any of us would do.
Luv on the other hand is kind of run of the mill. She's one hell of a badass and there is some depth there but I couldn't identify with her. She's essentially the Deckard of 2049. An unchanging character who makes no decisions and just reacts on screen.
I guess that's what makes these two a great sci-fi pair. The first is a villain's journey through the brutal world of Blade Runner and the second is the inverse. It's a perfect juxtaposition of two different styles in the same universe that meld into one great story.
If you haven't seen it yet, go see Blade Runner 2049. You won't be disappointed or let down. It's great and I believe it belongs in the pantheon of great sci-fi movies. Where? I can't exactly answer that but it definitely belongs and I am glad I had a chance to see it in the theater.