Blade Runner 2049Denis Villeneuve (USA 2017)Ryan Gosling; Harrison Ford
viewed: cineworld Newcastle 10 Oct 2017; ticket: £4.00
Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 (BR49) is a terrible movie, made by a film maker who has forgotten film and now knows only how to make walk through installations.
BR 49is an installation movie dominated by settings and sets, with both action and dialogue set to ponderous manipulative heavy duty music,much of which sounds like pitch correctedhighly slowed sound.This sound is intended to physically overwhelm the viewer, and is exploited by Villeneuve in desperation to salvage the film’s leaden pace.( I also felt I heard a rendering of the famous ethnographic recording of the drums of Burundi, incredible rhythmic sound much lifted by film music ‘composers’.)
Frank Capra, a director who understood pace, wrote in his autobiography: ‘There are no rules in film making but there are sins. And the cardinal sin is that of dullness.’Villeneuve has made a very dull movie. and: despite the music despite the overwhelmingly sycophantic film reviews across the spectrum, it’s possible the punters may stay away from this boring overlong unengaging sequel to Scott’s original Blade Runner.
Scott’s original was an expressive vision of Dick’s hallucinogenic vision of a dysfunctional world dominated by the interests of the large corporations.A world defined by bloated corrupted capitalism.Ironically enough Villeneuve and his producers now seem to regard the Blade Runner franchise as a license for product placement from the great corporations: Sony, Peugeot, Coca-Cola and in an attempt to try and pass this off as a joke: Pan-Am!I can’t remember if the original BR had product placement. But with the concern about role of large multi national corporations in the world, product placement in BR49 seems ominous and may explain the comparative tameness of BR49’s social vision.BR49 transforms the replicant social saga into a story of personalised experience organised about personal identity.
Scott’s original movie worked because in the traditions of noir movie makers like Hawks, the script and scenario engender close identification with the protagonist: whether it be a Marlow or a Deckard.The intensity of the viewers relationship with the ‘anti-hero’ is used to open the viewer to a clear view of world from a perspective the viewer understands that they can trust.Whether it be the world of money and corrupted relations of LA in The Big Sleep; or as in the original Blade Runner the horrors of an amoral world where men play the role of Gods in creating life and deciding who lives and who dies. Scott’s movie works through an originary human dilemma (centred on abuse of power); whilst not long on humour, it has wit, as in its clever use of origami.
Villeneuve’s BR49 in contrast has no humour (Pan-AM joke excepted, even if it is a bit of an in-joke for the ex-shareholders) no wit and its dramatis personae consist of mono dimensional stereo types with haircuts, who look most of the time like they are going through the motions of obeying director’s instructions. ( Once actors practiced in front of the mirror; now I imagine they practice air guitar) Facially for the men this means half tensed po faced tough look as default; for the women it’s the sort smiling smirk to camera that ministers to the characters default sense of superiority.Ryan Gosling has nice ears and designer stubble; the women’s main function is to sport coiffure and series of outfits appropriate to whatever setting the script diverts them.
With a confused narrative not helped by ridiculously attenuated dialogue often interspersed with that pitch corrected slowed down music, there is in fact no story. Story disappears; replaced for the audience by a series of walk through experiences of different settingsoften replete with water ripple effects, just to make sure nothing stays still.Film death by a thousand sets; presumably on the premise that people will watch anything as long as it is visually and audibly overwhelming. Accompanied by our latterday would be Beethoven sound track builders, we have: vast domes aplenty mostly menacing, giant Chinese(?) rubbish tips, old steel mills (Hungary?)vast old Hotels complete with Presley and Sinatra holograms, endless city scapes, huge sculpture parks, burnt out landscapes and a sea storm finale.The problem is by the finale no one understands anything or cares.But we have walked through a lot of stuff.
Denis Villeneuve is one of a group of contemporary film directors who has nothing to say but is a dab hand at sententious bloated gorged sfx driven movies.Villeneuve demonstrates his ability to conduct and co-ordinate the labour of thousands of SFX slaves to create the vast settings against which to place his characters.The trouble is that the sets and settings overwhelm everything, including the idea of identity at the core of the script.Villeneuve in BR49 does not know how to effectively energise this vastness of SFX effort with a governing theme, a set of interplaying and interwoven concepts that can shape characters to whom an audience can relate.
Perhaps he should go back and have a look at some of Capra’s films.