“I Always Told You. You’re Special. Your History Isn’t Over Yet. There’s Still A Page Left…”
Reissued to the big screen last year, Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult, science fiction classic Blade Runner is one of the greatest films of all time, period. Directed by a Scott on form of which has never been topped and beautifully designed through soaring cinematography and a world class Vangelis soundtrack, the cinematic adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is likely never to be topped within the genre of forward-thinking futuristic fiction. Treading with an air of trepidatious caution therefore, the release of Blade Runner 2049 is shackled with a the undeniable questioning of why a sequel was ever needed to a film laced with ambiguity and uncertainty twenty-five years ago, but with Scott being reduced to a production role only, a factor most fortunate considering the lack of mediocre releases from the American lately, and arguably the best filmmaker working at this moment in the form of Sicario and Arrival director Denis Villeneuve in charge, 2049 manages to create a heavy sense of confliction regarding its’ existence inside my cinematic mind. With a returning Harrison Ford, a grit-infused Ryan Gosling and the who’s who team of top class filmmakers, featuring the likes of Hans Zimmer and cinematographer Roger Deakins, 2049 holds the ace card for complete success, and what Villeneuve has managed to create is fundamentally a multi-million dollar art house inflicted masterpiece, one which expands the Blade Runner universe into expansive, lurid territory whilst simultaneously paying complete tribute to an original so beloved by many by coming oh so close to toppling the foundations of its’ predecessors unwavered supremacy as the masterwork of nightmarish, dystopian science fiction.
Whilst dissecting the details of the plot would be utter sacrilege, 2049 works as both a worthy continuation of the plot threads left over from the 1982 original and an organic beast in its’ own right, using the underlying narrative regarding the existence of replicants to a more than effective degree in attempting to piece together a story which both points to the past and propels into the future, with Ryan Gosling’s Agent K central to a narrative which combats its’ high-profile cast by giving each star a sharply defined character of notable distinction and interest, with Jared Leto’s Tyrell inflicted Wallace and Sylvia Hoeks’ Luv the standout characters of the piece. Concluding with all the ambiguity and uncertainty of the original, opportunity ultimately remains open for yet another sequel in the Blade Runner canon, yet with the care and delicate approach clearly given to its’ creation, 2049 seems more beneficial to remain solely as a chance to explore deeper the world originally created by Scott as a one-off, and whilst Villeneuve has the American to thank for handing him the chance to mould the Blade Runner world to his liking, the touch of a man who directed the woozy tranquility of Arrival is all over Blade Runner 2049, a film which revels in handing its’ audience a sense of exploration in attempting to piece out the satirical, sociological and thematic notions which are laid out on the screen, a screen which attempts to hold together images which evoke a sense of jaw-dropping awe when attempting to conclude how any living human could create such art. With amber-infused radioactive plains of a destroyed Las Vegas, the surrealist, art deco interior of Wallace enterprises, and the polluted airs of downtown Los Angeles, cinematographer and long awaited Oscar recipient, Roger Deakins, is at the top of his game, creating eye-widening spectacle after spectacle in helping Villeneuve establish the world in which the darkness and despair of the plot ultimately relies on, and whilst beauty has never been absent from the work of such a talented DP (the descent into darkness from Sicario and the sniper scene in Skyfall to name a few memorable shots), 2049 is undoubtedly the picture which will make the world stand up and proclaim Deakins as the undeniable master of his respective art form.
With Gosling’s Agent K on Drive territory, the brooding, bloodied body of his character is essential to the picture’s overt sense of dread which is played straight from beginning to end, and whilst the deliciously packed two hours and forty five minutes may seem a tad of a stretch to some, the film’s excesses never bothered me and even could have gone on further without a hint of objection or disdain. With a eye-watering budget at his disposal, it is quite remarkable how Villeneuve’s approach to 2049 is to completely follow the essence of the original in terms of both tone and feel, using long, sometimes drawn out sequences to enforce the eerie sense of isolation felt by the film’s leading characters, with the best moments sometimes utilising no dialogue or musical accompaniments at all, with the camera focused instead on how a particular character moves, feels or reacts to a particular scenario or plot development, with even Ford managing to be so much more than just a cast-off cameo in his return as Deckard, with a tense and almost Lynchian scene involving him and Leto’s Wallace a breathtaking example of each of the respective actors at the top of their game. With Hans Zimmer supplying the honking, synthy, Vangelis inspired soundtrack to completely encompass the film’s heart of darkness, the resulting chemical equation of putting together so many skilled filmmakers in the same room is rather quite staggering, with Villeneuve’s film managing to not only topple the lofty expectations set upon it, but also managing to portray science fiction cinema at its’ most beautiful and imaginative. Handed with the chance of the lifetime, Blade Runner 2049 is undoubtedly Villeneuve’s film, and with the Avengers style team of movie makers around him all working in complete synchronisation, the world can now finally see what it truly means to be a true sequel to film that never thought needed to be continued in the first place.
Overall Score: 10/10
“You Have Been My Greatest Love. Be Careful, Diana. They Do Not Deserve You…”
Whilst many audiences could be forgiven for experiencing a somewhat turgid time at the cinema within the summer period, suffering from a duo hit of remakes and sequels amidst an air of superhero fatigue, particularly within a year in which the two major forces in the form of DC and Marvel Comics are warring face to face in a contest which rivals the Battle of Helms Deep for sheer epic eventfulness, with more films than ever being released which focus on big-screen adaptations of everyone’s favourite literary heroes. Whilst Marvel waits on hold for the time being, with Spider-Man: Homecoming set for release next month, the ball is currently in DC’s court this week with the release of Wonder Woman, the fourth entry in the so-far much maligned DC Universe, but more importantly, the first real big-screen adaptation of the Amazonian Queen and the first superhero film since Elektra to be solely focused on a leading female character. Adding to the winning formula, Patty Jenkins, director of the Oscar winning serial killer drama Monster, takes the lead of a movie which holds so much in attempting to add a sense of integrity into a franchise which has been slowly dwindling in the shadow of Marvel’s many successes. Thankfully, Wonder Woman is indeed a winning return to form for DC, taking a brilliantly cast leading star and working with a script which adds an element of fun and adventure back into a series which has been sinking into the shallow depths of despair.
Whilst her introduction within the mighty mess of Batman V. Superman was overly rushed and ineffective, Wonder Woman perfectly crafts a backstory for a character who to most audiences may be completely alien, with WW possibly being the first time understanding the nature and background of such an infamous leading comic character. With Gal Gadot in the leading role, the DC Universe has finally hit the first mark in terms of casting, putting to shame recent debacles such as Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luther and Jared Leto’s overly wasted Joker, with her physical ability and enviable natural screen presence adding organic depth to a character who is represented more than adequately in Gadot’s shoes. Pairing up with the always reliable Chris Pine, the narrative does reek somewhat of similarity at times however, using the first half of the movie to generate backstory whilst using the latter as a chance to once again conclude with a staggeringly dull CGI boss battle, yet the comedic element which rips throughout the dialogue is effective enough to combat a two hour plus running length, a decision perhaps primarily based upon Marvel’s successes in mixing action, drama and comedy within most of their many releases. If Wonder Woman is the direction in which the DC Universe is heading, sign me up for more, and whilst Jenkins doesn’t really offer anything particularly new to the superhero scene, the brilliance of Gadot in the leading role is the best thing DC has done since Nolan was around. No, it’s not The Dark Knight by a long shot, but Wonder Woman is still a success.
Overall Score: 7/10
Snow, Lot’s of Snow
When a challenge with an intensity such as climbing Mount Everest is set upon us humans by the greater gods, aliens, those weird blue things from Prometheus, or whatever you believe in in regards to our creation, the natural response from almost everyone on Earth is to stay as far away as humanly possible from almost what is near-certain death, but in the case of the mad minority, a chosen few in the last century or so have decided to attempt such a feat in climbing safely to the top of Earth’s highest mountain, with the latest popcorn-fueled, 3D epic in the form of the aptly named Everest, attempting to tell the tale of the real events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster in which SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. Obviously if you are well versed in the National Geographic channel or other alternative options to observe our recent history, such spoilers limit the film’s appeal in some sense, but if unbeknownst to the facts, like myself, Everest brings a sharp cinematic appeal to one of the world’s most spectacular wonders.
Boasting a cast so A-List top-heavy, you could have been fooled for thinking actors such as Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Josh Brolin, were set to appear in a arctic spin-off of Avengers Assemble, Everest’s first half consists of both character development and build-up to an almost inevitable conclusion, particularly if you had seen the trailer, regarding the group’s attempt to accomplish their goal of reaching the top of the mountain, Not only does Everest suffer from the familiar movie trait of giving too much away in its’ pre-release trailers resulting in a feeling of, “oh, just hurry up and reach the top,” but subsequently suffers from an almost cramped amount of characters seemingly all played in cameo fashion from A-Lister’s such as Gyllenhaal and Brolin, without having one solid lead or hero, even if it is suggested that Clarke’s role as Rob Hall was the intended recipient of such with the movie switching from focus between Clarke and Brolin in the first and second acts.
If the first half of Everest is somewhat lacklustre, the second half of the film more than makes up for it and undoubtedly saves the film no-end, with the sheer horror of survival in the face of certain death being expertly displayed across gorgeous cinematography whilst scenes of sheer horror in which the effects of such perils are unpleasantly displayed result in a heavy sense of squeamishness. Although scenes in which the true horror and danger of climbing such a feat could have been added to, the film did at times leave me with a sense of vertigo but not in a fashion I would have deemed adequate from a disaster movie in which the tension should definitely be current throughout, something of which cannot be said of Everest, even with the mountainous terrain being constantly adhered to by the film-makers. Everest is a film that aspires to be a metaphorical equivalent to its’ title, with an A-List cast undoubtedly boosting the appeal but it suffers heavily from a slow first half and too many characters with none sticking out from the crowd in an attempt to form any meaningful emotional bond with throughout the course of their life-or-death situation.