Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Hampton Fancher and Michael Green; story byHampton Fancher; based on characters from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Cinematographer: Roger A. Deakins
Producer: Andrew A. Kosove, Broderick Johnson, Bud Yorkin, and Cynthia Sikes Yorkin
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
K lives in Los Angeles, in a vision that’s becoming increasingly more realistic given the rapid population growth and should the city ever do anything about the housing crisis and basically reject all NIMBY suits and actually accommodate the needs of the people. K's apartment is small and while not necessarily showing us all of the tiny details and technologies, it’s primarily run by what we might call a augmented individual named Joi (Ana de Armas) who’s a beautiful woman that exists as a hologram - capable of everything from preparing dinner (or at least scheduling the kitchenware to create dinner) to putting on music and sexy outfits; everything but the ability to touch and kiss.
The entire city operates as kind of throwback to Taxi Driver’s version of Times Square, where in addition to prostitutes, is the endless marketing of sexy assistants just like Joi who could provide the contentment men desire. While it’s never shown, I got the impression there was another tool that men could hook up to as they experience these virtual women.
While the rest of the story is pretty good, I thought this subplot was the best part of the film, leaving me to consider the idea for weeks after. If Robots could experience consciousness, then why couldn’t a simple machine represented through an image? Does consciousness need to take the shape of a human to require our empathy? What if there was a machine that was able to generate ideas and art that could progress humanity - even if we never saw their face? Joi and K have affection for each other, and it was either’s ability to never fully come across as human and yet demand my care and worry which made the question all the more engaging.
While the film’s weakest point is the overall story - in which it seemed too focused on continuing on from the last film, in which we get yet another Grand Cameo from Harrison Ford, feeling the same as seeing him in The Force Awakens, in that, he is not just a megastar, but an historic figure in the history of Hollywood. When he appears in a film that’s trying to be contemporary I always feel pulled out, as though the story freezes for a moment and the lights come on with the MC declaring a special appearance. This isn’t against Harrison Ford, as I believe he’s one of the greatest actors in Hollywood history, so much as him being in these films pulls your attention away, making you aware that you’re watching something that is trying to be as great as its predecessor.
The plot feels so committed to incorporating Rick Deckard that the fascinating plot of a rogue getting pregnant gets muddy. There are some great set pieces - such as the musical holograms - but I found myself wishing it had taken a different direction. What if it didn’t lead to Deckard, but to a whole new individual and storyline? Even the title, having to honor Philip K. Dick’s timeline (the original film took place in 2019 and I don’t think we’re quite there), sacrifices reason in order to accommodate Deckard’s inclusion. I don’t think this will be Los Angeles in 32 years. Maybe in a 132 years, or at least far enough where I’ll be long past dead and unable to ever know if could have happened.
The plot becomes so intricate at this point that even reading it on Wikipedia leaves me confused with all of the names, revelations, and reversal, all seeming needlessly complicated. There’s a giant corporation that makes replicants called the Wallace Corporation that left me considering a figure in which the global oligopoly starts to have significant control over world governments, establishing massive headquarters around the globe that are exempt from national law, but the film doesn’t at all get into this, instead having Jared Leto play CEO Niander Wallace who’s had his eyes replaced with AR machines or something, who's committed to finding ways to impregnate replicants in order to expand global colonization. This is such an awesome idea that it could have offered a fascinating journey and yet I was constantly pulled out of it by having to remember references to the original and a plot that’s not all that interesting when it wraps.
Nonetheless, I think this is the most beautiful sci-fi film I’ve ever looked at, where I could easily watch the whole with solely Hans Zimmer’ score, Deakin’s photography, Dennis Gassner’s production design, or Denis Villeneuve’s direction without hearing a single word. I'll have to revisit it again, but seems like the reluctance to let it be it’s own thing held back its potential.
BELOW: A beautiful scene that captures the essence of the original; no big SFX, just simple and perfect set design
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