I wont lie to you I have always admired the incredible cinematography, as brief and scant as it was in Blade Runner (1982) along with the ambient ethereal music of Vangelis that elevated the entire principal shoot of an otherwise B science fiction movie. Those few scenes over the Megapolis Pyramids and the spinners flying around over eternally dark skies with fire surging from refinery stacks made the movie into legend and its depiction of futuristic mega monster cities (thanks to Douglas Trumbull EEG Studios) became the template for the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
For a slight and worthwhile detour, because today in the press everyone is talking about cinematographer Roger Deakins (who has yet to be awarded an Oscar) and Deakins is involved in shooting PRINCIPAL photography (no special effects) on this Blade Runner 2049 and the previous one in 1982, Blade Runner 2019. The thing is the entire look and feel of the film hinged on the efforts of another pair of wizards, the visual designer of the production (the team that illustrates the look of the movie before any filming and SFX is created) and the SFX team. In our case Blade Runner 2019, the original, was able to snag Trumbull who, prior to Star Wars (1977) mesmerizing the world with Industrial Light and Magic, had blown away audiences with 2001 A Space Odyssey (1969). In other words, not only did Trumbull beat George Lucas to mind blowing SFX with Space Odyssey he again crafted incredible indelible imagery with Blade Runner in 1982.
Then it’s a little odd and a lot of funny when the press today is buzzing mad over Roger Deakins.
Back to our review, I think it’s safe to tell you that Blade Runner easily packs some of the most stunning visual imagery in a long while, building on its predecessor’s achievements and creating an aesthetic atmosphere that is absolutely riveting. The project is a collaboration of former director Ridley Scott and new hands on deck Denis Villeneuve along with Roger Deakins and Dennis Gassner (Production Design Lead). Together they manage to create a new feel that reverberates with the touchstones of high art, from monochromatic Romanesque statues and vintage buildings to updated Art Noir replacing the original’s Art Deco Film Noir signature. Curiously the new movie’s spinners look more retro and a throwback than the sleek 1982 flying machines.
It seems that while technology has lurched forward with artificial intelligence and biosynthetic cloning the look of the world this time around is more vintage and less futuristically sleek glass and steel.
Blade Runner 2049’s principal photography was filmed primarily in Budapest, Hungary. The story picks up a couple of decades after Deckard (Harrison Ford) runs away with Replicant Rachel hoping Tyrell did not include in her design a shutdown/termination date. The world has experienced significant damage since then, the least of which are off-world Nexus 6 replicants, who are a continual threat to our society (being conceived with little emotional anchors and with superior physical and mental abilities).
The Tyrell Corporation was sold over, following the death of its founder at the hands of Roy Batty and at present is producing replicants as slave labor, a new generation of artificial life, Nexus 8, that is far more docile and designed for domestic consumption. Markedly missing from the entire picture is the status of off-world development and colonization as the movie tugs at audiences with the urgency of dire planetary catastrophes on the horizon. As a futuristic world with flying machines that defy gravity without conventional propulsion systems and with interplanetary development within the framework of the story, it is also interesting the producers and writers did not include in any significant dose the backdrop of Artificial Intelligence with machines.
And that is fine and dandy with me, as we have already overdosed from A.I. film treatments, be it The Terminator, The Avengers and Ultron, Bicentennial Man, Ex-Machina to Tron and I, Robot.
Like its predecessor, the film drives forward, focusing on biomedical genetics and cloning and the moral as well as logistical dilemmas it represents in the mass production and commercial exploitation of flesh and bone, people, as commodities replacing machine, a theme that was explored in similar style with the very first science fiction movie ever, 1927’s Metropolis.