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Conrad Teves
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Posted: 19 October 2017 at 6:31am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

I think 2049 does a better job sequelling a movie that didn't need one than most movies that were set up for one.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 19 October 2017 at 10:43pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Can't stop thinking about this movie. Despite bombing at the box office (my family and I were literally the only people in the theater, yesterday), it's being hailed as one of the greatest sequels ever made, and I find myself tending to agree. This is probably gonna be a must-own for me when it comes to home video. I need to see it again.

In an era where I constantly find myself sighing and griping about counterfeit and cash-grab sequels/reboots/remakes, I find myself utterly shocked that this film is not only faithful and respectful to the original, but is also genuinely great on its own terms. I walked out of the theater totally satisfied, which rarely if ever happens to me, these days. No grumbling from me whatsoever about the original being insulted or exploited decades after the fact. It's a strange feeling!

My pal, Zaki Hasan, recently said that the film plays almost more as an epilogue to the original, rather than a true sequel, and think that idea has a lot of merit. So glad I didn't know much about the plot, going in. I now find myself mentally re-examining the original in the context of the sequel, and it's kinda trippy.

Meanwhile, I found a very interesting (and spoiler-filled) interview with screenwriters Hampton Fancher and Michael Green:

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Shane Matlock
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Posted: 20 October 2017 at 11:51pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

I was the same way after I saw it, Greg. Couldn't stop thinking about it for days after I saw i. I was dying to see it again. So, of course, I did go see it again, this time with a few friends, not all of whom were even Blade Runner fans, but they all loved it. The second time I saw it there was barely anyone in the audience, not that the first time was really crowded either, but it was premiere night so there were quite a few more people there. Still, even then, the theater was only about a quarter full which I didn't think bode well for the box office. Usually premiere nights the theater is packed.

Great interview too. Thanks for sharing. I Iike that Fancher is in the Harrison Ford camp of Deckard is not a replicant (as am I). I had to check out Hampton Fancher's IMDB page to see what all he'd written and was surprised how little he's worked on and that Blade Runner was his first script. He later wrote the Mighty Quinn and the Minus Man (which he also directed), and, of course, Blade Runner 2049. And that's pretty much it. He has a ton of acting credits though in the 60's and 70's. Also was surprised to find out he was once married to Sue Lyon, who played Lolita in Kubrick's Lolita.


Edited by Shane Matlock on 20 October 2017 at 11:51pm
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 21 October 2017 at 1:09am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Yeah, Fancher is very much of the mindset that Deckard is human. I really and truly love how 2049 acknowledge the question without answering it. The film works perfectly either way.

Of course, the theatrical cut of BR tells the story of a man who falls in love with a Replicant, whereas the Final Cut tells the story of a Replicant who comes to realize what he is. Both interpretations have merit, and both can be applied to 2049 in interesting ways. As I've recently noted, I personally prefer Deckard to be human, but appreciate the question being asked...as long as it's not answered. 2049 doesn't answer the question, and I give the filmmakers big points for going that route. Brilliant.

And K's character journey fascinates me. He basically starts out as sort of the inversion of Deckard (K comes to question his true nature, just as a Final Cut Deckard comes to question his), and ends up becoming Roy Batty, complete with THAT music playing in the final scene. It raises all sorts of questions about what it means to be human, and how much of a role our memories and beliefs play in our explorations of humanity. Just like the original film, but on a different level. 

I actually found myself getting a bit misty, in that final minute, both because of the resolution of K's journey, and the next step in Deckard's. People have accused this of being an emotionally "cold" film, but that's sort of the point. By the very end, warmth and humanity--and a sense of hope--have crept into the even-bleaker world of 2049. And it feels earned. We don't need any more sequels featuring the Replicant-Human Wars, or whatever. The story is done, now. 

The film started to worry me when it began leaning in the direction of K being the "chosen one", so to speak, and then absolutely delighted me when the big twist came along. It's one of the most brilliant bait-and-switch moments I've ever seen in a genre film--they played on our expectations of what sequels like this usually end up being about, subverted those expectations, and then tied it all together with the specific themes of memory and humanity that are pure BLADE RUNNER. It's just masterful screenwriting.
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Shane Matlock
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 10:10am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

Just wanted to say I love reading your observations about this film, Greg! I've also been following your reviewing of Next Generation which is a fun read (though it's been so long since I've seen a lot of those episodes, I haven't had anything to comment on there). You always have some really insightful and well written observations that spark my own thoughts.
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Shane Matlock
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 10:11am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

Also I thought that plot twist with K was perfect as well, as I didn't want him to be "the Chosen One" either as that's such a cliche. Subverting that was a masterful move by the screenwriters!
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John Byrne
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 12:44pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

Gonna chime in once again (without seeing this sequel): BLADE RUNNER is a deep and challenging film only if that's what you want it to be. Otherwise, it's another Big Bad Robot story -- Asimov's nightmare. The fact that the replicants have implanted memories strips away any debate over the "moral quandry" raised by AI. The replicants are intelligent, yes, but it's somebody else's intelligence.

The films depend upon the same kind of anthropomorphism we apply to C-3PO or Lightning McQueen.

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 1:51pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

That's the whole question, though--if the Replicants, despite their artificial origins and implanted memories, are more emotional and have more appreciation for living than the actual humans in the story do, does that indeed make them "more human than human"? Where is that line drawn? 

Batty's appreciation for life as he meets his death is what makes Deckard feel like a human being again. He then decides to go on the run with Rachael and make every moment count. The sequel cleverly inverts all of this by telling the story of a character who finds hope in the possibility that he's more than he thinks he is, finds out he's not, and then actually becomes more than he is, anyway, at least on a moral level.

Both of these films explore themes regarding what it means to be human. Is it our memories? Being naturally-born, as opposed to genetic constructs? Our behavior and morality? Whether or not we appreciate our lives, and try to make the most of them?


I think part of the appeal of BLADE RUNNER is that it's a film presented very objectively, which lends itself to a very subjective viewing experience, and thus leaves room for multiple interpretations. Whether they were intended or not. Sort of like a filmic Rorschach test. 



And, speaking of TNG, Shane, it seems extremely fitting that tonight's episode is "The Measure of a Man", where Data's rights as a sentient being are called into question!
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Shane Matlock
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 2:07pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

The "what does it mean to be human" was a huge theme in much of Philip K Dick's oeuvre so it's fitting that Blade Runner and its sequel explored that. So far none of the other Dick adaptations have explored that theme, or at least none of the ones that I've seen. 

I don't know that I found the original Blade Runner or the sequel all that deep or challenging and I'm not sure why some folks found it all that challenging, but I did like the fact it explored the question about humanity and what exactly makes us human. But as a film, other than the existential question about humanity, it was for the most part a killer "robot" story (although they were more clones than robots), since all the replicants shown in it were killing people, although in a lot of cases it was just to preserve their own lives, with the exception of Batty who seemed to revel in being cruel, much like a child pulling the wings off flies. Although at the end of the original film, it's interesting that he chose to preserve Deckard's life rather than to take it and had that beautiful soliloquy. 

Edited by Shane Matlock on 22 October 2017 at 2:09pm
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Shane Matlock
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 2:17pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

I think the biggest debate about Blade Runner is the was Deckard a human or a replicant one, and it's one that still rages on to this day, even between its star and writer (who say human) vs. the director (who says replicant). 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 2:28pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

As I have noted elsewhere, there's a certain childlike quality to Hauer's performance, just as there is with Sylvia Hoeks' Luv in the new film. The Replicants have implanted memories, yes, but a lack of actual emotional experience. It seems like they're trying to reconcile having false memories with their desire to seek out actual experiences for themselves. 

Hauer plays Batty as a sort of superhuman man-child. He veers from intelligent, vulnerable, and poetic to moody, impulsive, and violent. Hoeks plays Luv as a composed-yet-mean little girl who just wants to be daddy's favorite. The Replicants are sort of like emotionally childish Frankenstein's monsters with adult intelligence and superhuman capabilities. 

And, as noted, the great irony of it (which stands in stark contrast to Dick's concept of androids as cold-hearted and lacking empathy) is that the Replicants come across as having deeper emotions and more human behavior than actual humans.


And, interestingly, Ridley Scott has said he feels that Batty saved Deckard's life as a sort of instinctive impulse, because of his military background. More of a reflex than a conscious act. Others have said it's because Batty admired Deckard's bravery in the face of death (since he spits at Batty as he loses his grip on the beam). 

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 2:30pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I think the biggest debate about Blade Runner is the was Deckard a human or a replicant one, and it's one that still rages on to this day, even between its star and writer (who say human) vs. the director (who says replicant). 
+++++++

I'd say Paul Sammon summed it up best: the only correct answer is "maybe".
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David Miller
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 3:00pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply


 QUOTE:
As I have noted elsewhere, there's a certain childlike quality to Hauer's performance, just as there is with Sylvia Hoeks' Luv in the new film. The Replicants have implanted memories, yes, but a lack of actual emotional experience. It seems like they're trying to reconcile having false memories with their desire to seek out actual experiences for themselves.


When Luv crushed Joi's memory stick, I thought to myself, AI programmed with child-like cruelty is indistinguishable from human.
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Shane Matlock
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 3:05pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

K came across as one of the most human characters in 2049, too. His boss seemed a bit more cold and unfeeling than he did. You could tell right from the start of the film that he didn't enjoy killing replicants when he told Bautista's replicant that if taking him in was an option he would gladly do that. Though wouldn't he just be put down once he was taken in anyway? There were definitely shades of Pinocchio in the story too, must like in Spielberg's AI, especially when K started thinking he may have been born (he equated being born with actually having a soul). Even the AI holographic Joi seemed pretty human, though it was obvious hers was more programming than actual emotions. Then again, how much of our own is programming as well? Just having the existentialism in the original Blade Runner film does add some depth to it that most science fiction that people were used to when it came out (though there was plenty of depth and philosophical questions explored in Star Trek, the original series and the films, and you don't get much deeper than 2001: A Space Odyssey), but I think people went into the original Blade Runner thinking it was going to be more akin to Star Wars and Alien which didn't have much depth and thus found it utterly bewildering and slowly paced. I think some of that might have been in the marketing. To this day, so many films are poorly marketed from Fight Club to Drive to Blade Runner 2049 and it always hurts the box office, even if the films themselves are critical darlings or become cult classics. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 3:07pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

When Luv crushed Joi's memory stick, I thought to myself, AI programmed with child-like cruelty is indistinguishable from human. 
+++++++

Exactly

K's relationship with Joi adds a whole 'nother fascinating layer to the story, too. There seems to be a genuine relationship between them, and then the rug gets pulled out from under him when the advertisement calls him "Joe". If a holographic girlfriend can be so finely attuned to one's emotional needs, and says whatever it thinks one wants to hear, does it still invalidate the relationship? 

Joi is more empathic and human in her behavior than Luv is, despite being less "real". Both are artifically created, but Joi comes across as far more human than Luv does.
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Shane Matlock
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 3:13pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

I think that moment of having the advertisement call K Joe was put in there to emphasize that Joi's emotions were strictly programming because up until that point it seemed like she was very much in love with K and vice versa. I still felt like K loved Joi, but there was also the comical scene where they are "kissing" and he gets a call and she's paused and he simply shuts her off that after briefly reflecting on it for a second. That's some subtle writing.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 3:15pm | IP Logged | 17 post reply

To this day, so many films are poorly marketed from Fight Club to Drive to Blade Runner 2049 and it always hurts the box office, even if the films themselves are critical darlings or become cult classics. 
+++++++

The downside to great films being successful is that they will inevitably be exploited and tarnished with cash-grab reboots, remakes, and sequels. Bad and unsuccessful movies don't get sequels. It's a testament to BLADE RUNNER's cult following that it got a sequel (albeit 35 years later), and virtually a miracle that the sequel isn't just a dumbed-down nostalgia-milking cash-grab, as so many of these decades-too-late sequels are.

Unfortunately, money ruins everything! Success inevitably brings in the bean counters and the vultures to exploit the success of great films. That's why, on a certain level, I'm actually glad that BR 2049 has underperformed. It was not made with the intention of setting up more sequels. If it had been a huge hit, we'd probably be getting something stupid, like "BLADE RUNNER: REPLICANT WAR", in the next few years. 

I still have mixed feelings about there even being a BR sequel to begin with, but now is a perfect time to quit while they're ahead (artistically, if not financially).
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 3:20pm | IP Logged | 18 post reply

I think that moment of having the advertisement call K Joe was put in there to emphasize that Joi's emotions were strictly programming because up until that point it seemed like she was very much in love with K and vice versa. I still felt like K loved Joi, but there was also the comical scene where they are "kissing" and he gets a call and she's paused and he simply shuts her off that after briefly reflecting on it for a second. That's some subtle writing.
++++++++

Yep. It's a clever twist to have that advertisement scene, because, despite your knowledge of what Joi is, you still find yourself investing in them as a couple, right up through her "death". And, of course, Joi hires the Replicant hooker to serve as a sex surrogate so that K can consummate his feelings for her. 

K's feelings are obviously real, but the question is whether or not Joi's true nature somehow invalidates those feelings.
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Shane Matlock
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 3:23pm | IP Logged | 19 post reply

I was flummoxed when I heard there was even going to be a Blade Runner sequel and expected it to be terrible. It wasn't until I saw the trailers and short films that I started having hope that it might actually be good, but I still went in with low expectations (though they'd been raised a bit by the reviews I'd skimmed as well, while still trying to avoid spoilers). I'd already been burned by the last two Ridley Scott Alien films which I thought the trailers and short films made it look like the movies were going to be good and didn't like either film. After seeing 2049, I couldn't believe how much I liked this sequel. I'd rank this as one of the best sequels ever because it didn't negate or lessen or change anything that happened in the first film. Even though I loved Empire Strikes Back (my favorite film as a kid), it definitely made huge changes to what we'd been told in Star Wars, and this film didn't do that at all. This is the first film I've seen twice at the theater in probably twenty or more years!

I do think that it's probably a good thing that it underperformed as far as they likely won't make "Blade Runner: Replicant War," nicely put by the way, but I also think it could be bad because studios might think the problem is that the film was a bit existential and slowly paced and that people just need dumb popcorn fair like the Transformers films for them to be a success. 


Edited by Shane Matlock on 22 October 2017 at 3:27pm
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David Miller
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 3:40pm | IP Logged | 20 post reply

It drives me nuts when the collective Hollywood tries to evaluate a film's success in terms of how successful the marketing manipulated the audience, and failure in terms of how the audience betrayed some implicit compact to succumb to such manipulation. Surprise hits more likely connect with audiences through some alchemical combination of wit, intelligence and originality, not because the audience is hungry for superheroes in general, or movies shot on iPhones or whatever.

I was kind of surprised by 2049's flopping, what with the ecstatic reviews and audience response, but I guess audiences just weren't interested in a Blade Runner sequel. 

Something that just occurred to me: what with the seven or however many versions over the years, Blade Runner has repeatedly been its own sequel. Maybe the audience was fatigued without realizing it.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 3:49pm | IP Logged | 21 post reply

The sequel does diminish the original only in that we finally learn what happened to Deckard and Rachael (and it's a bummer to learn they didn't have very long together, but bleak is par for the course with BR), rather than the ambiguity of what happened next remaining intact for all time. 

Fascinatingly, despite the love story not really working in the first film, the sequel retroactively gives it more weight and depth. 2049 depends on our memories of BR, but also paints a picture of BR's love story being more important to the narrative than it was, originally. Harrison Ford's facial acting when confronted with "Rachael" is pretty darn heartbreaking.

Seeing what happened to Deckard and Rachael is nowhere near as infuriating as learning that Han and Leia broke up, and seeing Han killed. Partly because the emotional investment in the former couple's relationship isn't so strong for most viewers, but also because their fates work to the thematic advantage of 2049: the nature of love/parenthood, making the most of the time you have, etc. The ending of BR 2049 gives a flicker of hope that feels earned, after two films of noir bleakness and moral ambiguity.

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Shane Matlock
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 4:05pm | IP Logged | 22 post reply

Greg, for some reason I hadn't even thought about how it takes away the ambiguity of what happened between Deckard and Rachael. Although I'd always thought it wouldn't turn out that great for them when they ran. I've always joked that almost every happy ending is just stopping the film (or book) at the right point!

David, I never thought 2049 would be a huge hit, but I thought having Gosling in it would at least get more women in the seats and make it a moderate success, which it apparently didn't, as most of the people who did see the film were men. At least in my experience, it certainly was mostly men in the audience both times I saw it and from what I've read that was common with most audiences for the film. At this point it's at least made the budget back in domestic and world wide gross but there's no telling what they spent poorly marketing it. I do think over time this film will make money in DVD/Bluray sales plus licensing it out for TV and streaming viewership.  

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Shane Matlock
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 4:14pm | IP Logged | 23 post reply

The nigh three hour running time probably didn't help from a financial success standpoint either not only because folks have short attention spans, but it lessens how many times a day the theaters can show the film.
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David Miller
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 5:07pm | IP Logged | 24 post reply

I was at a Downtown Los Angeles theater last night for a film festival and there were signs up everywhere warning of 2049's 3 hour 4 minute program length, reminding ticket buyers their parking validation was only good for four hours. I have this image of less ambitious film-goers weighing the additional $10/half hour parking rate and maybe deciding seeing IT again was a better value.
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Shane Matlock
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Posted: 22 October 2017 at 6:04pm | IP Logged | 25 post reply

And It cut out so much good stuff from the first half of the book to be as short as it was. Though I did enjoy the film and found it one of the better King adaptations (which are few and far between), I didn't like it half as much as 2049. 
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