The rebootquel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 genre-defining neo-noir classic, Blade Runner 2049 is a feature-length perfume ad—a great-looking shell of a video-game-cut-scene that no amount of marijuana could make better.
Believe me, I tried. I specifically asked the weed sommelier at Portland’s Serra for the best strain to accompany the near three-hour sci-fi dirge directed by a French-Canadian auteur known for ending his Jake Gyllenhaal drama with the appearance of a giant spider. Without looking up from her register, the budtender said: “Try the Sand Storm.”
Unable to resist such a phrase, I purchased said Sand Storm (18.9% THC) and tried it. A powerful indica from Pruf Cultivar, the Storm erupts into sweet-smelling oak-and-pine clouds when lit, obliterating all conscious thought with a strong but not overwhelming body high.
Waves of pleasant throbs pulsating through my skeleton, I settled into the first twenty minutes of Blade Runner 2049 rapt with the dirty-tech world. In a beehive of towering futuristic LA skyscrapers, replicant Ryan Gosling hunts strays of his own kind—until a case leads him to uncover a reclusive Harrison Ford, whose secret disappearance implicates a corporate mogul (played by Jared Leto) of unspeakable crimes against sentient beings.
The stupid, clownish performance by Leto undoes the spell of 2049. With quotes around every sentence and gesture, Leto postures coolly as the beard-swirling villain—“playing at” his character instead of simply inhabiting the role. Good marijuana allows one to spot bullshit almost immediately—author Thomas Pynchon called it “doper’s ESP.” With the aid of the blurring Sand Storm, the staginess of 2049’s world (tipped off by Leto’s performance) soon became glaringly apparent.
Implying that people in the future shop exclusively at the Muji Store, every new environment Gosling enters has the studied sleekness of a European bank lobby. The score here is filled with overbearing digital wailing blasted Inception-style over the somnolent future visuals, missing the synth subtleties of Vangelis’ original soundtrack. And the new story simply betrays its central character, changing the fascinating moral ambiguity of Ford’s quasi-hero gaslighting his android lover and retconning their relationship into one of eternal love.
I dozed off numerous times, only to wake to another innovative Concept Art Screen Saver underscored by zooming buzzsaws of hell. I left the theatre with a shrug and the half-desire to re-watch the fantastic-looking movie again in the morning, but memories of the slogging pace and forced pastiche overwhelmed any treats of big-screen sci-fi visual-porn. Not even Ryan Gosling boning a hologram could make 2049 work.
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