Sunday 15 October 2017

Blade Runner 2049 by Fancher, Green and Dick

What a relief to report that this long awaited sequel — which could so easily have been a disaster — is terrific. You should rush to see it on the best screen available, and I do mean, rush, for reasons we will get to...

Discussing the origins of the new film in a Radio 4 interview, Ridley Scott modestly declares "I'm fundamentally the whole basis of the idea." These are words to fill one with dread. Because, however great a director he might be, Scott is a notorious destroyer of scripts.

However, in this case we owe him enormous thanks. Because, having had his fundamental, whole and basic idea, he was then responsible for hiring Hampton Fancher to write the film.

Fancher is the man responsible for bringing Blade Runner to the screen in the first place, back in 1982. He optioned the Philip K. Dick novel and wrote a fascinating and vivid script. Later rewrites were done on the 1982 version by David Peoples, another superb writer, and the result was the original movie we love today.

This time around, according to Scott, Hampton Fancher wrote a 100 page novella which was the essence of the new movie and then a writer called Michael Green (Smallville, Logan) came in to develop it into a script.

Judging by the final credits, though, Fancher then came back and rewrote Green. But however the process worked, the results are outstanding. And at least Philip K. Dick gets a decent screen credit this time, instead of having his name buried in the fine print at the end of the film (as was the case, reprehensibly, in the original Blade Runner).

Meanwhile Ridley Scott was too busy to direct the movie — he was preoccupied with creating the awful Alien: Covenant — and so Denis Villeneuve was hired. Which is great news.

Villeneuve is a wondrous director, and he was responsible for the drug thriller Sicario — one of my favourite movies of all time — and Arrival, a thoughtful and impressive science fiction film. 

Villeneuve is a Canadian. As, oddly enough, is Ryan Gosling, who does a superb job in a similar role to Harrison Ford in the original.

Indeed, Gosling has an odd and very effective resemblance to Ford. There are similar — and eerie — echoes with other members of the cast, notably the excellent Mackenzie Davis (another Canadian) who, in the role of the replicant "pleasure model" Mariette, strongly recalls Daryl Hannah as Pris in the original.

Gosling's portrayal of 'K' is really quite moving. The nameless K is a Blade Runner and a replicant and he is despised for being both these things. The one ray of light in his life is his 'girlfriend' Joi (Ana de Armas). But she is just a piece of software...

The movie has been taken to task for Joi: she's said to be a typical piece of male wish fulfilment and objectification of women. But I read her character very differently.

K's life is desperately empty and meaningless. The fact that Joi is the only good thing in it — and she doesn't even exist — makes him a genuinely tragic figure.

The cast is impeccable.  Robin Wright plays K's ruthless, predatory boss. And Barkhad Abdi, who showed immense star power as a Somali pirate in Captain Philips, here provides a delightful, brief appearance as the wonderfully named Dr Badger.

Sylvia Hoeks plays an unforgetably deadly female replicant called Luv, and has a truly wonderful scene — and the best line in the film — when she saves K's ass while having her fingernails painted. She unleashes a remote drone strike on a bunch of assailants and, as a shaken K struggles to get back on his feet, she mutters disgustedly, "Just do your fucking job."

And of course, it's no spoiler to tell you that Harrison Ford himself is back to do an agreeable reprise of his role as Deckard. He also has a very nice dog (I can't find the dog's name to credit) who likes to drink whiskey...

Jared Leto, however, is wasted as Niander Wallace, an all powerful billionaire who runs a business which is the equivalent of the Tyrell Corporation in the original. He has a couple of dull and pretentious scenes where he yacks on about how godlike he is.

I suspect these scenes were Ridley Scott's big contribution to the movie. Because they are virtually identical to dull and pretentious scenes with godlike billionaires in the last couple of Alien pictures.

For some reason Scott has an obsession about this.

But this isn't Ridley Scott's film, it's Denis Villeneuve's, and Scott is to be congratulated for giving Villeneuve the freedom to do it in his own way.

Denis Villeneuve is a visionary film maker and he really delivers the goods here. He has some fascinating observations on the process of making Blade Runner 2049, and you can hear them in that same radio interview

For one thing, he makes the interesting point that  in the the 1982 movie Ridley Scott reimagined Los Angeles as a kind of London — grey and pouring with rain.

And so Villeneuve has created a futuristic LA based on his native Montreal — desolate and covered with snow.

The visuals in the movie are utterly extraordinary. It's photographed by Villeneuve's regular cinematographer Roger Deakins and the "visual futurist" Syd Mead, who was responsible for so much of the look of the first film, is back again helping with the design.

It's a long film — very nearly three hours — and although I balk at this kind of duration, I wouldn't say that this movie is ever actually slow. When it's not giving us action, it's providing thought provoking, and sometimes heart breaking moments.

Utterly wonderful stuff. But I have to warn you, both times I've seen it so far has been in a virtually empty cinema.

So you should hurry to see it on the big screen. Because it looks like Blade Runner 2049 is not a hit... But then neither was the original.

(Image credits: more posters than you can shake a replicant at, at Imp Awards.)


  1. zmovies - A movie has to really capture something within me in order for me to take the time to see it more than once. I attempted to watch the original Blade Runner four times since it first came out in the 80's. Each time I fell asleep mostly due to the wonderful score. As a Sci-fi buff I was told I can't be a true Sci-fi fan until I actually sat through that movie. I bought the Blu-ray and made sure I was wide awake and undisturbed and a month ago in anticipation of this sequel, not only made it through but thoroughly enjoyed the film with an appreciation I don't think I would have held as a teen in the 80's. I saw Blade Runner 2049 and for me it captured the same essence of the original and was a wonderful continuity to the franchise. Now I feel there was something lost on a first watch that I can attribute to being distracted by commotion in the theater audience which I simply detest. If you are looking for an all out action film this is not for you and for the group of young men sitting near me, that was what they expected. An action thriller without so much story. It has plenty of action but the depth and emotion of the characters will be lost on you if you want to multitask and talk with others while the movie plays. For me I will wait for the Blu-ray and re-watch it in the peace of my home where I can reserve the right to send my family and pets out of the room if necessary! Definitely see it on the big screen, but if the full impact of this spectacular film and it's realistic imagined future has failed to leave you in wonder, you might want to consider a quieter re-watch as well.
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  2. "I suspect these scenes were Ridley Scott's big contribution to the movie. Because they are virtually identical to dull and pretentious scenes with godlike billionaires in the last couple of Alien pictures."

    Perfectly put. 2049 is one of the select films that I simply want to hang out in. Everything about it is wonderful. Been listening to the score while reading for months. Can't wait to revisit it. Oh, it's also one of the few three-hour films I never wanted to end!