Our Tomatometer Accredited Team Chats About BLADE RUNNER 2049

RAY GREENE WRITES:

Hey Guys:

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 recut that came out back in 1982 (and jus­ti­fi­ably, because it’s tonal­ly a mess) and which has since been replaced by mul­ti­ple defin­i­tive” director’s cuts/​recuts/​rethinks.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.

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