We spent last weekend in Oneonta, New York, our go-to vacation point. In addition to unspoiled natural beauty and excellent garlic knots, Oneonta is home to the cutest little movie theater you’ve ever seen.
In the cutest little mall you’ve ever seen.
Stick a Toys ‘R Us with a bunch of cabbage patch dolls in there and it’s like returning to childhood.
So since our evening plans were wide open, we decided to hit the theater for Blade Runner 2049. Wait – you say – the sequel to that movie you hated?
Yes, but we had a good reason. It’s true, Blade Runner (classic) is a terrible rapey mess. But it could’ve been good – it had the Phillip K. Dick cred. it just needed a protagonist. And writing.
This new reboot/sequel was directed by the guy who directed Arrival (which I did like, and is certainly not rapey). So, I reasoned, maybe they fixed all the problems and created an interesting, thinky, story set in the Blade Runner world.
I was sadly mistaken.
1. It’s not because of the director
Because, bless his heart, he tried. There’s some very lovely visuals and artsy stuff happening, but the problem is with the writing. Because….
2. Theater kids designed the villains
There’s this bizarre trend in popular movies of creating bad guys that are positively vaudevillian. Think big overdone gestures, Nicholas Cageish facial expressions, campy speeches designed to project all the way back to the cheap seats… It’s like the garish stage makeup of acting methods. I first put my finger on it with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Before that movie disappeared from my memory like wet cotton candy, I couldn’t stop thinking about how off-tone Adam Driver’s performance was. It was like they cast a cocky theater kid who just memorized the “to be or not to be” speech.
WHETHER ‘TIS NOBLER…!
So Blade Runner has not one, but TWO broadly drawn villains. First, there’s Jared Leto as the creepy owner of the multi-gazillion-dollar replicant manufacturing company.
He’s the primary baddie, at least in the first half of the movie. Then his previously-neutral replicant assistant is ALSO revealed to be dramatically evil.
I cannot for the life of me remember that this character’s name is ‘Luv’ so I’ll just call her dominatrix terminator because that’s basically what she is.
What’s kind of interesting is how Jared Leto straight up disappears from the movie once dominatrix terminator arrives on the scene. Then we get scene after scene of dominatrix terminator kicking people with her super strength. But she’s just a robot girl (with no real motive). Where did Jared Leto go? He’s supposed to be the Mark Zuckerberg of robot slavery, and then he just like… goes to the bathroom and is never seen again? It’s remarkable how graceless this is, I can only assume it was a rewrite after the fact.
3) Apparently we think plot arcs are for squares
I suppose we can blame AI for the idea that movies can have plot arcs shaped like the path of a squirrel crossing the street. Is this the ending? No wait. Okay, false ending. Then more stuff. Fake out happy ending. Sad bleakness. Credits.
Call me old-fashioned, but I want a movie to END. Preferably in under 3 hours. Blade Runner 2049 fails on both counts. It’s butt-numbingly long and there’s no climax or even a real resolution. It’s just stuff happening in sequence. Slowly. Jeez, I have regular life for that.
This is in the actual movie. I couldn’t find a real picture of this, so I had to make it: it appears on Harrison Ford’s desk and it’s a framed photo of the original love interest using a picture that I swear is straight off the 80s movie poster. Cringe with me.
5) Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford is a lovely man, but there is no reason for him to be in this movie. No one demanded a check-in with a geriatric Rick Deckard. I think even fans of the original were probably hoping for a brief, studio-mandated cameo. But no, they hook old man Deckard right into the main plot by making him the (spoiler alert) FATHER of the mysterious replicant child. Making characters be secret family members of other characters is amateur screenwriting at its absolute worst. I wrote a short story in 3rd grade that involved long-lost cousins, and I knew it was crap then. Let’s leave those plot devices in childhood where they belong.
6) Also Harrison Ford
7) Also Harrison Ford
Harrison Ford reads aloud some passage about ‘toasted cheese’ to Ryan Gosling and it goes over like a pie in the face joke. People in the theater looked around in confusion. Is this supposed to be funny? Weird? Is it like that scene in Moon where the clone guy starts dancing around and you think, oh okay I guess whatever this is is happening now? Baffling.
8) It’s going to be The Neverending Story 2
What Hollywood doesn’t understand (read: care at all about) is that terrible, made-years-later sequels occupy only one place on the mantle of history: The Neverending Story 2 spot. Sure, it’ll make you some cash. And, for a few years, HBO will own the rights for cheap and an entire generation of children too young to know better will think it is good. But eventually studio hype and quick bucks will fade away and all you’ll be left with is the Rotten Tomatoes ratings. And they will be bad.
Sorry Ryan Gosling! You seem like a nice young man. You’ll get through this.