Let me start by pointing you to the excellent poster above by Ben Oliver who you can find on Instagram @benoliverart.
I have been tied up recently getting used to a new job along with moving into a new apartment, so I want to keep this post a bit more light hearted, by writing about my favorite film of the year, so far, Blade Runner 2049.
Actually, this is one of my favorite films from the past few years. It hasn’t done well at the box office and it was a little surprising, even though I never expected it to be a run away blockbuster. The film is almost three hours long and is a sequel to a film that bombed as well.
However, I agree with those that say you should not look at the box office to judge whether a film is great or not. You really shouldn’t even listen to my opinion or others who tell you to go see a movie.
Kinda killing my point here…
What I really want to discuss are just some of the elements that make me love this film. In my attempt to become a worthwhile artist and writer, I have mainly been inspired by movies more than any other media out there. Seeing what the filmmakers and crew put into 2049 encompasses a lot of what I hope for in my own work.
First I will be honest, I am not a huge fan of the first Blade Runner. It is a gorgeous movie that helped create an entire sub-genre of films, books, anime, etc. The biggest issue most have with it is that it is a slow, sslllloooooowwwww burn. However, it does explore interesting ideas in what it means to be human, slavery, and artificial intelligence.
I believe some may think that because they did not see the first one, or enjoy it, that they will not understand or care for 2049. I personally don’t believe you actually need to have seen the first one to fully understand or appreciate this sequel. However, by all means I am not saying you should not see the first one or at least give it a try. Ridley Scott and the whole team involved, created some amazing things with that film.
Though the new one is long, and the plot is also not fast paced, in-your-face explosions, I never felt like it was wasting my time or adding unnecessary elements. There are complex ideas explored and I personally want that more from movies. I can enjoy mindless action, but every once in a while I want to leave a theatre contemplating on deep issues or ideas. These kinds of movies are my relief in a day and age of fast paced action. I am hoping that with the studios somewhat hurting in ticket sales, they will take a few more risks with movies like this, or say Mother!, which has been divisive. If you can’t get an audience to understand your work, at least get them talking to each other about it. START A CONVERSATION.
Now, what made Blade Runner 2049 so inspiring for me?
First, I just need to state that Blade Runner 2049, like it’s predecessor, is a gorgeous movie. Every scene feels as if it was meticulously planned and framed. You could almost pick any shot in the film and talk about it’s beauty; however, there is one that particularly stuck out for me. It shows Ryan Gosling’s character K standing beside a dead tree in the foreground with his vehicle in the background. There is a diagonal wire extending from the tree creating a second frame for K and the vehicle within the frame.
The shot is not particularly active, but I appreciated it as soon as I saw it. Denis Villeneuve used a mundane wire, something that may just sit there, and turned it into a framing device and active element that fits within the image. I have seen scenes in movies where there are wires, boxes, buildings, random items that sometimes I imagine directors are forced to work with, or around, and it can weaken a shot. Villeneuve obviously isn’t the first to do it, but he took something that could have just been in the way, with no useful purpose, and turned it into a frame within a frame. The lesson I took from it was using everything that has been given to you, or that you are burdened with, to create a stunning image.
Secondly, in addition to this beauty topic, set design. The settings created and used in this film are nothing short of fantastic. Everything thing from the landscapes, to large slabs of surface with unique lighting in the Wallace Corporation, to the small grimy details of K’s car and apartment. Making a world that you believe in is important for a writer and seeing it in 2049 reminds me of this.
The movie also accomplishes what every sequel should strive for and that is to be just as good, if not better, than the first. Expanding the world and story, while also adding new natural elements into the mix. It should be more than just doubling up on every beat of the first one.
I love Star Wars. The characters, settings, world development are all inspiring and iconic. However, especially with recent films, the main complaint is a reuse of old stories. I believe a large portion of this comes from the studio saying, the film needs these elements, dot-dot-dot, that will help us make money, sell toys, please every fan. Try to please everyone and you end up pleasing no one. Liberties were taken with the expanded universe and even in the Clone Wars show. However, the films can be formulaic at times.
I am hoping with The Last Jedi, they can bring in some fresher ideas and take characters in new directions while also making their decisions logical given their beliefs. You do not want your characters making random decisions to just give your readers or viewers shock value.
I have gone off on a whole other tangent, let me bring it back…
One of the themes with the original Blade Runner was: what does it mean to be human?One of the new elements in 2049 is exploring what it is to be human, but not just from Ryan Gosling’s replicant point of view, but from Ana de Arma’s character of a “non-physical” A.I., Joi. A recent tweet points out another great scene that is reminiscent of another great film, Her.
A lot of their relationship reminded me of that movie; however, the way it is used in 2049 was not just some carbon copy of ideas from Her. The relationship is used to progress K’s character into the idea of what makes us human and/or gives us a soul, and furthers both his and Joi’s character arcs. It is a small subplot that helps expand and drive the main plot, in the end taking a new element and making the story that much richer. More so, it expands upon the idea of the original.
Whole essays could be written about the film and, I am sure they will; however, these are just a quick few thoughts that stuck out for me. I believe it is by far one of the best films of the year and Denis Villeneuve is one of the best directors working today. With his work including Sicario and Arrival, the dude can shoot a beautiful movie with engaging plots and complex ideas that don’t leave you looking like…
If you have seen Blade Runner 2049, let me know what you thought of the film in the comments. Also please let me know of any movies that you love and ones people should check out, especially those hidden gems.