Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Blade Runner: Dare To Compare, Part 2

**Spoilers Galore, people.**

Scott's version of the Pinocchio Story is by now very familiar.
"Run it by me one more time..."
Whether or not Deckard is a Replicant (an open, and to my mind pointless, question) he very much is: 1) a dim-wit, low on charisma; 2) an inept killer; 3) a rapist. He is thoroughly pathetic, if not repugnant -- reviewers who coo over what a welcome sight Deckard is in the new movie have completely lost touch with what a shit-heel he was in the earlier one.
"Stop! There's a sequel!"
It is the "villain" Roy Batty who brings life abundant to the characters he encounters -- just before he kills them, more often than not.
Batty meets his Maker.
Batty is the Angel of Death, or Flannery O'Connor's "The Misfit," bringing the heightened recognition that comes to those on the cusp of shedding their mortal coil.
I once was blind, but now I see...
Scott breaks script, however, in the final act, when Batty brings physical salvation and enlightened self-awareness to the hapless and undeserving Deckard -- then gives up the ghost. Deckard returns to Rachel, a Replicant whose life he is now determined to protect. If there is a hero in Blade Runner, it is Batty -- a tragic figure.
Rescuing with nail-pierced hand.
Blade Runner 2049 is also a Pinocchio Story, but it takes its time getting there.

The first two-thirds of the film masquerades as an Annointing Of The Chosen One story, and devotes the time to fleshing out exactly what the Chosen One will need to rescue humanity from -- a stratified and misery-inducing caste system, basically.

This time there is no doubt whatsoever about whether or not this story's Blade Runner is a Replicant -- his name is KD9-3.7, or "K" for short.
That's "K" for Kafka, or PKD, etc.
K's human boss (he calls her "Madam") assigns him to find and eliminate the Chosen One. While K sniffs out the trail, the audience takes in a grocery list of what the caste system has wrought -- a defoliated Earth, the universal acceptance of child labour, cramped living conditions, festering resentment among all classes, materialist discontent ramped up to a cosmic scale. The Chosen One has a lot of work to do.

It becomes increasingly apparent to the viewer that K has internalized and accommodated himself to this class-structure to a degree he is not aware of. He behaves imperiously toward technology designed to serve him, including not just his faithful drone but fellow Replicants offering sexual favours. When his human boss pointedly suggests she too might be up for a shag, he politely declines and returns to his job. In what passes for his private life, he's managed to do one better than Madam -- he has a compliant virtual helpmate and intimate he has purchased, to whom he slowly grants an incremental form of agency.
As events unfurl, K is persuaded that he is the Chosen One, and his carefully ordered world falls to pieces.
An unhappy moment: the Blue Fairy revealed as hoax.
He tracks down and confronts his Maker -- in the reality-frame K has come to accept, that would be Deckard.
Fortunately for K, Deckard is still crap at killing Replicants.
In the 30 years that have taken place in the Blade Runner universe, Deckard has come to look and behave a great deal like Harrison Ford does in this universe -- taking a breather from grumpily punching Replicants in the face to savour the pleasures of Elvis singing "Can't Help Falling In Love." Over a post-beating cocktail, Deckard sets K straight -- K is just another Replicant, albeit one who has in fact met the actual Chosen One, but was too thick to recognize it.

The scales fall from K's eyes, and he willingly sacrifices himself in the cause of reuniting the Creator with the Created Chosen One. If Batty was Milton's Lucifer, K is the ode-writer who reassures, "They also serve who stand and wait."
Or shoot, depending.
2049's final act is laudable in construction but lamentable in execution, as it relies on Villains Who Are Villainous And Nothing But. The final confrontation is a scene that does not penetrate nearly as deeply as Batty murdering his Creator, never mind Batty's final confrontation with Deckard.
"I'm so glad we had this time together."
Most would suggest this is due to the absence of Rutger Hauer, but I thought Sylvia Hoeks (Replicant "Luv") showed considerable promise as the new Unhinged Super-Athletic Dutch Heavy. She did an admirable job of flexing what she could, but the script kept her hamstrung, alas.
Luv, in action.
Hopefully this is not my final word on the film, as there are other subtleties and complexities to mull over. But I would perhaps assert what Roger Ebert* did about the earlier film2049 fails on a fundamental level, while delivering on levels this viewer did not anticipate -- surely a fitting achievement for a sequel to a 35-year-old oddity that wound up changing everything.

*Mistakenly, to my mind.

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