Friday, October 6, 2017

Not so keen on the new Bladerunner, also: spoilers

Okay, the number is 2049 (did you know I am dyscalculic and dyslexic? When there’s a number in a title I tend to just think of it as “Title: Number” unless it’s like 1984 or Fahrenheit 451 and I’ve learned it, so I thought of this movie as Bladerunner With Numbers After but now I’ll probably remember it was 2049. Side note, the dyslexia is also why I only know the main elves in Tolkien - the names in the Silmarillion are too similar for me to parse them with such similar characters, but I know if it starts with “El” they’re probably related to Elrond and Arwen)
But, now on to other things about the movie.
  • Hans Zimmer was a bad choice. There are tons of people working now who could have done a better job of maintaining the feel of the Vangelis soundtrack while modernizing it without the movie going “BWWWWWAAAAAAMMMMMM” during every exterior flying shot. That was incredibly distracting and I’m fucking salty about it. It happens within like the first thirty seconds of the movie and my first thought was “This will get annoying very fast if they keep it up” and then they kept it up and I was annoyed. A lot. It was literally so loud that it vibrated my seat. It was painful and distracting in a movie that had lots of quiet dialogue.
  • Pick an aesthetic and stick to it. When the movie was trying to mimic the look of Bladerunner it failed (too grey, too washed out, not enough neon) but when it was going for its own style it worked really well (the bright, vibrant orange of the desert, the clean open spaces of the farm - grey looked good and sensible there) but they ended up with these weird muted pastel-brights when they were going for “vibrant in the city.” Like it was just desaturated. And desaturated neon is bad for a Bladerunner flick. Compare the Joi ad to the big Japanese ad in the original - while Joi is colorful, and the only visually interesting thing in that frame, the ad on the bottom is brighter and more saturated - strong yellows and reds, electric blue. And the pastels create a very dreamy feel, but I sort of feel like if you’re going for neo-noir in the style of Bladerunner you’re doing yourself a disservice when you back away from actual neons.
  • Also the lighting and visuals of the Tyrell-corp-replacement (Wallace corp? I don’t remember what it’s called but it’s the place that makes replicants that Jared Leto is in charge of) are super fucking cool looking and also way over-the-top style wank. The lighting is busy in a way that feels like it’s spoon-feeding you the plot, shadows move and shift so characters faces can be artfully revealed in the right moments while the soundtrack is bwamming joyfully along. And perhaps that’s because Leto’s character is blind but that’s not a great excuse because…
  • This movie has way more characters than it needs and Leto is one of them. And I’d like to remind people that Jared Leto has been accused of sexually assaulting several women and has openly bragged about sending used condoms to his Suicide Squad costars, something that should have gotten him fired immediately as sexual harassment. Whether or not you believe his accusers *he* has admitted to being a shit human and doing things that would have gotten him fired, sued, and maybe had a restraining order implemented if he was working in any other industry. Anyway, there are too many characters with tantalizing hints of backstory that we almost get into exploring but never spend enough time with. It’s frustrating, but I’ll get into that more in the spoiler section later.
  • Um hey this film is also really really really white for a flick that’s supposed to take place in future Los Angeles. I guess one of the love interests is Cuban, there are a couple of black folx with speaking roles, Dave Bautista is in it. But the backgrounds are full of white people eating Japanese food out of vending machines with european languages on them. It’s a weird shift from the aggressively multicultural background in the first movie. 
  • Also the way women are handled in the movie is ????? High-key pretty gross? In every direction? I don’t know, I’ve got comments on that that are spoilers. See them later.
  • People gripe about Bladerunner being slow (it is, but that’s a good thing) and people are going to gripe about this movie being slow (it is, but that’s a bad thing). Bladerunner has a lot of tension in its slower scenes, and even if there’s not a lot of tension you’re being introduced to this new world that has a ton of stuff going on in the background to explore if you get tired of the slow dialogue. NOT SO HERE. In fact, let me tell you a story: my family knew people who were working on Bladerunner and everyone we knew who was married when they started working on the film was divorced by the time the movie was done because there was so much time and effort that went into shit like costume design and lighting and matte paintings and fucking architecture. There is so much shit going on that you learn something new about the world in every frame. The new film has a lot of empty space that is stunning to look at but doesn’t pass on any content to the viewer. Something’s always in motion, your eye stays busy, but the consideration and thought that went toward storytelling in the original is missing.
It was a pretty movie and I mostly enjoyed watching it but the music was distracting and it wasn’t as substantive or interesting as the original film by a long shot.
Now, onto spoilers.
Also TW for Violence and misogyny.

Okay so at one point Leto’s character disembowels a newly made replicant woman because he’s upset that they haven’t created replicants that can give birth. He does this while he’s complaining that they can’t create enough replicants. So he destroys a newborn, naked woman by slashing her open where her uterus would be. Because he’s upset that they can’t make replicants fast enough. I ??guess?? this is supposed to be character development that makes him look evil, but his objectification of the replicant *before* he disembowels a newborn while talking about how replicants just want life *in front of* his personal replicant he forces to do horrible things and has named “Luv” is evil enough? There’s no need for this gratuitous awful thing that is already fucking uncomfortable as he’s handling a naked, greased woman and lamenting that she’s sterile. Which is what I mean when I say this movie doesn’t handle “women” as a subject well.

And they’re attempting to retcon the rape from the original movie! Kay, the Ryan Gosling character, is tasked with discovering the identity of some replicant bones they’ve found, of a replicant who died giving birth. Turns out that it’s Rachel from the first film, and when Kay tracks down her serial number he hears part of her initial Voight-Kampff interview with Deckard. Kay’s comment on hearing her voice for like ten seconds is “She liked him, this Deckard, she’s provoking him” and later it’s emphasized that Deckard and Rachel were planned to fall in love, destined for it. Which is like cute and all but ignores that she was trying to leave and be autonomous (you know the entire fucking point of this whole goddamned fictional universe) when he threatened her with violence and forced her to kiss him out of fear (and I guess then fuck her out of fear).

Also what the fuck with scifi universes where “we can create complex adult humans”/“have space magic”/“can travel vast distances and explore the genesis of the human race” but delivering children is just as much of a fucking mystery/death sentence as it was in the Victorian era?
In 2049 there are replicants with open-ended lifespans and replicants who always obey humans. The Nexus 8s were developed around the timeline of the first movie and it’s hinted that Deckard was one of the early Nexus 8s with an open-ended lifespan. That’s left ambiguous and I like it. Most of the other replicants we meet are the obedient type, like Kay.

Kay, a replicant, has Joi, a personal assistant/romantic partner whom he loves. Joi hires Mariette, a replicant sex-worker, to have sex with Kay while wearing Joy’s projection like a second skin. This happens immediately after Kay finds out he needs to go on the run and includes a moment where Joi tells Mariette not to speak or participate. It’s visually interesting, and sometimes you can see Mariette’s eyes from beneath Joi’s projection staring at Kay and being attracted to him, but it is weirdly timed and I think it actually cheapens Kay and Joi’s relationship (Joi gets fridged shortly after and near the end of the film it’s revealed that much of their relationship was stock phrases that the Joi advertisement repeats to Kay).

We are clearly supposed to have complicated feelings about Luv; she works for the big bad, she kills people he commands her to, and she ends up having the big boss battle of the flick with Kay. I don’t have complicated feelings. Luv is done wrong by this film. She is designed to obey an evil person, this clearly bothers her and he clearly doesn’t care about bothering her, she wants to win his affection because he is the human being she relies on for *everything* up to and including her ability to continue existing, and for that we watch her brutally choked and drowned. And yes, we’ve seen her ruthlessly murder people, but we’ve also seen that replicants don’t have choices. They can’t say no. She was told to kill people and she can’t say no. She was told to torture people and she can’t say no.

Which brings us to a *very fucking interesting* scene between Kay and his commanding officer Lieutenant Joshi (played by Robin Wright). At one point they’re in Kay’s apartment, she asks him to tell her a memory of his and he says there would be no point; she says “would it make a difference if I said that was an order” and he tells her a memory. She’s drinking with him and asks him what would happen if she finished his vodka, he asks if she shouldn’t be back at the station and she leaves. Prior to this scene we’ve seen her tell him that sometimes she almost forgets that he’s a replicant and that he’s been getting along fine without a soul. She has been admiring and assessing him all while continually reminding him he’s beneath her, and when he leaves Joi pops up to tease Kay about the fact that his Lieutenant wants to sleep with him. And that’s *very fucking interesting* because the scene flips the script on rape in the franchise - all Kay can do is ask her not to make him do this because he doesn’t want to but he can’t say no. It hammers home the restrictions the new generation of replicants face, how far they are from being free. (which incidentally is why it’s so frustrating that the film goes out of its way to retcon the rape in the original movie)

Anyway I don’t want to spoil the whole movie and deconstruct the entire plot on its release date so I think I’m going to leave it here for the moment, but these are some of my major criticisms of the film and some of the things I was disappointed by. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it the way I love the old one (it also sucked in the dialogue department - no tears in the rain or “it’s a shame she won’t live” lines here (Dave Bautista gets to day “You only obey because you’ve never seen a miracle” but that’s a bad line that is obvious and trite and shitty and they probably shouldn’t flash back to it but that’s just an example of how little faith this movie has in its audience to pick up the story and themes from context).

Also everything Jared Leto did that was actually necessary to the plot could have been done by Lawrence Fishburne on speakerphone or some shit, we didn’t need this gratuitously gross character who was played by someone in cripple cosplay and has been accused of rape, there is literally no reason to have him in this movie or to have a blind character played by a sighted actor or to make him only part-time-blind you know what okay I have huge problems with Jared Leto in this film and look forward to making an edit that does not include him.