Blade Runner

1982, The Ladd Company et al

Enumerating all of the things that make Ridley Scott's Blade Runner so magnificent—and significant—would be redundant, since there's already been copious analyses of it. So, I'll keep it simple. This film not only envisioned the future in unsettlingly accurate ways, it also influenced countless films and filmmakers to follow (how many films have you seen that felt "Blade Runner-esque?). And it spawned its own new film sub-genre: sci-fi noire.

Consequently, even those who don't like it are forced to acknowledge its greatness. How many other films have seen so many re-issues on home video, in a myriad of variations? How many other films have been subjected to so much analysis (outside of, say, Citizen Kane)? I bought an original Betamax release of Blade Runner and literally wore it out from watching it so many times. Granted, I'm something of a student of film, so I've spent quite a bit of time scrutinizing it with nearly obsessive intensity. Blade Runner has a permanent slot in my all time five fave films.

       

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Blade Runner 2049

2017, Bud Yorkin Productions et al

I had such high hopes for a sequel to my all-time favorite film. It seemed like a good mix of talent was involved; in particular, I was most encouraged by the fact that Ridley Scott wasn't directing—his work on the Alien prequels was almost as bad as Lucas' Star Wars prequels. The box office reception didn't spook me much—the original bombed, too—and the reviews were glowing.

So I was most excited when the disc finally arrived. By the end, I was quite stunned—not because the film was so overwhelming, but because it was so underwhelming. Visually stunning, unquestionably. Flawless, memorable effects and jaw-dropping sets. Really solid performances. A decent story that "works" in the Blade Runner universe. Great sound design. And those spinners... just, wow.

But like Interstellar, it nearly collapses on itself from the weight of overtly self-conscious style. We spend entirely too much time contemplating characters who spend entirely too much time contemplating whatever. And we must endure entirely too many lofty yet obscure utterances by Jared Leto. It could have been a half-hour shorter and not lost an ounce of impact (actually, for an even tighter film, I believe the entire Joi storyline could have been eliminated with virtually no negative impact, other than the loss of some nice special effects). Plus, quite a bit of the dialog is muffled—I watched the film a second time with captions turned on. Finally, I must also deduct points for a soundtrack that makes a few too many Vangelis-like references; in particular, I think K's death would have been much more poignant in silence, rather than accompanied by a musical Valentine to fans. And the predictable Deckard-meets-his-daughter scene was vaguely reminiscent of the studio-mandated "happy ending" of the original; would have been far better to just cut to black after K dies. The end.

So, while 2049 is undoubtedly great, it's not as great as I'd hoped.

       

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