Skip to main content

We build angels here. But I can only make so many.

Trailers
Blade Runner 2049

(SPOILER SPECULATION) Hopefully we won’t be treated/subjected to a whole string of trailers between now and October, steadily chipping away at any surprises Blade Runner 2049 has in store. Which is to say, hopefully the various parties releasing it (Warner Bros in the US and Sony most of the rest of everywhere else) won’t be inclined to do a Fox with Alien: Covenant and deluge us with as many spoilers as possible. It’s much more fun to speculate with limited information than have it laid out on a plate. Both pictures have got Sir Ridders in common, which is not to suggest he’s necessarily fully on board with the blanket coverage of the Covenant marketing plan or that he’s being consulted on this one – the pretty ropey recent photoshop-botch-job posters suggest not - but that it’s generally best not to pay too much attention to the old boy, not always the sharpest of tools (as his insistence on Deckard being a replicant affirms; ambiguity is the key there), as they might end up doing audiences a disservice.


Of course, one immediately wonders if they’ve been listening to him with regard to the apparent lack of doubt about who Agent K – Joseph, anyone? A clue to the obscured processes of authority that Ryan Gosling’s character is upholding? – is: a replicant. One would optimistically assume, given the trailer is pretty much leading us by the nose (“I always told you, you’re special. Your story isn’t over yet: there’s still a page left”), that it’s not supposed to be such a surprise. Either that, or it’s a double bluff. It has been reasonably suggested that, for Agent K to burst through a wall, as it very much looks like he does, he’d have to be in possession of something approaching a Roy Batty physique (or a Dave Bautista one, even, who seems to be busting Agent K through some masonry in a fight in another shot, Agent K first; I’d hazard the burning building is the aftermath of that encounter).


The identity or otherwise of Agent K obviously can’t be all there is to the movie’s mysteries, though. Why is K suffering a meltdown at one point? Is it due to a shocking revelation (not, presumably, that breezeblocks come out worse in a one-on-one confrontation, or the discovery of a replicant Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in a box)? Several plausible theories have been forwarded, deriving from cryptic lines delivered in the trailer, notably Jared Leto’s Tyrell-but-younger Wallace, heir-apparent creator of replicants and indulger in a spot of AI midwifery (“Every civilisation was built off the back of a disposable workforce. But I can only make so many”), who seems to be suggesting trouble on the production line. Some have proposed that the solution to this problem is replicants who can now reproduce (do replicants replicate like electric rabbits?) and there are consequently replicant-human hybrids. That Rachel was Agent K’s mum, even (presumably that bit of wood is Rachel’s grave: 6-10-21).


That bit of wood would suggest the strong likelihood that K is looking for Deckard because of Rachel, a unique legacy left by Tyrell.  Hence Wallace’s “The key to the future is finally unearthed. Bring it to me”. There’s something about her that Wallace has perhaps been unable to replicate in later replicants (the secret died with Tyrell)? I’m less inclined to credit the idea that Deckard himself is vitally important (excluding for a moment the possibility that he is a miraculously aging replicant and key to the future of everything – I always assumed replicants wouldn’t age, but I guess there’s no reason they can’t, just that if you go to the trouble of creating them with a long life span you’d have thought you’d want them to remain in tip-top shape – although the AWOL-ness of both him and Rachel does rather raise the question of why no one ever put tracking technology in these things).


And the doorway into a virtual forest. Which feels very Dick-ian. Who’s the woman there (do we not see her face because she might be a spoiler)? The daughter of Rachel? But the only unaccounted for cast member (IMDB-wise) is Hiam Abbass and Abbass is too old – unless she’s playing an older Rachel and Scott unaccountably couldn’t face working with loony Sean Young? Is she actually the key to the future, hidden away? Or is she just a boffin, someone K goes to consult?




As significant, perhaps more so, is Robin Wright’s comment to K: “The world is built on a wall that separates… kind. Tell either side there’s no wall; you bought a war” (it does sound like there’s an edit before “kind”, possibly spelling out the details further, just as the title quote is taken from Wallace’s complete line as spoken in the CinemaCon footage). Which offers to several possibilities, the most appealing being the also very Dick-ian idea, turning reality on its head, that everyone is a replicant (at least on Earth; so much for replicants being consigned to the off-world colonies), perhaps because humans can no longer survive in such a toxic landscape.


Another inference might be that there’s no wall because those in charge are replicants, that replicants have infiltrated society to such an extent that hunting them down is mere window dressing. Certainly, the Tyrell we see in the original was mapped out as a replicant, with Roy Batty popping “upstairs” to see his maker in a sarcophagus after he’d killed the fake.


Deckard: You’re a cop. I did your job once. I was good at it.
Agent K: I know.
Deckard: What to do you want?
Agent K: I want to ask you some questions.

Which might suggest K wants to Voight-Kampff Rick, but we’re probably supposed to think that. The trailer’s putting Harrison Ford in the frame big time, but Villeneuve has stated Deckard doesn’t actually appear until the third act (which is why some instantly felt a whiff of Luke in The Force Awakens). I have to admit, I’m not entirely sold on old stoner Harrison returning to a part where he actually put in a proper performance the first time (Rick Deckard isn’t terribly likable, even by the time he runs off with Rachel). Complete with the same bandy running legs we witnessed in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull a decade ago (is it that long? How come it hasn’t improved with age?) It isn’t like recent repeats of his other iconic roles (Indy, Han) have done him too well either. Ironically, that approach probably would work for Jack Ryan, because he was teetering on playing himself in those anyway. It’s not that Ford can’t rise to a challenge when he tries (42, even The Age of Adaline) but dressing him in his own t-shirt and jeans probably wasn’t the best way to get him into character. Nice to see he has a dog though. Does Rick Deckard dream of an electric pooch?





I have no reservations about the rest of the cast, though. Gosling can do no wrong, except when he tries dancing. And singing. Leto seems to know that something slightly mannered and theatrical is called for, so good on him, and even Robin Wright appears to be getting down with punctuating her sentences and emphases for effect. No sign of Lennie James, or Edward James Olmos, although I think the latter only did a day. Some of the shots between K and Ana de Armas’ Joi look very boy meets girl, ‘80s Coke advert, but maybe that’s intentional.  Most notable are Dave Bautista, looking like he’s stepped off the set of a Sergei Eisenstein epic, and Mackenzie Davis (I always think Crook when I see her name, which isn’t the same thing at all), very pleasure model Pris but with added (fake, I’d hazard) fur hat.




That Russian tinge (spectacles, hats, nominal walls) is only added to by the bizarre “SOVIET HAPPY” of the ballerina holograms (with “JOI”, also seen; maybe 2049 is big on Ren & Stimpy). Which I’m very iffy about. The look of them, that is, rather than seeing this as more anti-Russian propaganda. They’re a bit naff compared to the 2019’s billboards: too slick and immaterial (see also Ghost in the Shell). I mean, I welcome knowing Atari, against the odds, is still going strong (and at least gull wing doors are still in), but the aspect that stood out most of Blade Runner was how entirely immersive Scott’s world was. It was meticulously designed amalgam of retro and futuristic, pushing the Star Wars used future in a different, more immediate direction. In contrast, this reimagining is very uncluttered and spartan. Perhaps Los Angeles has been remarkably cleaned up in 30 years, like watching Taxi Driver then a movie set in modern day New York? Likewise, the clips so far don’t suggest the same kind of tangible, overcrowded suffocation.




It doesn’t help either that we have CGI cityscapes versus the original’s model work (the Atari shot is more TRON: Legacy). Although, what do you expect in a world where producer Sir Ridders has succumbed to CGI xenomorphs (I mean, it’s tantamount to Spielberg never setting foot outside the US for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, except that Villeneuve is much younger than either and should be interested in painstaking detail)? I suppose also, it’s quite possible there just aren’t the artists around now who can replicate that physically, more’s the pity. I’m certainly not suggesting Roger Deakins hasn’t come up with a multitude of beautiful, arresting images (the varied locations, the snow, the sand, are all welcome in exploring the world further), but they aren’t dense and layered the way Jordan Cronenweth’s work was. And they’re digital.





As to what appear to be more generic action beats, well it’s the reality of an expensive movie that wants to be hit. You can debate whether Blade Runner merited a sequel (I’d say there’s definitely the conceptual and thematic material to justify it, although I’ve yet to be convinced bringing back Deckard was the way to go), but there was no way it would have got a greenlight if the pitch had been to make it as unapproachable as the original (“You’ll make your money back in 30 years”).






I have every confidence in Denis Villeneuve’s ability as a director, but he doesn’t have the keenest eye with regard to scripts. So he has that in common with his producer (ironically, Villeneuve’s staunchest advocates will claim his facility with scripts is the chief reason to have faith in this project, but he’s mostly either given trash a sheen – Prisoners, Sicario – or made good on extended Twilight Zone episodes where the lingering sense is that they never quite sustained themselves for an entire movie – Enemy, Arrival).


And I’m pleased that Hampton Fancher, co-architect of the original screenplay (I wish David Webb Peoples was involved too, even more than Fancher in some respects, but I guess you can’t have everything) provided the story and co-wrote the script. And that Michael Green (American Gods; his contributions to Green Lantern, Logan and Alien: Covenant were all collaborative, so you can’t necessarily blame him if you don’t like them) was the other contributor. I’m also pleased to hear the retention of the original’s sonic landscape; Johann Johannson seems almost more respectful of Vangelis than Villeneuve does of Scott.


Am I optimistic for Blade Runner 2049? Am I Soviet happy? Or even Joi? I’m hoping for the best while recognising that it’s unlikely to equal the original on any level. But who knows, maybe it will be justify its existence on entirely different ones? Maybe Ford’s presence will work out in context? One thing’s undeniable; Gosling has fantastic coat.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Garage freak? Jesus. What kind of a crazy fucking story is this?

All the President’s Men (1976)
It’s fairly routine to find that films lavished with awards ceremony attention really aren’t all that. So many factors go into lining them up, including studio politics, publicity and fashion, that the true gems are often left out in the cold. On some occasions all the attention is thoroughly deserved, however. All the President’s Men lost out to Rocky for Best Picture Oscar; an uplifting crowd-pleaser beat an unrepentantly low key, densely plotted and talky political thriller. But Alan J. Pakula’s film had already won the major victory; it turned a literate, uncompromising account of a resolutely unsexy and over-exposed news story into a huge hit. And even more, it commanded the respect of its potentially fiercest (and if roused most venomous) critics; journalists themselves. All the President’s Men is a masterpiece and with every passing year it looks more and more like a paean to a bygone age, one where the freedom of the press was assumed rather than a…

You keep a horse in the basement?

The ‘Burbs (1989)
(SPOILERS) The ‘Burbs is Joe Dante’s masterpiece. Or at least, his masterpiece that isn’t his bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you masterpiece Gremlins 2: The New Batch, or his high profile masterpiece Gremlins. Unlike those two, the latter of which bolted out of the gate and took audiences by surprise with it’s black wit subverting the expected Spielberg melange, and the first which was roundly shunned by viewers and critics for being absolutely nothing like the first and waving that fact gleefully under their noses, The ‘Burbs took a while to gain its foothold in the Dante pantheon. 

It came out at a time when there had been a good few movies (not least Dante’s) taking a poke at small town Americana, and it was a Tom Hanks movie when Hanks was still a broad strokes comedy guy (Big had just made him big, Turner and Hooch was a few months away; you know you’ve really made it when you co-star with a pooch). It’s true to say that some, as with say The Big Lebowski, “got it” on fi…

The head is missing... and... he's the wrong age.

Twin Peaks 3.7: There’s a body all right.
First things first: my suggestion that everyone’s favourite diminutive hitman, Ike “The Spike” Stadtler, had been hired by the Mitchum brothers was clearly erroneous in the extreme, although the logistics of how evil Coop had the contingency plan in place to off Lorraine and Dougie-Coop remains a little unclear right now. As is how he was banged up with the apparent foresight to have on hand ready blackmail tools to ensure the warden would get him out (and why did he wait so long about it, if he could do it off the bat?)


Launching right in with no preamble seems appropriate for his episode, since its chock-a-block with exposition and (linear) progression, almost an icy blast of what settles for reality in Twin Peaks after most of what has gone before this season, the odd arm-tree aside. Which might please James Dyer, who in the latest Empire “The Debate”, took the antagonistic stance to the show coming back and dismissed it as “gibbering nonsen…

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

You’re the Compliance Officer. It’s your call.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
(SPOILERS) The mealy-mouthed title speaks volumes about the uncertainty with which Tom Clancy’s best-known character has been rebooted. Paramount has a franchise that has made a lot of money, based on a deeply conservative, bookish CIA analyst (well, he starts out that way). How do you reconfigure him for a 21st century world (even though he already has been, back in 2003) where everything he stands for is pretty much a dirty word? The answer, it seems, is to go for an all-purpose sub-James Bond plan to bring American to its knees, with Ryan as a fresh (-ish) recruit (you know, like Casino Royale!) and surprising handiness in a fight. Yes, Jack is still a smart guy (and also now, a bit, -alec), adept at, well, analysing, but to survive in the modern franchise sewer he needs to be more than that. He needs to kick arse. And wear a hoodie. This confusion, inability to coax a series into being what it’s supposed to be, might explain the sour response to its …

I freely chose my response to this absurd world. If given the opportunity, I would have been more vigorous.

The Falcon and the Snowman (1985)
(SPOILERS) I suspect, if I hadn’t been ignorant of the story of Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee selling secrets to the Soviets during the ‘70s, I’d have found The Falcon and the Snowman less engaging than I did. Which is to say that John Schlesinger’s film has all the right ingredients to be riveting, including a particularly camera-hogging performance from Sean Penn (as Lee), but it’s curiously lacking in narrative drive. Only fitfully does it channel the motives of its protagonists and their ensuing paranoia. As such, the movie makes a decent primer on the case, but I ended up wondering if it might not be ideal fodder for retelling as a miniseries.

Oh look, there’s Colonel Mortimer, riding down the street on a dinosaur!

One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing (1975)
(SPOILERS) There’s no getting round the dinosaur skeleton in the room here: yellow face. From the illustrious writer-director team who brought us Mary Poppins, no less. Disney’s cheerfully racist family movie belongs to a bygone era, but appreciating its merits doesn’t necessarily requires one to subscribe to the Bernard Manning school of ethnic sensitivity.

I’m not going to defend the choice, but, if you can get past that, and that may well be a big if, particularly Bernard Bresslaw’s Fan Choy (if anything’s an unwelcome reminder of the Carry Ons lesser qualities, it’s Bresslaw and Joan Sims) there’s much to enjoy. For starters, there’s two-time Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Ustinov (as mastermind Hnup Wan), funny in whatever he does (and the only Poirot worth his salt), eternally berating his insubordinate subordinate Clive Revill (as Quon).

This is a movie where, even though its crude cultural stereotyping is writ large, the dialogue frequen…

You may not wanna wake up tomorrow, but the day after that might just be great.

Blood Father (2016)
(SPOILERS) There are points during Blood Father where it feels like Mel is publically and directly addressing his troubled personal life. Through ultra-violence. I’m not really sure if that’s a good idea or not, but the movie itself is finely-crafted slice of B-hokum, a picture that knows its particular sandpit and how to play most effectively in it.

Sometimes the more you look, the less you see.

Snowden (2016)
(SPOILERS) There are a fair few Oliver Stone movies I haven’t much cared for (Natural Born Killers, U-Turn, Alexander for starters), and only W., post millennium, stands out as even trying something, if in a largely inconspicuous and irrelevant way, but I don’t think I’ve been as bored by one as I have by Snowden. Say what you like about Citizenfour – a largely superficial puff piece heralded as a vanguard of investigative journalism that somehow managed to yield a Best Documentary Feature Oscar for its lack of pains – but it stuck to the point, and didn’t waste the viewer’s time. Stone’s movie is so vapid and cliché-ridden in its portrayal of Edward Snowden, you might almost conclude the director was purposefully fictionalising his subject in order to preserve his status as a conspiracy nut (read: everything about Snowden is a fiction).