So I'll try again:
Like Dougie says, it's an amazing cinematic event. It's big. Huge vistas, images to die for. Crackling sound.
Whatever you make of the rest of it, those are the film's strengths - though as I also thought, one of its weaknesses too, if that makes sense. The cinematography is simply astounding, with every scene and every picture full of poisoned, diseased wonder and beauty. The world is detailed and lovingly put together.
And yet it doesn't feel as real as the original (for we have to compare this to the original, it's the only way to view a film like this). Whereas that film, 35 years ago, had a grimy, seedy, bustling vividness that really brought you into that hellish LA, this one is presented with dreamlike detachment. We don't see the life of LA, and the scenery isn't allowed to get in the way in the manner of scenes like Deckard's retirement of Zhora. Instead, there is a lot of emptiness, and the worldbuilding sometimes gets neglected in favour of the plot: for instance, when Ryan Gosling's agent K returns home to his poky flat, he first has to trudge through his building, clambering over sleeping bodies and ducking past abusive yells and staring gangs of thugs; yet shortly afterwards, he is perfectly able to enjoy a quiet, romantic moment on the rooftop terrace with his hologram companion.
The sound is immense too, filling every second and making you sit up and take notice when it is gone. The iconic soundtrack of the original provides inspiration and some cues, but there is nothing as strictly memorable musically here; instead, it is more an ambient experience and there are certain parts of the sound design which are very powerful. The buzzing of computers in the police HQ; the discovery of - and the sudden cut away from - a swarm of bees; the burst of classical music that accompanies the turning on and off of hologram Joi. Snippets and recordings from the original film are used beautifully.
I still maintain that a good part of the cinema's power is in its spectacle and few films I've seen have been as astounding as this one in that way. There are sights that are still playing in my mind 24 hours later. But what of the meat of the film?
Getting through the acting, that ranges from solid (Gosling, Robin Wright) to affecting (Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas) to just-about-right (Jared Leto, who might have been too over the top had he had more screentime, but is used well to be otherworldly and sinister). The plot is a bit turgid, especially in the first half, which mainly involves Gosling going to some places and talking to some people and nobody really telling anybody anything apart from one or two overly obvious expositional conversations.
But tight plotting wasn't a strength of the original, and the film rewards patience. It wants you to think about who is doing what and why, and when things do kick into motion and Gosling's emotional journey gets underway, it goes deep. There are layers, strata of ambiguity here. One of my favourite things about the film was the way we could never really be sure who was in the right, the way characters' motivations and feelings flickered, unfurled and unravelled. The heightened focus on the replicants instead of the humans, and the addition of another level of AI in the form of de Armas' holgrammatic Joi, built on the original film's questions about humanity and identity very effectively. And - here comes a spoiler:
The handling of the question of whether Gosling was the son was superb, I thought. Instead of cornily having it as a final revelation,
we got different suggestions and Gosling's own eventual conviction leading up to the final revelation coming as something of a relief rather than a showy "twist".
The film is teeming with ideas and suggestions. Does it have any of its own? Maybe not; I felt most of the time that it was taking things the original did and running with them, exploring them further. Most of the time this was fine. I appreciated its determination to keep the focus on these philosophical and technological issues: while the plot was a tad simple and the dialogue could get a little basic, there were no easy answers provided, and the examination of corporate dominance, wildly international cultures and the definition of the self felt very consistent with the original, although the early scenes of anti-replicant prejudice, with Gosling getting hassled at work and at home, were swiftly forgotten and that avenue was unexplored.
The film does make mistakes. Aside from lacking the realistic feel of the original and not really getting to grips with all of its ideas, we also get the silly replicant character Luv, who spends most of the time going round killing people, blowing shit up and offering rubbish one-liners. There are a few half-hearted lines that try to tie her character in to the themes - of the replicants having different understandings and systems - but mostly she comes across as a corny Hollywood fantasy robot assassin, a foolish attempt to keep the dumbed-down action crowd watching.
There were a few plot points that remained unclear, such as the precise nature and identity of Mackenzie Davis' prostitute, or how Gosling found Luv and Deckard at the end.
So it is an intelligent, beautifully-directed and -photographed film. I'm frankly astonished that something like this would get made in Hollywood these days. It isn't up to the standard of the original, but it's a gorgeous, artistic film that treats its audience - occasional missteps, studio pandering perhaps, notwithstanding - with intelligence and curiosity.
Some scenes that really did stand out and which I think will become the signature moments:
- the strange, haunting and freakish love scene when Joi "syncs" with a prostitute
- Leto and his little floating eyes
- a bereft K on the bridge, with a giant, purple hologram Joi trying to sell herself to him
- most of the Vegas sequence, especially Gosling and Ford facing off in front of flickering Elvis and Marilyn holograms
- Gosling and Ford dragging themselves out of the waves onto the dam
Minnie Cheddars wrote:Baron got into a fight with some Satan’s Slaves over some culinary issue
Awful thing when that happens. I had a similar experience at a Tom Jones concert.