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TOPIC: Blade runner 2049...some thoughts...

Blade runner 2049...some thoughts... 08 Oct 2017 08:28 #255341

Ridley Scott's Blade Runner is one of those iconic SF classics that feel like no follow up will be able to match it in terms of magnitude.
A film so firmly carved into our memory that any attempt to build upon it will feel forced and unsatisfying.
And yet, with Villeneuve as a director, I began to get excited with the hypothetical idea.
His "Enemy" showed an almost uncanny nerve to weave an intellectual puzzle that was rather tricky to solve.
Still...it never felt deliberately arty. His recent "The Arrival" was somewhat of a departure into more accessible territory.
But it's underlying theme and emotional ending pulled it into a philosophical level that is rarely seen in a high budget blockbuster.
So curiousness got the better of me as I started to toy around with the possibility this could well be as good a sequel as some reviewers claimed it was.

The difficulty with Villeneuve's endaveour is that ultimately as a viewer you will compare it to Ridley Scott's film.
In all fairness, Blade Runner 2049 is visually it is one of the best promotional pieces of CGI I have seen so far. The digital environments for once look like actual physical sets, and not rendered pixels coughed out by a powerful software application. And yes, the Richard Eakins cinematography is every bit as stunning as you could ever hope for, creating a rich visual experience. There is a true sense of reality in its way of portraying light and texture, shadows and mist.

That said, during the first scenes we are already pulled away from the earlier film's atmosphere by taking place in broad daylight.
This forced me to almost establish a new idea about Blade runner's universe, that has always about dark brooding rainy cityscapes were an eternal darkness was ever present.
The stark daylight Villeneuve offers in these first moments felt nothing like the world I associated with the original film.
Despite echoing the opening shot of Scott's original, it is clear from the start (and this was to be expected) Villeneuve's wants to offer his visual mark. It feels almost like we are pulled out of the claustrophobic close-up view of steamy streets and rooms to be shown a panoramic view of the world outside the cityscape. This does make Villeneuve's visualization feel grand and majestic, but it does also lack the focus on detail that Scott's vision offered.
This further I feel extends into the characters. While Gosling proves to be a good choice as the main protagonist, showing alot of emotion in his eyes that match the vurnability that Ford radiated in the original...what this new version lacks is the wealth of imaginative side-characters that lived inside Scott's vision. Characters that proved to be essential to weave Blade Runner's richness as a living breathing world.

The more I re-watched the original, the more I began to see how much detail was put into creating minor characters like Sebastian, the rapidly aging doll maker that while being fragile himself, creates beautiful perfect beings that represent everything he wants to be himself. Those rare moments in the film were we see glimpses of his apartment, filled with small androids that look like fairy tale characters out of a long forgotten Grimm story, the tragic side of this character materializes on the screen and evokes emotion.
This subtle underlying richness I felt was lacking in Villeneuve's take. None of the smaller parts in 2049, with the exception of the female scientist trapped in a glass bubble, creating small worlds, felt as rich as this.
Worse, there is simply no character that matches the electrifying quality and charisma of Rutger Hauer's Batty. With Jared Leto's character, Villeneuve clearly wants to introduce a similar enigmatic villain, communicating in lyrical verbs that hold weight. But while Batty's dialogue walks the perfect line between Shakespeare-like intensity and more down to earth observations, Leto's dialogue feels too constructed and ultimately lacks emotion and momentum. There is simply no line in his dialogue that comes close to the legendary "tears in rain" improvisation Hauer offered to the original. I can't imagine anyone walk out of the theater remembering, let alone quoting any like of Leto's character.
In the end, despite the wonderful environment Villeneuve creates for some of his characters, they seem not to resonate in this setting with enough intensity to fill the space of the rooms. All we hear is a gentle melody that all too soon fades away.

Admittingly, it must have been hard for Villeneuve to think of a narrative element to add to further deepen the philosophical pulse of the original.
Scott's mediations on what makes us human were strikingly mature for a big budget SF film, and it's powerful ending that refused to spell out the clue to the audience, was both brave and enigmatic. When Ford's character entered the elevator and the screen turned black it was as if everything was said that could be said, without losing the suggestive nature needed to create an enigma. Villeneuve's choice to take the human VS android concept one step further is at least interesting, but also feels just that: one step further from something that was already established and in a way rich enough to not need a rather forced continuation.

What Villeneuve and Scott share, is the fact they both take time to allow a scene to blossom. For a modern-day blockbuster, 2049 is admirably slow-paced. Villeneuve is aware that in order to build up intensity, those moments of quiet wonder are key. He allows his characters to explore their alien environment. Often we feel, just as the main character, like tresspassers into unknown territory. Using unearthly sounds and alot of empty visual space in its frames, Villeneuve creates an intriguing world to walk into.
A world whose corridors stretch far into the distance, while we are aware we might never see the final border of things. This wideness and sense of open space that finds an efficient counter-part in the sounds capes, does create a sense of wonder. In its best scenes, this open space proves to render its human inhabitants burnable, dwarfed by its scale.

Some scenes did render the dreamlike quality I was hoping for to find in Villeneuve's vision.
The scene with Gosling's character entering the roof of his apartment with his holographic lover, while rain is falling down, has a haunting quality.
We see how the holographic arms of Ana de Arma's character sparkle through the falling curtain of water.
For a few moments Villeneuve establishes exactly the kind of otherworldly quality Scott summons in his film.
And while the end-scene might not be as powerful as in Scott's original, Villeneuve does offer us an emotional final shot that stays with us long after the screen goes black.

And yet I find it somewhat strange that a mainstream director like Ridley Scott has managed to portray action sequences in a more subtle way than Villeneuve managed in his take on Dick's universe. It is mainly in the more obligatory confrontation-scenes that Villeneuve disappoints the most.
The final battle that has Gosling struggling to save Ford's character from the evil clutches of one of the main villains lacks inventiveness and includes far moreclichés that I felt was comfortable, given the more original nature of the director's previous offerings.
In a film that tries so hard to reach a transcendental level, a rather mondaine fight with kickboxing moves somehow feels out of tune.
At worst it suggested for me Villeneuve wasn't sure if he wanted to make an art house movie or a blockbuster, and while it definitely feels like he reached for art, he included some generic action sequences into the mix just to be sure he didn't lose half of the film's potential fan base.
I might sound like an art house snob, but the truth is that I do love a well-made mainstream film as much as I love my Tarkovsky.
But when you try to mix these two worlds as Blade Runner 2049 again proves, you often end up with something that doesn't feel 100% sure of what it actually is.

If there is one thing that Villeneuve's movie showed me more than anything else is that Ridley Scott has made a SF-film 30 years ago that was well ahead of it's time. A film that since it's release has never been matched in eye for detail within it's genre.
A more importingly, a mainstream film that is a rare case of not underestimating its audience, offering them a story that understands that by not spelling out everything, a sense of wonder is established that is the essence of great art.
Last Edit: 08 Oct 2017 08:37 by Shapeshifter.
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Blade runner 2049...some thoughts... 08 Oct 2017 14:49 #255346

Thanks for this excellent write-up! However, this is not some thoughts, it is a complete critique piece. So I am not even going to try to make a clever reply.
I didn't think about BR2049 again after watching it. To be honest, I don't think there's much to it, kind of like what one character said about Gosling's virtual girlfriend. Whom, by the way, I found supremely annoying for being a total "Her" rip-off (the sex scene, in particular, was almost identical to the equivalent in "Her"). And that kinda goes for everything else. The original Blade Runner was, for lack of a better word, original. I think the main reason I watched it so many times is that there was nothing quite like it. There is nothing in the new one that strikes me as "wow, I've never seen anything like this before". But, on the other hand, it is as slow and unevenly paced as BR, which again - in my opinion - is pure imitation of Ridley Scott's style, there's nothing of value behind it. Just because something is slow and boring doesn't mean it is profound.
And, I agree with you on the action scenes. They're formulaic, unexciting and just plain corny. In particular the kick-boxing moves. There's nothing remotely close to Ford's encounters with replicants. Here is another thing. In BR, the climax is the encounter with Rutger Hauer, a tragic villain/antihero (this still could be debated). In 2049, the main source of conflict is, for all intents and purposes, a henchman, with no personality to speak of. "Tears in the rain" it isn't.

Now that I think of it... the closest comparison to this movie is "Solaris" remake by Soderbergh.
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Blade runner 2049...some thoughts... 08 Oct 2017 19:50 #255357

I thought it was really good, but I agree that the fact that it's a sequel--albeit a very good one, and not an obvious retread--diminishes its impact and the likelihood that it will be thought of much after the lights go up. Maybe I'm wrong; the original didn't have much of an audience at the time and was only slowly recognized. I did feel like there was a certain emptiness and that the craft of it--not just the visuals and sound design but the meticulous way the story's pieces fit together--was apparent enough that I wasn't fully immersed. There's lots of Theme, but it feels a bit obvious, in part because we know for the most part how this world works and what we're going to think about.

But I'm also not the hugest fan of the original. It was groundbreaking and Important, but the secondary characters--the best part--struggle for me to make up for the dullness of the central characters. Ford (in the original) mistakes monotone and moroseness for depth, and the less said about Sean Young the better.

If Blade Runner 2049 were the first rather than the second movie, we'd probably be falling all over ourselves about it, but of course it isn't and can't be.

Still vastly better than most sequels (Fury Road being the obvious genre exception).
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Blade runner 2049...some thoughts... 09 Oct 2017 05:29 #255366

Gosh...indeed....I didn't even see the similarity with "Her" until you mentioned it. A movie by the way I greatly enjoyed.
With passing of days...creating a distance between my initial viewing of 2049...the visual aspect of the movie and it's spectacular settings fade away and what remains is a feeling of a rather empty shell underneath it's glossy finish.

I understand the original Blade Runner is not going to be a movie that pleases everyone. It is effectively slow-paced for a mainstream movie, but if you are used to watching "Stalker' by Tarkovsky that has a scene that lasts for 5 minutes without the camera angle changing...just watching the changing light in a room and rain falling through the ceiling...Blade Runner doesn't feel all that slow. For me the main strength of Blade Runner is that it had a hypnotic quality to it. Scott took time to show us moments of contemplation....Deckard sitting in his spinner...slowly floathing across the cityscape...allowing us to share his sense of wonder. Blade Runner was just as much about those scenes without dialogue...those moments in which it suggested things rather than spelled them out.

Jpat, I somewhat agree about the dulness of the Deckard-character. It lacked the emotional complexity of some of the minor characters and felt at worst 2-dimensional.
Rutger Hauer definitly formed a sort of counter-part for Ford, and in a way that might be the whole idea of Scott: the hunter being an almost sterile role of blindly chasing it's prey...while the hunted himself turns out to be almost more human than Deckard. Full of vibrant life...poetic thoughts. That made Batty such a wonderfully complex character...as he simply escapes the trappings of an ordinary villain. He is at times more compassionate than Deckard...and definitly more melancholical.
And yes, I have to agree Young was definitly the weakest link in the original. She simply lacked a sort of magical on-screen presence.
In the short screen-time...the 2049 character of the female scientist (I'm avoiding a spoiler here) had so much more vurnability and radiant pressence than Young in the original.
Last Edit: 09 Oct 2017 06:08 by Shapeshifter.
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Blade runner 2049...some thoughts... 09 Oct 2017 08:46 #255369

I really enjoyed it. Some of your criticisms I agree with, however, some of the new themes or development of existing themes found in the film really resonated with me.

Leto's character talks about solving the issue of Replicant birth, not as a scientific achievement but because he can't produce a Replicant population/army fast enough. The main accomplishment offered by his character in Tyrell's absence is the fact that the new models obey.

I think there are some hints of nationalism here in Leto trying to create a Replicant population that is completely devoted to their superiority.

On the flip side of the coin are the characters who don't obey. You have Joe who shows a willingness to lie and disobey direct orders from his superior, Deckard of course fleeing from society, the police chief who attempts to hide the truth.

All of these characters embody what it means to be human. Unfortunately, humanity comes at a cost and with hardship. Every character exhibiting some level of this has seen suffering or does during the film. Joe is torn apart. Deckard had his life ruined and is constantly on the run. The police chief is killed. Deckard's daughter has a rare disease. Rachel dies in child-birth, when her attainment of humanism is at its highest.

I don't think there's a single example of a human in the film who isn't deeply flawed or damaged. Even Leto is blind.
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Blade runner 2049...some thoughts... 09 Oct 2017 13:48 #255378

I don't think the matter of new replicants obedience was of any consequence, besides being in the initial blob. We're told that they're obedient, but I didn't see much difference between older and newer models. Ryan Gosling was an even more "disobedient" Blade Runner than Harrison Ford.
And then we got all those replicants preparing for an uprising in the sewers (of course)... which was another corny moment worthy of Demolition Man.

Anyway, from my posts you might get the impression that I really hated this movie, but it is not so. It is a very well-done film for most part, and it deserves an Oscar or something for visuals, the "puzzle" was pretty good (I was genially surprised by one of the twists). And it is a labor of love and not just a cash-grab, in the same way Force Awakens was. But, in the same way, it is completely derivative, and it is also a sequel to a classic (whether you like the original BR or not), so the shoes it has to fill are just too big. If this was "I Robot 2", I would have probably liked it better.
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Blade runner 2049...some thoughts... 09 Oct 2017 14:21 #255381

I took Goslin's disobedience to be a key element as opposed to undoing the information in the intro. The female replicant, for instance, was completely obedient. To me, that signified Joe had achieved a sense of human.
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Blade runner 2049...some thoughts... 09 Oct 2017 17:13 #255393

I haven't seen it yet, so I skipped over this whole thread so far, because I am hoping to go next weekend.

Anyway, apparently opening weekend box office was bad. The most conservative projection was for $45 million, but it actually did only $31 million. Probably the biggest issue is that this sequel is arriving 35 years later. A lot of current movie goers didn't see the original in the theater, so they lack the nostalgia for the original if they even saw it.
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Blade runner 2049...some thoughts... 09 Oct 2017 18:22 #255397

Fury road took almost as long, and it did a lot better. Critically acclaimed even. Fury road even surpassed the quality of road warrior by many barometrics.

Its probably doing bad because like the original, it has a niche crowd, and it doesn't seem to be as good as many were hoping or expecting the follow up to be.
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Blade runner 2049...some thoughts... 09 Oct 2017 18:52 #255400

charlest wrote:
I took Goslin's disobedience to be a key element as opposed to undoing the information in the intro. The female replicant, for instance, was completely obedient. To me, that signified Joe had achieved a sense of human.

That's an interesting take, and made me think of the original Blade Runner. For me, the takeaway from the first movie (director's cut), is that it doesn't really matter whether Deckard is a human or a replicant. In fact, and I believe this is something that most of us will agree, if there was a sentient, self-conscious life-form that looked like a human, it is (a) wrong to treat it like a slave it and (b) wrong to destroy it just because it refuses to be a slave. So, when I walk into BR 2049, I already have this assumption (thanks to BR). I already know who the bad guys are (chief among them, Jared Leto), there's no dilemma about it, no matter how much pseudo-philosophical crap he can utter. As for the replicants, Gosling is not less human because he is obedient, nor he "gains" humanity by not obeying. He starts out as a shitty person, and by the end earns our respect by doing something that every human being should aspire to - which is, to save Indiana Jones/Han Solo. But I did not see him "gaining" humanity.
The bad replicant is obedient, but she's also kinda sadistic (actually, she is similar to Rachel's character from the book), so human as well. And all those replicants in the sewers & prostitutes are human, too (not obedient at all).
By the way, the very concept of "more obedient replicant = not dangerous" is lame, too. "More obedient" is not like Asimov's law of robotics. They're basically brain-washed people turned into slaves. We already know that slavery is not only evil, it doesn't work. So Jared Leto's character is not only an obviously evil asshole, he's also really dumb.
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Blade runner 2049...some thoughts... 10 Oct 2017 06:02 #255417

This made me chuckle. The reviewer said it was well worth seeing.(this is a conservative "family" film site)


bladerunner_family.png
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Blade runner 2049...some thoughts... 10 Oct 2017 09:49 #255433

The original Blade Runner should be considered a cult classic. It only did $33 million in box office on a $28 million production budget, and many viewers were disappointed because they were expecting a fun movie like Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark. It lasted just five weeks in the theaters.
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Blade runner 2049...some thoughts... 10 Oct 2017 09:59 #255435

Shellhead wrote:
The original Blade Runner should be considered a cult classic. It only did $33 million in box office on a $28 million production budget, and many viewers were disappointed because they were expecting a fun movie like Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark. It lasted just five weeks in the theaters.

Yeah, but it generated a ton of additional money in the aftermarket, and still does today. I paid $5 for it the other night in HD, and it was worth every penny. Hollywood looks for a 5:1 payback, but I imagine they consider their initial outlay well-spent when it's still generating income 35 years later.

The more you guys talk about 2049 the less interested I am in seeing it. I've been skimming to avoid spoilers, but I mean damn, I'm trying to decide how much damage it will deal to the original, as you all seem to be describing a film with a fair amount of violence and "action" which doesn't sync up with the Blade Runner feel very well. Still thinking I will, but I may wait for it to come out on Amazon. The "you need to see it on as big a screen as possible" thing isn't a big selling point for me.
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Blade runner 2049...some thoughts... 10 Oct 2017 10:28 #255436

There is not a great deal of violence or action and I think overall it syncs up much better than most sequels done by a different creative mind years later.
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Blade runner 2049...some thoughts... 11 Oct 2017 02:12 #255490

I feel action/violence wise it is about on par with the original.
It is more in it's style and content that that action-sequences are a little off for me Blade Runner-wise. They are far more generic than the original.
A bit strange, given Villeneuve is far more of an arthouse director than Scott.
I was expecting a bit of a new take on things...but instead it made me appreciate Scott's unusual direction more.
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