To say it upfront: That is not really a comparison, but a statement. It´s a trap set for a purpose. It comes in the form of an unfair duel, because I know already what the result is: Blade Runner 2049 is one of the best sequels ever made in sci-fi, a 3/4 masterpiece, maybe a full one, already a classic after watching it once, being one week out. It wins, by far, by dozenes of levels of sophistication, lightyears of scope and dimensions, laserpoints of precision, android brainsflashes of refinement and battery life-time of charm & fun and story continuity – yes also the fun side, even though it is definitely not meant as a comedy. In all categories, let alone the cuteness of Baby Groot, I give you so much, dear random reader. There is no Baby Groot or something comparable in Blade Runner 2049. And no, the holographic girlfriend is not cute, but grown up, more than most of the humans I know of.
Sidestep: lets see what becomes of Baby Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy 3, getting through coming-of age dramas, pimples and first love. So this is no serious duel, but a way of praising the Blade Runner sequel coming in after 35 years and luring those innocent people in, the BR2049 bashers or even the lovers of GotG2, expecting the “hilarious” latter to win. I want to find you and disappoint you deeply with my humble strong opinion. Cross out humble. No, in truth everybody can have his or her opinion, but having no taste, no refinement at all, scoffing at BR2049 and possibly even celebrating GotG2 is an UNFORGIVEABLE flaw of personality, intelligence and wisdom (yes, that is a difference), which will deprive you of any geekdom you ever claimed to have in cinematic taste or sci-fi expertise. So there it is, my educated opinion: GotG2 sucks and is boring to the bones in its exuberance to a large extent – while BR2049 excels from the first shots on and only gets better and better the longer it unfolds. Swallow this like a Carolina Reaper (the hottest chili in the world with more the 1,5 million Scoville or SHU – why am I saying this, well, read the “Chili Duel” post…), in dignity – and no, its not the “style” of the movie, I am not THAT unfair – I happen to have loved GotG1. Some might already grind their blogs to impale me alone for that with your sharp words, doctoral degrees in anti-pop cultural analytic philosophy and postmodern books about “stupidity” (I happen to like Avital Ronell a lot) cross-haired to my forehead like a swarm of red sniper dots. Go ahead, shoot. It always pays off to fight over things being funny or not, because humour is so diverse and taste of course as well. De gustibus non est disputandum. But I am coming from a city where the godfather of psychoanalysis was conjuring up academic texts about the psychology of the jest (S. Freud “Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious”, 1905), therefore I am infinitely more qualified to make a verdict, than, e.g. the Germans…(that was a joke, dear German friends) 😉
I liked GotG1 – a lot. That was a lively, funny, a dynamic movie, witty in parts, bubbling with good ideas and colourful characters (less colour than the second, for sure…but that is my point, rainbow colours do not substitute for good writing) – and it was full of good jokes and lines. Trust me. No, not all were homing in, but also the storyline worked and the rollercoaster of a spaceride with spices of some backwater 80ies music did weld the team together in a surprisingly amiable way, including one character who could only say one line and had almost no facial expressions, a tree only saying: I am Groot.
Background check: I am an ex-brain researcher and sci-fi buff and love space plots, exotic plants & seeds, planets, stars, explosions, spaceships of all sorts, supernovas, black holes, hull breaches, space suits and uniforms, jump-gates, aliens and that glitter, no matter how badly produced. I am addicted to that stuff and should turn myself in for detox in an institution without access to Philipp K Dick books and Netflix Star Trek Discovery. Even cheap landscapes, and an awful plot cannot turn me away when I get pieces of a possible future or past beyond our planet´s scope served (warm or cold). No matter if Forbidden Planet (1958), Dark Star (1974), Babylon 5 (1993-1998) or Ed Wood´s Plan 9 from Outer Space (not really a sci-fi movie, but glorious trash), I eat it. I devour all of it, no matter if is a space opera, TV series (anybody saw all of the old Battlestar Galactica from the 1978-80 with Bonanza “Pa” Lorne Green, when they got broadcasted on local National TV? I did.) or the almost fascist, but fascinating Star Wars canon. Rogue One sucked and made The Force Awakens (Ep VII) actually look good, childish, but good [this might become be the root of another rant post, and will earn hate from “strong forced” readers, but not here]. Sci-fi, I want it, I watch it, and ponder about it (for years) – and I know some of you do, as well.
Ceterum censeo, Blade Runner 2049 is a masterpiece.
You either already turned away in disgust and started to read some facebook posts or shallow news about the dangers of immigration, or you know and agree. Or, it has touched you, too. Daniel Villeneuve has created a benchmark in an unlikely quality. There are too many traps he fully avoided, too many threads he spun forward in a coherent and poetic way. Hmm, I had my doubts if BR2049 will succeed in any poetic ways, but one iconic scene in Ridley Scott´s Blade Runner does not make a summer in comparison to the winter of poetic undercurrent woven in BR2049 by Villeneuve. It oozes poetry almost in a Japanese way of Kurosawa, telling more with light and landscape than with words. The improbable achievement occurred that a great beast from the hall of fame of sci-fi got tamed and not destroyed – he enabled the wonder of adding to it with respect. A rare incident in this art-form. See GotG2. 😉 It even accomplished to make BR1 look a bit aged (it was already after 10-15 years) but this sequel pays hommage and makes evident even more evident: too colorful, too overflowed, too much, too vivid, too…80ies. A bit like,…no I don´t say it, because GotG2 is a child if the Naughties. It is a naughty movie and forgettable. BR1 became a classic and set the tone for sci-fi noir, putting Philipp K Dick´s mind on the cinema screen, he himself said at a certain point to Ridley Scott. It was innovative and bold – and yes, BR2049 is less innovative and “original”, because it builds on top of the first one, but it does it gently and knowingly and caresses the 35year old child like a father, not the other way around. Take alone the decision to thrown in Harrison Ford so late in the movie, not letting him hop through hoops with Gosling for 3 hours is courageous and necessary. Deckard is a reference, and we suddenly care less if he is a replicant or not in the end, but about the open replicant who is playing the “Deckard” part. About his choices. No big facial method acting necessary, not when you get slashed stabbed or kicked and trained to be a “Skinner”. Like Groot the power lies in the overall hero´s journey and the implications of his actions.
So many things are done right here (I am still trying to not spoiler too much) in the use of eyes (flying and blind, extracted and unpatched), the choice of location (this damn is the perfect location for a boss-fight, and the use of waves simply a genious orchestration – see how imaginative and creative the last 3 DC Comics movies and the last 5 Marvel spin-offs are solving that…no comparison) the balancing of recurring elements (water, body fluids, amniotic fluids, light, sand, snow, fog) the use of central perspective (the spinner flies a straight line into the horizon, no change of shots, close ups or distractions needed), and the score – epic and in sync with the scope of the scenes and overall narrative, adding to Vangelis, not copying or overwriting, adding…
Let alone the overall question and its declination (much more than this!): what does make us human – what does it mean to be human? Birth, death and cesarean section. There are answers given in between the lines, in between the slashes and (well placed) action, and this one joke, when he broke through the wall instead of breaking through the door. This alone was more funny than the whole ….. (you fill it in). Ceterum censeo, BR2049 is a masterpiece.
Only the reaction of his superior letting him investigate further without complaint strikes me as odd and there is (in my humble taste) too much of a lag in the movements of Joi and the girl – tracking could be more precise in those future times. Microsofts Kinect was already ok, and the non-sync had a certain effect, but a lot less could do the trick as well. Maybe it took too much render-time, who knows, or a producer opted in and changed that. If it´s only that…
Watch it. In IMAX 3D.
And, between BR2049 and GotG2 – make a choice.
“I am still smiling.” (a friend after getting out BR2049)