The original film is big part of why I became a critic.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/qvjaw7/i-spent-years-not-caring-about-a-blade-runner-sequel-now-im-a-mess
The original film is big part of why I became a critic.
I knew that I was going to see this when they announced that they got Roger Deakins to shoot it, and the fact that it’s apparently good is just an incredible fucking bonus.
Please, someone, give Deakins his goddamn Oscar. He deserves it so, so much.
I absolutely love when Walker digs into his writing backlog and pulls up his old writing as a springboard for future discussion.
I’ve never seen the original Blade Runner, and a little shoulder devil is whispering in my ear that I have to be the only person to see Blade Runner 2049 before the original. I have no idea if that is a good or bad instinct, though…
On the question Walker poses at the end of the article, I’m not sure I have one. I have my gut answers (Dark Souls), but I’m not sure that it marks a turning point as a savvy media consumer or critic (especially in games; I might have one for history books…). Some amount of that unsurety is rooted in the fact that I’m not sure I’d call myself either of those things, as well as that the journey is not yet complete if I want to be. Maybe I’ll come back with an example…
My version of what Austin is talking about is Sandman and I pray to Morpheus every night in the hope that that movie never gets made.
Alien is mine. I haven’t been shy about my love for Alien: Isolation, which is 50% due to the way that game makes me feel psychologically and 50% how it let me immerse myself in the world Ridley Scott, H.R. Giger and co. created back in 1979. The DLC where you can walk around the Nostromo, my favourite space ship ever? To quote Dave Lang, godlike.
My appreciation of that movie came in different ways: seeing for the first time at the age of 11(!), I was enamoured with the movie and how tactile it looked and felt, but my adrenaline-seeking preteen self preferred the action of Aliens. A few years later, as my brain developed enough to let me think abstractly and consider the themes a movie could convey through its design, photography and editing, I picked up on its deeply ingrained themes of sexuality. At that point, the titular Alien ceased to simply be a movie monster and took on a more discomforting edge. The fact that the creature was, at times, visibly a man in a rubber suit only augmented the effect: its human elements disturbed me as much as its inhuman ones.
And now that I’m well into my 20s, and have been working for hourly wages most of my adult life, its themes of labour and exploitation are painfully resonant. I appreciate how the crew of the Nostromo are, unlike most horror casts, not friends or family but coworkers. You typically don’t have strong bonds with your coworkers at a thankless blue collar or service job, so the way the crew spends half the movie—more, in fact—bickering is incredibly believable. You see how certain characters do or do not fill out the roles they’ve been assigned: Dallas is nominally a captain, but he’s clearly incapable of handling anything more serious than an equipment malfunction or petty squabble; Ripley, previous the pain-in-the-ass for most of the crew, emerges as the natural leader, willing to make difficult and perilous decisions if it helps everyone else. To date, the only other mainstream horror movie with characters that believable is The Blair Witch Project.
Anyways, that’s mine. Coincidentally another early Ridley Scott joint.
I’m stuck at work, trying to come up with my own answer to this between calls, but all I can think about is the Gundam “War is bad!/Wow, cool robot!” image, but with Stargate and “Controlling language means controlling people!/Wow, cool space Anubis!”
9 year old Austin was smarter than 24 year old me.
Only this week did I remember that I hadn’t seen the original Blade Runner and got around to watching it just in time for 2049. Other than woman’s hairstyles that movie has aged great.
[Space reserved for when I think up my response to Austin’s question from the article. I’m going to write about the value of absurd favorites and the 1969 version of The Italian Job.]
I don’t know that it necessarily helped me grow as a critic or whatever, but I definitely wrote about Blade Runner in Uni. I broad strokes even remember the crux of it was drawing parallels between Edmund in Lear to Roy.
This is a tough one - I think the moment where I started paying attention to the context of a film and other factors apart from just the plot was maybe Brick? I spent time just looking at the way shots were framed, or just listening to the sound design (the chase around the school outbuildings remains maybe one of the most impressive sounding things ever) - I remember putting on headphones to watch it, just so I wouldn’t miss anything. Then came diving into what inspired it and what it drew from: down a rabbit hole of Chandler and The Third Man and Maltese Falcon and a million other noir films. I’d had a similar experience much earlier with Memento, although in that case I was too young and busy playing Mortal Kombat V to really spend a lot of time digging into it too thoroughly in the way that I was only too happy to do by the time I saw Brick.
Blade Runner was a curious case for me, in that I remembered seeing it as a kid and wishing there were more flying cars in it, only to come back to it years later and appreciate its overwhelming sense of place and tone, and begin to think about the plot beyond “bad robots must be stopped.” Now it’s something I find myself watching every couple of years. I don’t know when I’ll get out to see the sequel, but I’ll probably put in the extra effort to see it in a theater. It seems appropriate.
I just watched the original Blade Runner this past week with my bf, and Austin definitely pointed out a main problem I had with it: pacing. Probably in part due to it being a bit past my bed time, I had trouble staying completely invested in the movie. I loved the setting, character design, and some of the main themes, but some of the slower bits really took me out of it. I’m worried that I’ll have a similar experience with Blade Runner 2049 seeing as it’s close to 3 hours long. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it, though!
This is a great article and makes me miss more of Austin’s writing. Got me so hyped for this movie which wasn’t even on my radar until recently. I also just found the original “okay”. Need to see it again though since I saw that when I was just an ignorant teen!
I don’t have much else to say about the article other than it’s easily one of the best Walker’s written.
I love the original movie. I love the book it’s adapted from. And I’m a mix of anxiousness about the new movie, too. Like Walker, BR had a profound effect on me. It changed how I watched, and thought, about movies.
But I’m not ignorant of its flaws. The late, great Pauline Kael said it was all subtext and no text, which is arguably true, and she was, I think, the first person to call that scene between Rachel and Deckard “the rape scene.”
More to your point, it’s not a movie for everyone. The…slow…pace…sharply divides people on it. None of my friends in high school liked it. Not until college did I find others who loved talking about it as much as me.
As for the new movie, Walker notes on Twitter, “I knew that I was watching a true sequel to Blade Runner the third time the dude to my right started snoring.” In the same thread he also says he liked BR2049 a lot and just, ugh, feelings.
There’s a review at io9 that, without spoiling much, takes a more evenhanded approach to BR2049 you might like.
I think RoboCop is my Blade Runner. Unlike Austin, though, I grew up having seen that movie when I was way too young. But over the years, different elements slowly started to become apparent as my critical perspective developed. First, it was the faux commercials as commentary. Then it was the social satire, the “I’d buy that for a dollar!” as a predictor of the post-Married with Children conservatively edgy sitcom (which makes even more sense after hearing Austin’s talking about South Park as something that seemed counter-cultural but really upheld the status quo). Finally, a graduate-level class on Political Geography opened my eyes to how much our media is influenced by our geography and political climate. Comparing RoboCop to other '80s action movies, which generally promoted Neo-Conservative ideas, made the movie so much more entertaining. I mean, who would’ve thought that bleeding heart liberals could create an ultra-violent action flick that skewered corporate America?
I saw 2049 last night. Dying to see it again. I think it may even be better than the first Blade Runner. Just haven’t been able to get some of its visuals out of my head.
Still completely skeptical about 2049. Basically internally screaming whenever someone says it’s better than the first, too. I consider Blade Runner in my top-ten all time. I have NO frame of reference for the concept of a revival of a beloved, classic thing actually improving on the original, and thus I am freaking the fuck out.
I’ll be totally cool with it if it’s just “not actively bad” tbh
It’s not a film, but Arcade Fire’s Reflektor had a huge influence on me. Its release coincided with a rough period in my life: the odd, nebulous friendlessness of early college and a breakup with the first love of my life. Something about that timing, the rich, layered quality of the album, and the depth of the text and subtext throughout the entire album (the album is about marital strife, the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, feminism, or the history of rock n’ roll music, depending on who you ask) really struck me. To this day, I’m still unpacking the album, and it serves as a huge musical inspiration. The accompanying documentary—The Reflektor Tapes—filmed by Kahlil Joseph, further deconstructs the songs, playing stems backwards and slowed down and chopped up, along with video that’s equally distorted. There was so much going on around that album’s release, and it had an enormous impact on me and how I thought about music.
(If I had to pick a film, it’d be Winding-Refn’s Drive, coincidentally also starring Ryan Gosling)
Same, it was just going to be something that I kinda avoided, but the buzz has been so positive that I’m going to have to give it a shot now. I’m generally more interested than I was.
Great article, and one I can relate to in a bunch of ways. Blade Runner is one of my favourite things ever. I used to have this thing that if I was feeling a bit upset and had a little money over I would go and get myself a new version of Blade Runner. To me what it represents is just about the most believable fantastical world put on screen. While the visuals are incredible to me what has always hit me the hardest has been the soundscape. The music is often indistinguishable from the other audio in the film and the way they together form a harmonious whole with the visuals still blows me away. I guess that’s what happens when you hire people like Douglas Trumbull, Syd Mead and Vangelis though. To me, Blade Runner film is the reason I feel deeply in love with electronic music and became a programmer.
In regards to 2049 I don’t know what I think. It was one of those weird experiences where the emotions of watching the film where so over powering that I couldn’t really fully watch the film. Before the film started I literally started shaking and stuttering to my girlfriend something about “this is not just a film”. She was kind enough to get me a glass of whisky at that point.
Now I’m not sure exactly how I feel about 2049 (that will take some time and at least a re-watch) but whatever else might be true Denis Villeneuve made a proper full on Blade Runner film, and that this somehow happened in 2017 is a miracle.
Btw here’s a really good spoiler-free review by UK critic Kermode (he made the great Blade Runner documentary On The Edge of Blade Runner)
And don’t forget there’s at least one more promising cyberpunk film coming out later this year:
All of this reminds me I should probably go play _Observer.
I can’t think of any remakes or revivals improving on the original, but I’m one of the weirdos who likes to see remakes. As I said in my earlier post, I like looking at how a movie fits into it’s time and place, so it’s always interesting to see how the same idea can be done during a different political climate. Like, I didn’t love the new Ghostbusters movie, but I really liked comparing its politics to the original film.