Blade Runner 2049 – Review in time

I have no affinity towards the original Blade Runner. I understand the story and the Replicant/Human questions posed at the end regarding Harrison Ford’s character, but I decided to go into Blade Runner 2049 without watching the original again, to see how the modern version stood up on its own. 

Straight away, you can tell this film is beautifully crafted. Every shot dripping with the sci-fi noir style the original film is so celebrated for. Everything looks futuristic, but used, and this aesthetic creates some truly gorgeous shots throughout the entire movie. Every set, costume and light are perfectly placed, meaning this film should be watched on as big and as high-resolution a screen as you can. Accompanying the opening shots, after the text has explained the current timeline and the Human/Replicant relationship, we get the first hit of the powerful score this film has. Hans Zimmer’s touch is distinctive, and its perfect for this style of movie.

There is a word I have used a lot already, style. Blade Runner is incredibly stylistic, at times leaving the beautiful shots and sets on-screen for 10-15 seconds uninterrupted for you to soak it in. This choice of editing makes the film feel very slow, very deliberate. It’s a story about a replicant, Ryan Gosling, who is carrying out his duty as a “Blade Runner”, investigating the cases of old replicants who need to be shut down. We follow every step of this investigation, being shown rather than being explained to. This would normally make the film a little harder to follow, but I found it relatively easy seeing as the film isn’t subtle with how it handles the clues dropped along the way. For me the slow pace is a hinderance here. In moments I felt there should have been an impactful reveal, the slow unveiling of the secret meant the effect was lost on me, allowing me to already be piecing together the next step of the story, or just thinking about something else entirely.

The film reminded me in some ways of the first time I sat down to watch The Godfather. Both films are clearly brilliant examples of what filmmaking can be, but compared to most modern cinema, they are painstakingly slow. This is as much a criticism of these films as it is of modern cinema, and how today’s audiences are accustomed to the quickly edited, fast pace modern movies with less time for the film to slowly stroll from point A to B. If you can appreciate the slow canter the film plods along at, the story keeps you invested all the way til the end, and doesn’t necessarily answer all of the questions, in line with the 1982 film.

Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford lead the show, and both are genuinely brilliant. Gosling’s journey throughout the story changes the character’s perspective on everything, and seeing him try to process the events unfolding makes for compelling viewing. Ford reprises his role as Rick Deckard from Blade Runner, giving a great performance even in the relatively short time he is on-screen for. Jared Leto and Sylvia Hoeks play the antagonist roles, and whilst the former is solid and clearly at home playing an eccentric genius, the latter really shines in her role. Often butting heads with Gosling and his superior (played by Robin Wright), she is both intimidating and at times sympathetic.

Director Denis Villenueve is responsible for two of my favourite movies in recent years, the tense Sicario and the intriguing Arrival. His take on this franchise he attempts to show again he is the master of tension building and enticing the audience with threads of story. For the most part he succeeds, but this film felt slower, and dragged a little more than those two previous efforts.

Blade Runner 2049 is an acquired taste. Lovers of the previous film will likely adore this, and haters are inevitably going to hate. For me, sitting on the fence as I was, it sits somewhere between director Villenueve’s last two efforts. If you have a spare 3 hours and want something to really engage with, Blade Runner 2049 might be for you, but as I have said for all of Villenueve’s films, be prepared for what you’re getting into. In a world where big budgets mean plenty of action, quips and stunts, Blade Runner 2049 is a big budget film of a different kind.

Good: Excellent filmmaking on show, everything is truly top-notch. Performances, cinematography, set design all excellent.

Bad: Slow pace grinds to a halt at times, and I found the story to be a little bit predictable at times.

8/10 – It’ll be tough to replicate this… 

The last Villeneuve movie I reviewed I promised to get better on the puns, I am sorry for failing you all.

21st July 2008

I was 15 and I was sitting in my chair waiting for it to start. Watching the logos go past with so much trepidation and excitement I want sure I’d be able to last the whole film without leaving to pee. Once the film started, I barely remembered to breath for the next 2 hours and 32 minutes, let alone leave the cinema.

Ten years and countless viewings later, I can replay every key scene in my head as if its playing in front of me. The bank heist, the magic trick, the parade, the interrogation, the chase, the boats, the final confrontation.

I had never experienced anything like this in a cinema. A film that redefined an entire genre and made it cool to be a geek. I already was of course, throughout my childhood I was fascinated by the two characters I was watching on-screen.

Heath Ledger, initially shunned and mocked for being too much of a pretty boy and not fit for the role. He was playing a character that many thought had been done to perfection in the late 80’s. Somehow he defied the doubters and gave a performance that is the gold standard for an antagonist in modern films.

Leaving the cinema I couldn’t really get my head round enjoying a movie so much I wanted to see it again straight away. I’ve been going nearly every week for four years now and very few films have quite captured my imagination like this film did. It’s why I started following movie news and one of the films that made me want to write about the industry.

The Dark Knight was released 10 years ago. Right as the MCU was beginning, and before the Avengers had ever been considered a real possibility. Created by one of the best directors around, given the licence to do what he wanted with a DC character. There was no need for world building or setting up another film in the same cinematic universe. I don’t even think the term cinematic universe was coined at the time.

I know some people don’t have any interest in superhero films. I am a geek so I naturally love all this type of stuff. The Dark Knight is not just another superhero movie. It’s a story about two people with wildly different beliefs, presented as an action film with costumes and make up. It is, in my opinion, the best superhero film ever made. It is also my favourite movie of all time. So 10 years on, I thought now would be a good time to write something about The Dark Knight.

Today, as DC continue to stumble about in the dark chasing the Marvel Cinematic Universe, maybe they should look at their past for the template to succeed with their characters. To be clear, I don’t mean dark and realistic, I mean getting a super talented story-teller like Nolan and giving them the creative freedom to do what they think is best. Aquamans trailer should drop this weekend and perhaps that will hint at a good film, here’s hoping DC can find the winning formula again.

Avatar (2009)- Review in time

Thinking about what I should review first in my “movie that came out years ago that I haven’t previously reviewed” series of posts was something I was struggling with. That is right up until this past weekend when I by chance ended up watching Avatar. The highest grossing film of all time with well over $2 billion raked in, and a film so many people struggle to remember a lot about, I’ve always been intrigued how this film made so much of an impact and then seemingly slipped out of the publics consciousness.

When was the last time you saw anyone dressed as a Na’vi person on Halloween or at a comic con. Avatar came, the world went mad for it, then it left. Watching it again with that knowledge really makes you wonder how well the next installments planned for release in the next couple of years will do.

Avatar feels like a truly epic experience. The effects, the scale, and the attention to detail of the world they have built is incredible. It really does make you long to visit Pandora, and this is probably avatars biggest strength. From the Na’vi’s culture to the flying beasts and creatures around them, you’re transported to a different world.

Sam Worthington in the lead role of Jake Sully. He’s good, but struggled to really command the film at times. Zoe Saldana is great as Neytiri and supports well alongside Sigourney Weaver. Stephen Lang plays the snarling army commander who fills the role of the main antagonist although the film is not just about the antagonist against the protagonist.

Jake Sullys journey exploring and learning the ways of this new culture is the heart of the film, as well as the blossoming relationship between him and Neytiri. It’s one of many subplots and messages the film juggles and for the most part director James Cameron does a good job of not letting things get too convoluted. Where the film does lack a little is in the motivations behind the antagonist, who I think comes across as pretty one-dimensional. He is easy to predict and despite enjoying the performance of the actor the character just felt a bit thin.

Avatar is at its best when you are focused in the incredible world built by James Cameron. It is so colourful, vibrant and full of wonder that just watching the screen is a joy in itself. The core story isn’t anything groundbreaking, with parallels to several other films, but nothing has ever, before or since, built a world so vibrant.

Weirdly the film it reminded me most of that has come out since is Warcraft. What i mean by this is that the world itself in both films is more interesting than the individual characters we meet. In both cases I can comfortably say I would enjoy seeing a return to these worlds, but I think I would actually prefer it if the next instalment doesn’t focus on the characters we have already met. Rather than that, I would like to explore more of Pandora and the Na’vi, perhaps not even having human characters at the centre of the story.

Good: The world is simply incredible to see, even after 9 years of superhero and star wars films, Avatar still looks amazing. The messages it strives to deliver re: the environment are still just as relevant today.

Bad: With more interesting main characters, or a more charismatic hero or villain, this would have been an even bigger hit, if that’s possible.

Test of time: The film holds up well, and as previously said, the messages are still just as relevant today. The upcoming sequels will be a real test on how well Avatar stuck with the general public, as big event movies are becoming a regular thing now which was not the case in 2009.

8/10 – Avatar is still stunning to watch.