I sat back in the cinema digesting everything I had just seen. Urban vistas spanning to a seemingly limitless horizon, while the abrasive electronic soundtrack swelled to painful proportions. The pace was steady. Issues were raised, unpackaged, and reorganised in a satisfyingly unresolved origami. The original Blade Runner had used synthetic, or replicant, humans to create a juxtaposition by which to explore what human life means. Blade Runner 2049 takes its source’s subject matter, updates it, intensifies it, and seeks to answer none of it.
The beauty of the original Blade Runner was that it enquired. It enquired without providing answers. It didn’t sermonise. It is not science fiction that offers answers; on the contrary, it is all rather airy on that front. All this does mean a certain amount of work on the audience’s part. It is not easy viewing and perhaps it is for this reason that the original Blade Runner was not a commercial success.
Blade Runner 2019 blew me away.
The credits rolled up with all the consideration and care taken, over their calligraphy and colour, that had informed each and every frame of the film I had just witnessed. It was as I sat, soaking it all in, that a grey haired Japanese man with a well-meaning smile, came to sit next to me.
“Hello,” he said. “It’s incredible, isn’t it? Everyone involved really cared about this project. They really believed in it. It shows, doesn’t it? It really shows.”
Slightly numb from the intense cinematography, which had unfolded before me over the past three hours, I turned to meet his eyes, they sparkled behind the boxy frame of thickly set glasses. He was carrying a worn black Adidas rucksack and wore a blue raincoat. “Yes, it was pretty incredible,” I responded blankly.
“I’ve read the reviews,” he said. “Everyone has given it five stars…everyone except The Times. The Times gave it three stars.”
He looked at me with exasperation. I motioned my head sympathetically and rose to put my coat on. “But I think it’s all political,” he continued, “I’ve seen this film twenty eight times, twenty eight, and it has so much depth. It has levels. I have noticed something new each time.”
I started to shuffle past him, between the rows of seats and made my way down the cinema steps. He fell into pace alongside me. He seemed pleasant, though obviously wildly eccentric. Given that the film had been out for one week, twenty eight times had been a challenging logistical feat.
“I have a pass, so I can see all the showings I want,” he continued. I started to wonder if I would be having a dinner guest, but at that moment he spotted a cinema attendant he recognised. He broke away in favour of his new focus. “Twenty eight times!” I heard him say. “This was number twenty eight.”
The girl smiled uncomfortably as he approached. I quickened my pace, making for the exit.
Over the next few weeks, I have found myself taking on some of my anonymous friend’s sensitivities towards Blade Runner 2049. It is a masterpiece, and perhaps – at least to the general public – a slightly misunderstood one. It has not been a huge commercial success. It is disheartening in a world of fast paced action flicks and high-spectacle/low-content cinema that a film like Blade Runner 2049 can’t co-exist. Clearly twenty eight times won’t cut it, Blade Runner fans will just have to try harder.