Despite the dubious gender politics, the self-important pace and the portentous hamminess of Jared Leto, it would be churlish to deny that Blade Runner 2049 provides much to enjoy and admire. There are a few genuinely eyebrow-raising surprises in the plot, which sees yet another bedraggled policeman hunting an important replicant. The sound design almost radiates out of the screen like a three-dimensional entity. And the various nods and winks to the original possess a power that goes beyond that of mere nostalgia. So yes, even though I'm not sure it's a sequel we needed, I would urge all fans of the Ridley Scott version to watch it.
For those of us who like to spare a thought for our noses whilst we're at the cinema, Denis Villeneuve has planted a couple of curiosities. Indeed, one of the very first things that's mentioned in the film is a smell. As Ryan Gosling's LAPD Officer, K, exchanges pleasantries with Dave Bautista's Sapper Morton, he asks about the scent in the air. When he's informed that it's nothing but humble old garlic, we're presumably supposed to draw the conclusion that such vegetal odours are no longer present in this world, and that they hark back to an earlier - more 'authentic'? - time. (This did lead me to wonder about the quality of the food at all those endless Los Angeles noodle bars, but let's put that question aside for now.)
Smell comes up again much later in the story when Gosling asks a different character - and I'll try to keep this spoiler-free - to verify whether a particular object is what it appears to be. The way this character meets the request is by bringing the object to his nose and giving it a good sniff. And suddenly, one of the film's many ideas is crystallised. No matter how far technology takes us, no matter how extensively we engineer our environment, there will always be something about our natures that will remain obsessed with drawing dividing lines and with finding ways of making distinctions about what lies on either side of them. Human, or not. Real, or not. Natural, or not. The theme manifests itself each time a character recalls a blazing, smokey fire, or looks down in horror at a blood-soaked shirt, or even succumbs to an inexplicable show of tears. And although this existential question isn't handled in any way which betters that of the 1982 classic, just seeing it up on the big screen again is wonderful.
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