Category Archives: Movies

blade runner 2049

Blader Runner 2049

I’ve enjoyed seeing plenty of movies this year, but none have really exceeded expectations or left me in amazement like Blade Runner 2049 did. Not everyone will love this film, as demonstrated by the man sitting next to me who heavily sighed every few minutes. It was quite long and not nearly as action heavy as the trailer make it out to be. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t regard these as flaws of the movie, and indeed I have very little to criticize.

Firstly, the cinematography is unbelievable. I saw this movie in IMAX, and the stunning frames were just breathtaking. I liked the aura created by the world of the original Blade Runner, but the visuals of the sequel make it feel almost cheap. The expansion of scenery outside of the rainy, dirty Los Angeles from the first movie is welcome. And yet the production design keeps that constant feeling of darkness and dilapidation omnipresent.  The visual effects were also pretty incredible. Without going into spoilers, there’s a scene where two different actors’ faces are digitally layered on top of each other, and I could not believe how well the effect worked.

The sound. Wow. I had Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack on repeat for a week after watching 2049. I assume a loud and bold musical score is either expensive or difficult, because more mediocre movies seem content with letting the the music stay in the background. When you really notice how incredible a movie score is, that appears to be a symptom of an excellent musical effort. This one was jarring, suspenseful, and made every scene in the film seem huge.

The acting, the direction, the production of this film is pretty much spot on. Denis Villeneuve has done an incredible technical job (again). His skill set clearly adopts well to telling these beautiful, yet off-putting dives into humanity, and I’m excited to see his future work. I also want to talk about the characters and story, although I don’t want to get into spoilers yet. The original Blade Runner was a story about what it means to be human. 2005’s I, Robot had a similar theme although it was a tad bit more in-your-face about it. Blade Runner was more subtle, and when you watch it, it was striking how cruel some of the humans were, while how caring/affectionate/alive the replicants were. 2049 continues to delve into this question, and I think does an even better job than the first movie. If you like Sci-Fi that asks questions about humanity, this film is a must-see.

From here on I will be going into plot points that were not revealed in the trailers, so if you haven’t seen this movie, I would highly recommend it: A+, 5/5, etc. You should watch it. If you have already seen it…

K, the protagonist and blade runner (played by Ryan Gosling), as noted in the very beginning of the film, is a replicant. Much of the story revolves around who he is and to what extent he is human. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch. There seem to be few physical characteristics that distinguish replicants from humans. K, as one of the newer replicants made by the Wallace Corporation, was constructed specifically to avoid having the obedience problems of the old Nexus models. Yet, of course, his decisions are the fundamental decisions of the film. Certainly he appears to be stronger than regular humans, but otherwise, he has emotions, he has desires, he is even given implanted memories just like the replicants of the original movie.

K is forced to do some pretty terrible things by his human superiors, and most humans he encounters in the film are pretty unexcited to see any replicants. Yet K himself seems to express desires to be human.  He has a holographic AI girlfriend at home. At one point he embraces the fairly human “chosen one” trope, and it affects him so much he is essentially branded a criminal.

The relationship with Joi, his holographic AI, is interesting. K’s feelings for her are real, and it seems that we have to trust that her emotions are real as well. Yet, it’s also clear that many of Joi’s actions were programmed (her calling him “Joe” specifically is also done by an advertisement). Does this make her less real? Humans, after all, have biological programming in DNA. As Joi points out, using 0s and 1s instead of nucleobases doesn’t seem like it should de-legitimatize life. And, of course, if AI counts as “real” life, then what meaningful moral distinctions can be made between replicants and humans, who have even fewer differences?

Accepting replicants as people deserving of moral rights (a perspective which both Blade Runner films push the audience towards) also puts many character actions into question. K’s police superior orders him to kill a child to prevent a war. While her character protects K despite him being a replicant, the morality of her orders have to be questioned. She fears that if this child is found out, there will be a war between humans and replicants, a fear that is apparently well founded given the group K finds later in the film. Yet, there seem to be so few differences between replicants and humans, especially given the revelation of Rachael’s death early in the movie. Thus, the idea of a war or conflict between these two groups seems absurd, at least morally. Of course, if I’m sitting here wondering how humans and replicants could justify a conflict when they are so alike, then what does that say about conflict in our world?

I’m really excited when I get to see movies like this, which bring up interesting questions of humanity and society. Not every movie has to ask those questions of course, but when a movie wants to reach for those deep ideas, and then delivers with impressive technical film-making on top of that, it is a rare treat.

 

Is Creative Culture Stagnating?

Spoiler warning for the new Star Wars movie.

I’ve read a few interesting pieces critical of The Force Awakens: Peter Suderman at Vox says TFA is a prime example of Hollywood’s nostalgia problem, there’s also a “nostalgia debate” around TFA at The Atlantic, and Ross Douthat at the NYT says TFA is a symptom of the decadence and cultural stagnation of our society.

I wondered if these people were having a romantic view of the past; has Hollywood just now started doing more sequels or have they always done so? I decided to take a look at the highest grossing movies from 1975-85 (when the original Star Wars trilogy came out) and compare it to the last 5 years. But it quickly became more complicated than I thought it would be; are sequels better or worse than remakes? Are movies based on books bad? Are movies based on comic book characters worse than movies based on books?  What about sequels of remakes of movies based on comic book characters?!  That sounds like the worst category, but it would include The Dark Knight, one of the best action blockbusters of the lack decade. Continue reading

Movies! Summer 2015

This is a break from the more issue-focused last couple of posts to talk about one of the more fun things I was able to get done this summer, see some great movies!

In total I was able to see 7 movies during the summer movie season: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Tomorrowland, Jurassic World, Inside Out, Ant-Man, and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.  It’s also worth noting that I tend to look at movies as a science fiction fan, and last year’s best summer sci-fi movie was far and away Edge of Tomorrow. How do this summer’s movies compare? Continue reading

Zodiac

Zodiac, the crime-thriller from 2007 starring Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club), was not something I remember putting on my to-watch movie list so I honestly can’t say how I heard about it, but the film surprisingly impressed me. According to wikipedia, it tanked at the box office, which is too bad, because Zodiac was masterfully done.

Fair Use

Theatrical Poster. Can or could be obtained from IMP Awards. http://www.impawards.com/2007/zodiac.html

I’m not usually one to enjoy films with serial killers as the subject matter, but Zodiac focused more on the detective work and the mystery, while adding the suspense of one of San Francisco’s most notorious unsolved crimes.  This realism mixed elements of a documentary with the suspense of a crime thriller and made for a compelling storyline.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo were excellent and  I would definitely recommend watching it. However, since it follows the book of the same name pretty closely, and relies so much on the realism, it’s not really an eye-opening film, just a really entertaining one. Still, check it out if you have a chance.

Overall: 4/5. Definitely would watch again.