Tag Archives: Blade Runner

Blade Runner

I had a whole other idea (well, 50% of another idea) for today and then we got a new trailer for the new Blade Runner movie. (I believe this is the second one we’ve seen, but this one is ‘official’, for whatever that may mean) I Have Thoughts, so I figured I’d write about them today.

I should start by saying that Blade Runner is one of my all-time favourite movies. This is probably not a huge surprise, given its close affinity to William Gibson’s Sprawl books, which I was deeply in love with by the time I first saw Blade Runner. (There are, of course, a surprising number of cuts of the movie that people argue stridently for and against. I tend to like the Director’s Cut one, although even the one with the voice overs that most people hate has a few saving graces. I love Deckard’s final line of ‘I didn’t know how long we had together. Who does?’. Exactly.)

Anyway, I think the movie entertaining on a surface level as a future noir-ish detective/action story, I find the quality of the acting fantastic, and the whole movie looks and sounds amazing. I’ve bought the Blade Runner soundtrack at least three different times now. There are a great many really memorable scenes (‘No, four! Two, two, four! With noodles.’ and ‘I just do eyes’) and if the pacing is a little slow by modern standards, I think it fits the overall theme of the piece. To me, it all continues to hold up quite well, even this many years later, although you need to handwave a few dates, one way or another.

Once you start digging into it, Blade Runner does have a lot of meat on the bone, too. It gets you thinking about humanity (is there, in the end, any significant distinction between a human being and an artificial creation made to perfectly mimic a human being? And if there isn’t, what does that make a guy like our hero Rick Deckard?) and mortality (is it better or worse to know precisely when your life will end? The replicants find it deeply disturbing to know that their lives have a set end date – but don’t we all, anyway? Maybe it’s that their lives are set to be so short?)

You can spend a lot of time thinking about the events of the movie from the perspective of all these different characters, trying to determine who is aware of what and how they feel about it all, and then trying to figure out how you feel about it all. I love that the movie gives you a great deal to chew over, and I enjoy thinking this stuff through every time I watch it.

Ok, so the trailer. There’s not a great deal in it, to be honest (which recalls earlier discussion over the content, or lack thereof, in the Last Jedi trailer). The visual style is promising, the soundtrack suitably Vangelis-y. And yet, I am deeply suspicious of the whole thing and kind of wish it would, somehow, abort mission. Why is that? I got reasons.

In general, I like the story from the first film so well that I think it doesn’t need a sequel. I wish, overall, that the movie industry (and the fiction industry in general) were better at leaving stories that do not need to be continued alone and not doing ‘another chapter’ just because we really liked the first one. Some stories cry out to be continued. Some are very satisfactorily complete in and of themselves and should be left by themselves. I thought (even though it isn’t at all on the same level as Blade Runner) that this was true of The Matrix, for example, and I think Blade Runner probably shouldn’t have been continued.

Accepting that we are getting a sequel, I’m still not sure how promising this trailer really is, except on a superficial level that it does indeed look and sound like it’s in the world of the first film. However, it also seems crashingly unsubtle. One of the ideas from the first movie is that you have these replicants, artificial life forms who are very nearly indistinguishable from humans, used to do humanity’s dirty work in forging its colonial space empire. They are our soldiers and our labour force. They have pre-determined levels of intelligence and physical attributes, and artificially constrained lifespans that grant them only a few years of existence, and that in service. Pris Stratton is a fully sentient being brought into existence solely to be a sex toy. That’s all disturbing enough, and then add to it that if these beings ever do anything other than what they’re ordered to do, a special unit of the police will hunt them down and summarily execute them. (By the way, Bryant’s ‘You know the score, pal! If you’re not a cop, you’re little people!’ just seems like it will unfortunately fit forever, doesn’t it?) The scene where a desperately fleeing, unarmed Zhora is shot in the back by Deckard is one of the more blatant points in which the movie makes you think about what it is that Deckard is really doing and whether it is in any way good, or even acceptable.

Blade Runner leaves that whole issue of replicants basically being a race of disposable human slaves as an uneasy undercurrent to the explicit events of the plot. None of the characters really get into it, but you can’t help but notice it and think about it, and at least some of the characters are struggling with it as well. (Deckard starts out calling Rachel ‘it’ but by the end of the movie he’s decided he’s in love with her) Basically I feel like the movie gives the audience credit that they will think about this issue without being explicitly prompted on it. (By the way, the Deckard line I said I liked earlier? I mean, I do like it, but the sentiment is covered, if not quite as directly, by Gaff’s parting shot anyway. It’s less explicit, but the idea is there.)

The new trailer does not do that. It beats you over the head with dialogue about it right out of the gate. I really feel that sometimes a softly, softly approach to conveying a message works better than screaming it and it appears that this new movie is gonna scream everything. Further to this: the original movie just sort of hints at the creepiness of people being assembled in labs with scenes like the visit to the scientist with his jar full of eyes, the new one has to give you a replicant (a nubile female replicant, natch) slithering naked out of of some sort of cocoon all covered in slime to make its point. I really feel like Blade Runner is a very carefully painted piece of art. This new film seems (from this very limited taste) as though it may be closer to the time the Mythbusters tried to paint a room with explosives.

I especially do not like the suggestion of a ‘war’ between humans and replicants (although this may be no more than a piece of dialogue). Blade Runner isn’t Terminator. We’ve got plenty of movies that have tackled an armed uprising of humanity’s creations. Part of what makes Blade Runner unique and makes it work is that the scale is intensely human. It also fits with the movie’s overall message that Roy Batty and his renegade Nexus replicants are probably not any real threat to society, or much of anyone outside of their creator, and even then only because he’s so entirely unsympathetic to their plight. They’re just people (really) trying to survive, and yet for this their death is mandated. I don’t think that would work nearly as well if Batty was trying to overthrow the whole despotic regime.

Some specifics, I guess.

Harrison Ford being back as Deckard is an interesting decision on a couple of levels. One is, of course, that it appears to answer one of the unspoken questions of the first film: ‘Is Deckard a replicant?’ I think I said in an earlier blog that I accept the answer from the evidence of the first film appears to be ‘yes’, or at least there’s a compelling case, but the easy conclusion to draw from an aged Deckard still being around in 2049 is that the answer is ‘no’. I prefer that answer, anyway, because of what it means for the last moments of Roy Batty’s life – he saves Deckard, a human, and a human sent to kill him, because as his life reaches its mandated end, he sees every other life as overwhelmingly precious.

One point that I wish I had thought of myself, but didn’t – I picked up on this from N.K. Jemisin’s Twitter here – is that everyone in the trailer is white. That’s not a great look. Blade Runner wasn’t fantastic in terms of a diverse cast, although it had Edward James Olmos and at least a few Asian characters. (Although, again, some problems with their portrayal) In this trailer, even the giant hologram lady from the advertising appears to have been swapped out for a Caucasian. N.K. Jemisin is right to call this movie out for its (apparently!) white-washed future, which we should be doing better than by now, and it’s especially distressing in a movie that is going to deal with the question of an oppressed race of beings. You really shouldn’t have this conversation any more while simultaneously erasing most of the races of humanity from the picture.

On a repeat viewing, and perhaps because I’m feeling negative about the project, a lot of the visuals seem to be sort of clunky rehashes of what we saw in the first film. It had giant hologram ads, we got giant hologram ads. (The giant Atari ad is interesting, and I guess is supposed to suggest a solution to the timeframe issue by putting this in an alternate timeline to our own) It had giant monolithic corporate HQs, we got giant monolithic corporate HQs. I suppose if things looked really different I’d be complaining about the movie not looking like Blade Runner, but somehow I feel like this movie is gonna look and sound like the first movie without understanding anything about what made it good and end up as a much louder story that says a lot less. I would very much like to be wrong.

Anyway, that’s a lot of fairly rambly stuff about Blade Runner. I am, as I said, deeply suspicious about the new movie and, on the whole, wish they weren’t making it. The trailer didn’t do much to allay those suspicions and gave me some fresh new ones, but I guess we’ll see. The good part is that even if it is terrible, Blade Runner will still be there as it is, and I can cheerfully ignore the sequel.

That’s what I’ve got for you this week.

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Snowfall

So, snow.

(Yes, we’re continuing the streak of blog entries with very strange inspirations. At this point I’m somewhat interested to see how long I can keep the chain going)

We got a fair amount of snow over the last week, and I had to drive to and from work in it a couple of times. On the radio and TV , there was a great deal of ominous talk about the weather, and when people talked about it, it was to describe snow as an inconvenience at best, something dangerous at worst.

Driving in it, when it is really coming down and the roads haven’t been plowed yet, it’s hard not to agree. Snow is a problem. Snow might wreck your day. Snow is scary and stresses you out. In the worst case, snow might kill you.

At the same time, though, I also remember many many first snowfalls, when everyone is excited and runs out to see the flakes coming down. This went on at least as late as university, when my housemates and I were goofily delighted at the first snow of the year. Even for people that don’t react like that, many of us enjoy drawings and photographs of snow-covered landscapes, and stand and look out at the winter world and think it beautiful.

Snow is charming. Snow is beautiful. Snow is fun, and something to enjoy.

It’s the same thing.

Now, obviously context is a great deal of what is going on here – if it’s snowing, and you can go toboggan in it, you’ll feel very differently than if you have to shovel it and then try to drive someplace without sliding into a wreck. Even so, I think it’s interesting how we can, when we want, completely change our interpretation of something based on what is associated with it, how it is talked about to us and around us, and the words linked to it. A huge snowstorm can be like winning the lottery (snow day!) or a punch in the gut.

Again, a lot of this is psychology, but it also reminds me that this is part of the power and responsibility of writers, and probably art in general. People can feel completely, utterly differently about something depending how it is framed and described to them. That’s a very powerful tool in storytelling – if you do it right, you can make your readers react almost however you’d like to your setting and your characters, and change it later if you need to. It does mean you need to really think about how things are being described because depending how you set things up for your reader, their reaction may be very different than you anticipated. As ever, words matter.

This is also something I think we need to recognize and use very carefully. A good writer can make you love something or hate it, to support something or reject it, to stand up for something or turn your back on it. That means that the written word can and does do amazing things, but I think we probably need to think very thoroughly about what we use it for and, perhaps, the causes we harness our writing to. You never know exactly how big your audience is. I think you want to be sure that the reaction your writing could create is one you’re proud to stand behind.

This is now getting dangerous close to Advice, so I’ll leave it there.

Thanks for reading.

——

They’ve released a trailer for the new Blade Runner movie. You can’t really tell too too much about the movie from it, but what is there looks like it might be promising. +1 for hearing bits and pieces of the Vangelis soundtrack, any road. I still feel deeply sceptical about the whole thing, though.

Blade Runner is one of my very favourite movies of all time and I think it holds up well as a classic of SF film. I also think it has a nicely self-contained story that doesn’t really call out for a continuation or a sequel. Obviously making a new movie doesn’t affect the quality of the original, but I wish sometimes we were a little more content to let a good story be over and not try to tack on sequels just because we like it a lot, or because

Maybe the people behind the new film have a genuinely awesome story to tell. I hope they do, because I would love more Blade Runner, but it also has the potential to really, really, let me down.

We’ll see.

(I guess, if nothing else, the appearance of Old Deckard seems to resolve that ‘is Deckard a replicant?’ question, although, again, I thought it was fun that that question was out there without a really definitive answer.)

(I prefer the interpretation that he’s not, because it makes Roy’s decision to save his life at the end more profound – at that point, all life is precious to him, even that of a human sent to execute him – although I realize there’s solid evidence the other way)

(Stop writing about Blade Runner, Evan)

(okay)

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In case you missed it, author Brandon Crilly posted a marvellous review of The King in Darkness over on the Black Gate fantasy site. Black Gate publishes a lot of awesome content relating to fantasy fiction, so you should probably check them out anyway, and if you would like to read Brandon’s review it is here.

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