Our Tomatometer Accredited Team Chats About BLADE RUNNER 2049
RAY GREENE WRITES:
So, first, an apology. I was hoping to see BR2049 today during its exclusive LA opening, but I’ve ended up nowhere near any of the handful of screens it’s playing on and with other obligations. I may amend this string once I’ve seen it. But I will start the ball rolling with a somewhat heretical opinion:
I’ve never been wild about the original Blade Runner, in any of its (many) iterations.
You can criticize the notorious Alan Ladd Jr. recut that came out back in 1982 (and justifiably, because it’s tonally a mess) and which has since been replaced by multiple “definitive” director’s cuts/recuts/rethinks. At the same time, without endorsing the studio’s right to subvert an ambitious project, the problems that voiceover driven Ladd cut was trying to address (narrative clarity, Harrison Ford’s impenetrable central performance and the way Rutger Hauer overwhelms the movie) were real. Left to its own devices, Blade Runner is a very interior movie with passages of action, and Harrison Ford either wasn’t up to the existential demands of his role or was let down by a script that fell in love with its antagonist.
Along with STAR WARS, the original Blade Runner is also the triumph of art direction over every other consideration — the moment when the tired contemporary vogue for “universe building” first fully flowered. Ridley Scott has great taste — a comparison of the moist, gleaming dystopia of Blade Runner with a roughly contemporaneous sci-fi “world” like the discoball planetarium that is Logan’s Run illustrates that. He’s very very intermittent when it comes to story though.
Watching the original Blade Runner, I’m reminded of that catty old Broadway adage about overproduced musicals with forgettable scores where the audience comes out “humming the scenery.”
And though it’s frequently cited as an innovative masterwork, the original Blade Runner is, at its core, a noir retelling of Karel Capek’s R.U.R. — the 1920 science fiction play that gave us the word “robot,” and which is so ancient it is best remembered for launching the acting career of Spencer Tracy. In other words, it’s a well worn premise that, in this form, leaves me humming the scenery.
So all of that said, what do you think of the sequel?
TIM COGSHELL WRITES:
Seeing it in a couple of hours, so no opinion yet. But I rewatched Blade Runner to prep, and it raised some questions.
I’ve mentioned this to Wade. Do you know who Frank Scott is?
Most people don’t. He was Ridley and Tony’s older brother. Died of cancer just as Ridley landed the Blade Runner assignment.
Look for information about him… you won’t find him. Gone from Ridley’s bio. Tony Scott’s bio too.
“Ridley was bonkers about two things: Frank and Tony” — that’s a quote from Ridley’s second wife.
Frank’s existential ordeal is all over Blade Runner. Frank is in [android rebel leader] Roy Batty for sure — a lover of life whose biological clock is running out. But having watched Blade Runner again last night, I’m pretty sure Frank is in all of those androids. Fighting the good fight to live fully — and losing.
As is the case.
I wonder if Tony is in Blade Runner 2049 as a subtext, haunting it [Tony Scott, Ridley’s brother and a major filmmaker in his own right, committed suicide in 2010]. I’m gonna look for him.
I know it’s directed by Denis Villeneuve. But Ridley diddled with the script too, and is an executive producer. So Tony might make it in there…
WADE MAJOR WRITES:
I have all kinds of opinions about this one. Tomorrow. Want to think about it tonight.
[9 hours later]
TIM COGSHELL WRITES:
Now I’ve see it…
2.5 and a bit more hours long. In other words: Slow. Purposefully slow, but slow nonetheless.
Evokes Blade Runner, which was not a given. I’ve seen Prometheus, which suggests nothing of Alien.
What I like about BR2049 is that it is fully aware of and accountable to the actual narrative of the original film. It does not ignore that movie. Indeed it’s deeply concerned with not pissing off fans, and thus, reminds them dutifully, of everything that they loved about Blade Runner, from the production design to including a lot of fake Vangelis on the soundtrack. All updated by about 30 years.
I like this sequel, or perhaps appreciate it, for all those reasons. I could have done without about .5 hours though.
As for the narrative, it’s super simple, existential bullshit notwithstanding. I like that too. It is what it looks like, even with a little twist at the end. And this also was not a given.
I’m very glad Ridley didn’t direct it. I don’t see much of him in the writing of it. And Tony is definitely not in it as a subtext. Frank is still there, but not Tony.
WADE MAJOR WRITES:
Funny — perhaps my greatest objection to it is precisely that it’s so fully aware of and accountable to the narrative of the original film.
It feels like it wants to be an entirely separate movie altogether — but one that occasionally remembers it has to be connected to that other movie, sighs, goes through a few narrative motions — and then gets back to being something else. And that something else is less a Ridley Scott movie, less Blade Runner than Tarkovsky.
I’m really not sure Blade Runner needs this movie. Nor am I sure this movie needs Blade Runner. What Blade Runner only subtly evoked by the very end — and very circuitously — this wears on its sleeve in big, grandiose, operatic existential gestures. It’s basically an earthbound Solaris — it feels more like a Tarkovsky film and its concerns are more Stanislaw Lem than Phil K. Dick. Which isn’t an altogether bad thing — could have been a better thing — but I wish it could have lived and breathed as something else entirely distinct.
Even Deakins’ photography — which is certain to win him his long overdue Oscar — feels derivative, like he’s trying to one-up Cronenweth on what was essentially futuristic ‘80s neon kitsch in 1982. There are images in the original that are still indelible in my mind. For all the gorgeous photography here, there’s not a single image I can remember.
And yet — I thoroughly enjoyed nearly the whole movie (apart from a moment when it felt like it was going to go all Hunger Games on me — thank God it didn’t). I didn’t mind the length at all. That, too, felt Tarkovsky — deliberately paced, slow, methodical — every scene playing out as long as it needed to to let the actors and the performance breathe.
It’s a strange, unusual, awkward, flawed, brilliant, frustrating oddity.