Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Blade Runner: Dare To Compare, Part 1

This weekend I joined the stalwart few and went to see Blade Runner 2049.
"Let me show you to your seat."
Some stats indicate the audience tilted toward older males, by up to 71%. In our theatre, the women outnumbered the men by a ratio of two-to-one. Mind you, my wife, daughter and I were the only ones there. (I jest, but only just.)

Denis Villeneuve's movie was, as I expected, very much its own thing -- focused on his particular concerns and obsessions, utilizing and subverting stock-and-trade narratives in a manner that has become peculiar to Villeneuve, and recognizably so. While watching I thought it somewhat unfair to compare and contrast his film with Ridley Scott's from 35 years ago -- a film that subsequently dictated the visual grammar of Western cinema and became, for many, passionately loved not just despite its narrative flaws but because of them.

Still, Scott's is the property Villeneuve agreed to work with, so comparisons aren't just inevitable, I think they are called for. Here are a few of my own -- with NO SPOILERS (yet).

The aesthetic: Scott's Blade Runner aesthetic is arguably the tipping-point for the hesitant fan.
You know it. You LOVE it. Los Angeles, 2019!!
So visually saturated was Scott's Los Angeles of 2019 that cyberpunk godfather William Gibson reportedly fled the theatre within the first ten minutes of the movie.

The rest of us stayed put. Scott's future was vibrant . . .
. . . exotic . . .
. . . recognizable . . .
. . . off-putting . . .
Mezcal, with extra worms.
. . . but comfy. Sure, it never stops raining in Scott's LA, but who didn't want to live in Deckard's bachelor pad?
"Help me with the dishes, will ya?"
Villeneuve's LA some 30 years later is decidedly less shiny and more Brutalist.
At times I felt like I had returned to the halls of the University of Winnipeg.
"Walmart says they need my student transcript..."
The blue/yellow hue imbalance that Scott brought to the screen is turned beyond "11" by Villeneuve, heightening viewer discomfort. Will anybody but the perverse ever get sentimental over this aesthetic? For the rest of us this is a decidedly cold and unwelcoming visual palette -- considering how it serves the narrative, this comparison is a "win" for Villeneuve.

Film score: Vangelis' original score was the stuff of legend, in large part because it was decades before anybody could get a copy to play on the home stereo. 2049's score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfinch can be streamed at your immediate convenience. Odds are you won't play it at the eardrum-shredding volumes we endured in the theatre -- even so, none of the tracks are likely to become ubiquitous at Manhattan Ayahuasca ceremonies. This, too, serves Villeneuve's story well, as Vangelis' did Scott's, so I will declare this comparison a "tie."

Story: both films retell the Pinocchio story. But there are twists, which I hope to get to in the next day or two.


DarkoV said...

A minor point among many that need to be pointed out. ****minor spoiler alert of no consequence****. The bees. Did you see ANY flowers about to provide the multiple hives? Were the bees replicants? Was there some sort of symbolism that escaped this viewer? Again, where was the nectar source in such a dusty,sunless, otherwise lifeless landscape?

Darrell Reimer said...

Yeah, those bees bugged me too. As did a vegetation-less Earth. No greenery, no oxygen -- No?

paul bowman said...

Appears to be at the little neighborhood theater for a couple more days. Might go ahead and do it.

Whisky Prajer said...

That is indeed a wee theater. I expect they're paying a premium to show it, so attending merely as a show of support to your local small business is all the justification you need. Plus, it's a movie worth seeing -- on screens larger than you get at home.

paul bowman said...

Good point. They do deserve the patronage. S. and I saw the Ian McKellen movie Mr. Holmes there a couple of years ago — the only time I’ve been, I’m afraid. It’s cozy, very much to my taste. Rarely managed to get her out to a film, though; and this year, as we ground to a halt and after, have hardly been aware of what’s showing at all. (Not to say I’m lonely & miserable. Much else to be preoccupied with!)

Well, next screening is in a couple of hours, and I needed to walk over to the Trader Joe (also on that side of the neighborhood, more or less) at some point anyway. I guess it’s a plan.

paul bowman said...

Made it today, the 11:00 matinee, rather than yesterday afternoon. One other fellow (a fellow freelancer, I’d bet) in the room watching with me. Glad I went, though it’s kind of a weird way to see a film. (You don’t really want to sit in the dark for 2 1/2 hours and then come out into a bright fall midday, for one thing.) I played some of the first movie on Amazon yesterday; might managed to finish it today or tomorrow. Kind of wish I had more bandwidth for this right now.

Darrell Reimer said...

I LOVE coming out in the bright sunlight, always have. I suspect it's tied in with the thrill of movies as taboo. "What if the Lord should return..." etc. Might as well catch me at a matinee! My family thinks I'm cracked, of course. I gather matinee shows are an enthusiasm I share with Woody Allen. Perhaps abject shame is indeed called for.

And of course the lower the sun gets the lower my IQ gets, particularly as the years acrue.