Is this the real life? Is it just replicants?

Perhaps it doesn’t need to be said – after all, the film is exceedingly well reviewed – but I want to start by saying it anyway: Blade Runner 2049 is a gorgeous piece of visual art. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Roger Deakins has surpassed himself; his portfolio does include The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, after all. Nevertheless, there are few films this side of the turn of the century, or even this side of the original Blade Runner, that offer as coherent and as gorgeous a window into a world that is at once excitingly different and eerily familiar. And the praise isn’t just Deakins’: the artists that worked on all the individual puzzle pieces that make up the look of Blade Runner 2049 may just deserve most of the awards that exist and some that don’t. I don’t think the film will necessarily become as influential as the original Blade Runner, which pretty much defined what dystopian cityscapes of the near future look like, but aesthetically it manages the almost impossible, reconciling the iconic neo-noir with a more modern, almost anthropological sensitivity and creating something that both recalls the original and adds to it in startlingly original ways.

Blade Runner 2049

Just consider this: after the endless night of the original film, Blade Runner 2049 is largely set in daylight scenarios – and it pulls it off.

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They create worlds: Alien: Isolation

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

When I was a kid playing pirated games on my beloved “breadbox”, the C64, games based on movie licences tended to be ubiquitous, largely interchangeable and mostly dire affairs. Whether they were mediocre shooters or bad action adventures, if it wasn’t for the title screen and (if we were lucky) a bit tune rendition of the movie’s theme, it’d be well-nigh impossible to know that what you were playing was supposedly an adaptation of Licence to Kill (yes, those two dozen huge pixels represented Timothy Dalton) or Platoon (a surprisingly enjoyable action game, albeit one that dropped the film’s anti-war angle in favour of some more mass market-friendly Vietcong shootery). Whatever connection there was to the films that purportedly inspired the games ended up being mostly imaginary.

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I’ve drunk beers you people wouldn’t believe

Every now and then YouTube disappoints me. Today is one of those days. I was looking for a Guinness ad – one of my favourite TV adverts ever – that makes great use of that song from South Pacific, “I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair”, a feminist quip and surreal imagery. There’s fish in there – Dave McKean would’ve liked it.

Why did I want to blog on a Guinness ad anyway? I’ve been re-watching the final cut of Bladerunner, this time with the commentary track. (Ridley Scott commentaries are sometimes interesting but often frustrating; the guy is a great craftsman, but he doesn’t really have much to say that is very interesting, intelligent or enlightening, and he comes across as somewhat arrogant. And the Thelma & Louise commentary is one of the worst I’ve ever forced myself to sit through.) Watching ’80s Rutger Hauer on screen, quite logically I thought of the Guinness ads he did a few years later (ah, the glorious days of Sky Channel), and from that I moved on to a Rutger-less, more fishy ad.

However, since I didn’t find that one, here’s one of the Hauerian adverts – short and sweet, at a point where the pretentiousness had already turned to irony. Enjoy! (And tomorrow I might post something on Buffy or on a comic series I liked rather more than Preacher.)

He say you Brade Runner!

When I was a teenager, I loved Blade Runner. I loved the atmosphere, the plot, the characters, the lines.

I am still very fond of the film, but after watching the Final Cut (which came out recently) yesterday, I am sorry to say that the original magic isn’t there any more. The film still looks absolutely gorgeous, even more so on the new DVD release, which almost makes you wonder what all the fuss about BluRay or HD-DVD is about if DVDs can look this stunning. The atmosphere is still there. But somehow I can no longer get into the faux-noirish plot and characters. Deckard is a dick, but not a very complex one; Rachael is, well, Sean Young, not the most exciting of actresses at the best of times; and most of the characters, including the replicants, remain one-dimensional. Much of what I originally found intriguing and evocative now strikes me as a tad too facile: “Ooh, we’re being vague here!”

Sushi, that’s what my wife used to call me. Cold fish.

This probably sounds worse than it ought to, because as I said, I used to love the film, so it came as a bit of a shock to find that my feelings had changed. Nevertheless – the film still looks amazing. Judging from the DVD quality, chances are it never looked better. And somehow the coherence of the visual design even makes the ’80s booboos work: Pris’ and Rachael’s hair, the shoulder pads, the neon. Although, after first seeing the film in the late ’80s or early ’90s, the intro sequence with its caption “Los Angeles, 2019” made me think that we’re probably still not much closer to flying cars than we were back then. Well, we’ll see in twelve years or so…

What was fun, though: spotting the actors from series I’ve been watching since. I’d never realised that I’d first seen Brenda’s mom wearing some artificial snake scales, a transparent raincoat and very little else. (Helloooo, Mrs. Chenowith!) And for some odd reason, I’ve only seen William Sanderson in parts where his first name consisted of double initials: E.B. Farnum, J.F. Sebastian. (Perhaps he should next try his hand at P.T. Barnum.) Finally, even though I know that Gaff is played by Edward James Olmos, but apart from the pock marks I simply don’t see it – Gaff looks and sounds so much creepier than Admiral Adama. If President Roslin ever gets hold of a Blade Runner video (probably with the corners cut off), she’ll get quite a shock…