Film Review: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Release Date: October 3rd, 2017 (Dolby Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Written by: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
Based on: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Music by: Hans Zimmer, Benjamin Wallfisch
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto, David Dastmalchian, Edward James Olmos, Sean Young

Alcon Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, Scott Free Productions, Torridon Films, 16:14 Entertainment, Thunderbird Entertainment, Warner Bros., 163 Minutes  

Review:

“Replicants are like any other machine – they are either a benefit or a hazard. If they are a benefit, it’s not my problem.” – Rick Deckard

Here we go, I’ve been waiting for this movie since Ridley Scott first mentioned that he had an idea for a followup. This is the film I have most anticipated in 2017. So how did this sequel, thirty-five years after the original, pan out?

Well, it is mostly pretty damn good. It is also a very different film than its predecessor.

While Ridley Scott produced and was originally set to direct this, he gave the job to Denis Villeneuve, a guy who is really making a name for himself as one of the best directors in Hollywood. Between ArrivalSicario and now this, the 50 year-old director has found his stride and may be blossoming into an auteur for the current generation.

From a visual standpoint, while Villeneuve had a hand in it, the credit really has to go to cinematographer Roger Deakins. He’s a veteran of cinema that has worked on some true classics, including twelve collaborations with the Coen brothers, three with Sam Mendes and now three with Villeneuve. Blade Runner 2049 is something Deakins should truly be proud of and it may be his magnum opus as a cinematographer. His work and vision is a clear homage to the original Blade Runner while updating it and moving it into the future. It is still a neo-noir dreamscape with a cyberpunk aesthetic. It employs the same lighting techniques as classic film-noir, as did the 1982 Blade Runner, and it brings in vibrant and breathtaking colors. This is one of the best looking films to come out of Hollywood in quite some time.

The screenplay was handled by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green. Fancher co-wrote the original movie and was partly responsible for giving life to these characters and their world. While the original Blade Runner conveys emotion in a more subtle way, by the time you see the character of Deckard in this film, thirty years later in the story, he clearly wears his emotions on his sleeve, which is a pretty welcome and refreshing change.

We also get little cameos by Edward James Olmos and Sean Young. With Olmos, we see how he has evolved and he gives insight into Deckard. Sean Young appears in order to get a reaction out of Deckard from a narrative standpoint.

Now the star of the picture is Ryan Gosling. Harrison Ford doesn’t really show up until the third act of the film. Regardless, Gosling really knocks it out of the park in this. He is one of the best actors working today and he gives a performance that is very well-balanced. Where Ford gave a pretty understated performance in the 1982 film, Gosling feels more like a real person, which is funny, considering that you know he is actually a Replicant in the beginning of the film.

The cast is rounded out by three great females: Robin Wright, Ana de Armas and Sylvia Hoeks. Wright plays Gosling’s tough as nails commanding officer. De Armas plays Gosling’s right hand, a digital maid, companion and quite possibly the real love of his life. Hoeks plays the villainous Replicant who works for the story’s main villain and is sent into the field to fulfill his hidden agenda.

The film also features small but pivotal parts for Jared Leto and Dave Bautista. Leto plays the villain of the story and is the man who bought out the Tyrell Corporation and has made an even larger company that makes a ton of products but primarily focuses on further developing Replicant technology. Bautista plays the Replicant that Gosling is looking for in the very beginning; he has major ties to the film’s overarching plot.

One thing that makes the film so alluring, apart from the visuals, is the score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. It is a departure from the style Zimmer usually employs. While it still has his touch, it is a score that is truly an artistic extension of Vangelis’ work on the original Blade Runner. It has those Zimmer flourishes in it but very much matches up with the audible essence of the first picture.

Everything about this film is pretty close to perfect, except for one thing: the pacing. While there isn’t really a dull moment in the film, it does seem to drag on longer than it needs to. Some of the details could have been whittled down. The thing I love about the first film is that it just sort of moves. While a lot doesn’t happen in it overall, it still flows, things happen and it isn’t over saturated with lots of details or plot developments. Compared to the first, this film feels over complicated. Plus, it is just so long. Maybe I’m getting old but I just don’t want to sit in a theater for three hours, unless it’s some grindhouse double feature. But I also sat through the first Blade Runner before this, as I caught this on a special double feature bill. I could have just been antsy after being in my seat for over five hours with just a quick intermission.

Blade Runner 2049 is very much its own film. It works as a sequel but it also works as a sole body of work. The fact that it doesn’t simply retread the same story as the first and instead expands on it quite a bit, is what makes this a picture that can justify its own existence. Was this sequel necessary? We were fine for thirty-five years without it. But it proved that it is more than just a Hollywood cash grab because of its brand recognition.

Few films these days are truly art; at least films from the major studios. Blade Runner 2049 is a solid piece of cinematic art. While not perfect, it’s about as close as modern Hollywood gets these days.

Film Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

Release Date: August 1st, 2016 (Premiere)
Directed by: David Ayer
Written by: David Ayer
Based on: Characters from DC Comics
Music by: Steven Price
Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne, Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller

DC Entertainment, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Atlas Entertainment, Warner Bros., 123 Minutes (theatrical), 136 Minutes (extended cut)

suicide-squadReview:

Let me start by saying that I am really glad that I didn’t pay to see this movie in the theater. From the awful trailers, I expected this to be pretty bad. Well, it somehow managed to exceed the negative expectations I had for it.

It sucks, because on paper, this is a movie I should have loved. I really wanted it to be great. But ultimately, it goes to show that DC has no idea how to make a movie unless Christopher Nolan is in charge of it. I mean, between this, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Man of Steel, I already want DC to start over.

I watched the extended cut of the film, as I heard that it fleshed things out and made the story more coherent. It did? Because what I got was a very disjointed clusterfuck that made little-to-no sense at all. The film was hard to follow due to its inconsistent pace, awful editing and never really being able to explain what is happening on screen in any sort of intelligible way.

The biggest issue with this picture isn’t that it is a giant mess that plays more like a series of vignettes. The biggest issue is that it is trying so damn hard to be cool and edgy.

First is the music. Yes, there are great and iconic songs in this movie. However, they’re all songs already used in other films, in other iconic scenes. It’s like David Ayer made a Pandora station called “cool music from cool movies” and then just used the first twenty tracks that played. It was really a piss poor use of those songs and their usage doesn’t make much sense, for the most part, except to establish, “Look how cool we are using this cool song that everyone knows is cool! Aren’t we fucking cool?! C’mon, we’re cool, right?!”

Apart from the pop tunes, the score of the film is boring and generic. Suicide Squad is another movie, in a long line of blockbusters, that can’t give us any memorable themes to sink our teeth into. Long gone are the days of Danny Elfman’s Batman theme, John Williams’ Superman theme and a slew of others.

Then you had Will Smith’s Deadshot, in 2016, dressed like a cool character from a 70s blaxploitation flick. Killer Croc only cared about having BET in his cell, El Diablo had to play up the Mexican gangster card to the max and everyone else was too uninteresting to matter.

Harley Quinn was tolerable but pretty one-dimensional. The film does nothing really to show how she falls for the Joker. There are just a few flashbacks but they aren’t even that important. Sure, she proves her love by jumping into a vat of chemicals but why? Where is the build to that? How did she go from a presumably normal psychiatrist to Harley Quinn? I mean, I know, because I read the comics. But it is obvious from Suicide Squad that the people behind the movie never read them or just didn’t care enough about the character to give her life.

The Joker was awful. You had him covered in juvenile tattoos unfitting of the character. The Joker also had fronts in his teeth while being some sort of nightclub owner that cared about supercars and living in opulence. The Joker was also more of a wannabe punker trust fund kid than anything that felt Joker-like, at all. It was like some angry rich emo teen saw the real Joker on television and did his best trying to emulate him, all while never actually understanding the character. Wait, this is Jared Leto playing the Joker, so this is exactly what happened in real life.

The villain is the Enchantress. She is a boring villain. Granted, she is super powerful but that just makes me wonder why this “suicide squad” of extremely dangerous villains, mostly without superpowers, is sent to take her down. Where is Batman? Where is Wonder Woman? Aquaman? The Flash? Superman is “dead”, if this fits in the timeline after Batman v Superman. But seriously, wouldn’t any of those people be more capable and experienced? And the leader of this squad is a guy who has an emotional attachment to the villain? So the one good guy holding it together and trying to control these villains, is an emotionally unstable wreck?

The writing in this film sucks. The dialogue sucks and just serves the overall point of this whole film, “Ooh, ooh! Look how cool we are!”

The movie is also over two hours, which was too long. It should’ve been 90-100 minutes. 105, max. There was so much useless garbage scene-wise. Maybe the problem is the fact that they don’t even set off on their mission until 43 minutes into the picture.

What really sucks, is that the Suicide Squad was already on the CW show Arrow. They were handled really well and their story was building good momentum. Then because of this film being made, DC told the producers of Arrow to nix those characters. So a really good live-action version of the Suicide Squad was sacrificed to give us this shitty film.

David Ayer made a really bad movie. But that doesn’t seem to matter, as DC is letting him make a spin-off called Gotham City Sirens. That film is supposed to feature Harley Quinn and other female Batman villains.

It takes a lot for me to really hate a film. I hate this film. Comic book films have jumped the shark and at this point, it feels like exploitation of the original creators’ characters for a quick buck. DC Comics has yet to make a film that has any sort of soul. Suicide Squad is the worst of them, so far. I want to give Wonder Woman and Aquaman a chance but man, am I losing faith. Not that I had much since Man of Steel.