Blade Runner 2049

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*Note, when I am referring to “the original” Blade Runner I am referring to the directors cut, as that is the only version of Blade Runner I have seen*

Blade Runner 2049 was a surprising entity for me. Like the original, it was more story-centric than the marketing department would leave you to believe, which is a good decision from director Dennis Villeneuve and combined with fantastic sets and visuals, it did keep me invested for the 161-minute running time and that is worth a lot of praise.

However, even describing a brief synopsis for Blade Runner 2049 is both complex and constitutes spoiler territory so I will only say two things about it 1. Ryan Gosling is a Blade Runner and 2. Harrison Ford is in it. I would say that watching the original Blade Runner will help the viewer to understand the world it occupies and why you need to be emotionally invested in Harrison Ford’s character because Blade Runner 2049 draw so many parallels to the original that it is not funny.

Literally, from the first shot, Blade Runner 2049 pays homage to the original Blade Runner. There were so many moments and scenes that aim to replicate the original that I can make direct comparisons. I have concluded that the even though the original was a stronger film, it was only stronger by a whisker. That is because Blade Runner 2049 has many twists and turn to not only the story, but to the themes that the original evokes such as what humans perceive as love, identity, and existence.

My favorite scene involves Harrison Ford’s and Jared Leto’s characters meeting the first time and what the scene develops into. That scene does expand the notion of the perception of love itself from the original movie.

There were also many other scenes that differed from the original that worked in their own right but the movie always lost me slightly when they did all the callbacks as I was thinking “The original movie did it slightly better” I don’t want to be reminded of that in any movie I see, I want a movie to earn it’s own stripes or and stand on its own accord. This is especially frustrating when a movie like Blade Runner 2049 was hitting a home run anyway.

The visuals and set pieces were the best things in the movie. In terms of cinematography, a lot of it looks like a digitized version of sepia tone, which gave off a warm absorbing effect, yet gave off the scene of dread. It was unique, simple and effective. It may rival Dunkirk so far for the best cinematography of 2017. For the set designs, it is like going into a candy shop if you have seen the original Blade Runner. That is because you know where the characters are heading and it’s intriguing. The set designs give off the right mindset of understanding of the world geographically.

I cannot deny that Blade Runner 2049 is an absorbing movie that kept my attention for a long period of time. I did not reach the level of emotional brevity that this film tries hard to do (admittedly, that is not even a negative critique as that is a massive undertaking) but I was in it with the story and characters the whole way with plenty of visual delight and ideas that make it a worthy candidate next to the original ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/4

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Arrival- A Thematic Pool

Written by Nelson Cumming

Arrival had a lot of promise. So much so that I paid a lot extra to see it on a wider screen, thinking I would get overwhelmed by the grandiose mis en scene. That didn’t happen. Despite this, Arrival is a very interesting and highly original film.

Oddly, the movie it reminded me of was The Tree of Life by Terrance Malick although it is not anything like it. To use a book title from Douglas Adams, The Tree of Life concerns itself with “Life, The Universe and Everything” whereas Arrival explores the inner-workings of communication, language and pre-determinism. The latter of which I didn’t get until much later after I saw it.

Unpacking the Plot- A headache that was worth it

Adam’s using her linguistic powers to understand the alien language. Initially this was my favorite part of the film.

I’m gonna be honest. I didn’t get the subplot of the movie at all until I did a bit of research. After looking it up I thought “Damn, Arrival was going for the gold” The main plot and subplot are completely non-linear (like The Tree of Life) and I was wondering why the subplot even existed for a while. I’ll outline both the plot and subplot before explaining further.

So the main plot involves Amy Adams who plays a professional linguist sent by the US military to communicate with these aliens that have bordered earth. A lot of the film involves Adams and Jeremy Renner (who plays a theoretical physicist) decoding the language and understanding why the aliens have come to earth.

As Adam’s learns of the aliens language, Adams has visions of her daughter which serves as the subplot of the film. When the twist comes, I was wondering why she was having visions of her child in the first place. The movie raised more questions than it answered for me. It didn’t seem to add up.

That is a broadly specific as I can be without ruining it. You need to know the subplot to fully understand the meaning of the film.

The Tree of Life analogy

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The subplot felt a little spinny to me. It messes with time and space. Only after I saw it did I understand it.

I saw Arrival as more of an atmospheric film about how the intricacies of communication changes meaning and how you need to get both linguistics and the meaning behind language to reach understanding. The best moments for me were when Adams were decoding the alien language, trying to understand their purpose of existence.

Only until after I saw it I realize I was only scratching the surface. It’s like the Tree of Life in that both the plot and subplot are non-linear and one of the plots have to do with the world around us and the other side of the story revolves around a family and with Arrival, the two didn’t stories did not connect well enough for me to understand.

That was until I realised why Adam’s character has all these visions. Once I knew that all of Arrival’s ideas just seemed to connect and fall into place. It really is a thinking movie and I might like it more if I saw it again. It explores the philosophical concept of pre-determinism vs. fate. Unlike most films, Adams choose with her final word in the film when she is asked a very abrupt (almost comical) question.

However, I can only judge based on what I saw initially and I liked it for the cinematography, Amy Adams performance and how the lead characters slowly develop an understanding with the aliens. If I see it again, now knowing the movie fully, I would like it even more. That I am certain of. However, I must rate it based on what I was feeling at the time and while I liked it overall there were a lot of moments I was scratching my head on how she has the conceived of her visions in the first place ***1/2