I haven’t written much about movies as there are very few I go to these days (as I’m not into robots battling it out to save LA over and over again), but that was not the case with this second installment of Ridley Scott’s continuing interpretation of Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep. There weren’t many fans of the original film, at least many who would admit to it, though I found it mesmerizing. And by that, I mean the original, with Harrison Ford’s narration and Vangelis’ original synthesizer score. Odd, too, in that the last time I wrote about a movie it was for a film by the same director, Denis Villeneuve.
There’ve been a few, very promising early reviews of the new film that have focused on the visually stunning nature of the film, and how it builds on the dark cityscapes of the original, and yes, I’d agree with those assessments, but there’s much more going on in this sequel than meets the eye. A lot of questions left hanging at the end of the first film form the basis of this one, too…
The original ends with Rachel and Deckard fleeing LA, and the entire premise of the second film revolves around the consequences of that flight – literally. Though the events in the film take place 32 years later, the consequences of Rachel and Deckard coming together echo through time, and, indeed, it appears that their union may hold the seeds for the destruction of humanity… The first two-thirds of the film features Ryan Gosling, as K, a Blade Runner on special assignment tracking down replicants, and this first part of the film is a fairly predictable cop story – at least in the beginning.
That said, what interested me most was the undercurrent of one very modest question that’s always in the back of your mind as the action unfolds, namely, what makes humans human? What is a soul? Is it love that makes us human? Empathy? What interested me most is how these questions seem to crowd out the action on the screen, too.
K is in love with a hologram, you see, and the hologram is obviously in love with him too, and soon enough another question about the human condition arises from this peculiar state of affairs. Yes, Death makes a pretty important play for the center attention about mid-film, yet all that remains of the original conversation is kind of a confused disbelief – because by this point all your intellectual frameworks about what humanity may be have been tossed out the window.
Another undercurrent, prominent in the first film but rather more relevant today, is the interplay between artificial intelligence and slavery. This isn’t handled poorly, either; it could have been preachy and overblown, yet the manner in which this ethical dilemma is presented, the interplay between questions comes to life in a way that draws you in – and makes you think just a little bit.
And then Harrison Ford’s Deckard re-enters the film’s stream of consciousness and, well, the narrative structure of the movie goes from very good to simply great. You realize you’ve been led down more than a few dark, dead-end alleys about that time, too, and just when you think you’ve got it all figured out you come to the realization that, no, you’re not even close.
About the only let down was the music. Hans Zimmer has succeeded in creating a score almost devoid of all melody, and curiously the only melodic motifs employed come at the very end, as a soft homage to another android’s very quiet death.
What I wanted to relay to you is this: if you weren’t sure about seeing this one, you need to load up the car and go. Give yourself time to sit and talk with someone after, as well, because this is the sort of film that needs to be discussed. Probably now, more than ever.