Friday, October 13, 2017

A few thoughts on Blade Runner 2049

Went to see Blade Runner 2049 with my dad at the IMAX in Atlantic City last night. The theater is certainly impressive and as far as I can tell the specs make it a true IMAX screen (the only one in New Jersey.)
I thought the film itself was an improvement over the original in many ways. The pacing is just about perfect despite a running time over 150 minutes, the cinematography and effects are gorgeous, and in the biggest departure from the original, the characters actually show some chemistry. Plus, you've got Harrison Ford reprising his role as Deckard and a solid performance from the best Ryan in Hollywood (Gosling, of course.)
Recommended even if you haven't seen the original.


To continue, my friend Patty made this comment:
...the original was truly groundbreaking and original for its time and set the stage for every dark dystopian movie after. Read up on Syd Mead (who also designed for aliens and tron). The new movie certainly "looked" better, as it should 30 years later.
To which I reply: Yeah, the original Blade Runner is a perfect example of the Seinfeld is unfunny trope.

The film's value to society and filmmaking has gone above and beyond the original sum of its parts. But that doesn't mean I can't still call it what it is: A plodding sci-fi spectacle that's as reliant on its set pieces as it is any of the characters, where the romantic leads have about as much chemistry as Donald and Melania. I mean, I like it well enough and it still holds a special place in history, but trying to make it out as a cinematic masterpiece is getting a little sentimental. I'll admit it I might feel differently had I seen it first as an impressionable 9 year-old, and before I saw the myriad of films that drew inspiration from it.

The 1982 Blade Runner also suffers from what I call Lucas Syndrome, where Ridley Scott has gone back and tinkered a few too many times, diluting the overall effect that we'd get from an accepted "definitive" version. We can all laugh at Harrison Ford's intentionally hammy narration in the theatrical release and be thankful that it was axed for the Director's Cut. But with that we get the ridiculous unicorn flashbacks and the story suffers as a result: because "Is Deckard a you-know-what?" goes from a fun fan theory to canon. And I think the entire plot starts to fall apart as a result. It's like if John Hughes released a Director's Cut of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and right after Ferris' classic "If you don't stop and look around, you could miss it" closing speech, it cuts to flashbacks throughout the film and WHOA FERRIS WAS A FIGMENT OF CAMERON'S IMAGINATION THE WHOLE TIME! It's a cute theory to talk about over a joint but it would serve no point to the story and introduce a plethora of plot holes in the process.

Interesting that you should mention TRON though, because that's a perfect example of how to take a beloved and groundbreaking 80s sci-fi film and just completely butcher the remake/sequel. I haven't watched enough of the later Alien films to know what they've done for the franchise, but I do know that Sigourney Weaver said that Aliens (2) was her favorite, so I'll trust her judgement.