**Review originally featured in the middle of an American Horror Story review, as a way of flippantly avoiding reviewing the show. The original version can be viewed via the link, for the full experience**
What an absolutely astonishing film Blade Runner 2049 is: a rare sequel which knows how to handle itself correctly and looks the absolute business. BR2049 occasionally pays loving reverence to the original Blade Runner, but never lingers for too long. It's a generous lover, but not that generous. We're presented with the same hellish urban dystopias - which look like you're being navigated through the insides of a 90's era PC - with their squalid markets, crumbling public buildings, flying cars, and fancy, almost Ancient Egyptian inspired, corporate mega-structures.
In a way the universe offered up by the original Blade Runner was the real American horror story; depicting a world run by Capitalistic excess, every inch of it plastered in ever-pervasive neon adverts, and the resilient American government has been neutered by foreign and corporate interests. For a nation enamoured with the notion of liberty, a world where even the idea of humanity has been chained and devalued by mass-marketed replicants (androids) and AI must be the scariest story of all. BR2049 continued this setting, but combined it with modern trends invented by wannabe dystopian overlords like Google. I know I, for one, cannot wait to be hovered up by a futuristic sex industry filled with sexy AI, subservient girlfriends like Joi (Ana de Armas).
There's a reason Blade Runner and Neuromancer cyberpunk worlds have endured for nearly as long as Star Wars' space opera setting. They're utterly iconic. You know BR2049 is cyberpunk because it looks like a Japanese rave and sounds like Hans Zimmer is fisting a cow sized synthesizer. And you know BR2049 is noir because Ryan Gosling's Officer K, a skin job, walks his beat on the mean streets of Neo LA in a trench coat, brooding like the tough one in a boy band as he hunts rogue robots. This is Gosling's deal and he fits it more naturally than even Harrison Ford did back in '82.
BR2049 is a film bound for box office failure, cult status. It's not an easy film. The plot's a slow-burner and the film fills its run time with a noirish sense of danger and existentialism. And like the original it's not as smart as it thinks, or at least superficially - the lingering questions and ambiguities will no doubt imbue the film with the same mystique as the original years down the line. BR2049 is certainly easy on the eye, however, its cinematography is master level. The contrast of the shadowy urban world (even in K's home, weirdly) with the almost hallucinatory and unearthly yellow hue of the Nevada desert, is startling. And I loved how all the Tech, despite being produced by modern effects, had the blocky low-fi vibe of 80's Tech.
When I said American Horror Story was a merely show about 'things just happening to people', I meant it as a criticism. BR2049 is a film about 'things just happening to people', but it's an exploration of meaning, of what makes a human, of the soul, of wanting to be special. Which makes the brutal ending for K's story hilarious - sort of like when your parents tell you that you were an accident. All he wants is to be special. Special K, even.
Which made me think. Deckard is only in this film for half an hour but K's still only there to service his story. BR2049 is a film about finding out that you're actually only a side character in somebody else's story.