Blade Runner 2049
As we all know, the best thing about being a teacher is, of course, the holidays. And one of the great pleasures of the holidays is being able to go to the cinema in the middle of the day. No one else is on holiday, so you usually have to go by yourself, but one of the great discoveries of adulthood for me is that going to the cinema by yourself can actually be really fun.
So last week I travelled into London for the 10.15am showing of Blade Runner 2049 at the BFI IMAX: the biggest screen in the UK.1 The ticket was pretty expensive: £18, and it was only £2 more to upgrade to the fancy seats, so I figured I would give that a try. It was good to be centrally positioned: I don’t like being at an awkward viewing angle with an IMAX screen. However, I think I would have preferred a cheaper seat in the middle if possible. The expensive seats were right at the back, and so to some extent you lose some of that the field-of-vision-filling experience that’s unique to IMAX.2
I thought it was an absolutely wonderful film; as Mark Kermode put it, “a future classic”. It perfectly captured the feel and atmosphere of the original, while still feeling fresh and modern. The pacing was wonderfully stately: again, so like the original, and so unlike the freneticism of much of modern film-making. But despite its two hours and forty-three minutes, it didn’t at any point feel slow. Every scene was in service of moving the plot forward to its emotionally powerful conclusion.
The music was amazing. Along with the visuals, and perhaps even more than them, it served to perfectly recreate that world we first saw 35 years ago. In IMAX, with its incredible sound system, that wailing and roaring synth soundtrack was both immersive and disturbing. It also perfectly captured the feeling of Vangelis’s original soundtrack, without sounding dated. Only at one point – I believe – was part of the original soundtrack used, and in that case to great emotional effect.
This film was very much the offspring rather than the sibling of its predecessor. While it showed a deep affection for its parent, and had its parent’s DNA running all the way through it, it wasn’t in thrall to it. Fans of the original cult classic will be more than happy, but it certainly wasn’t fan service. Harrison Ford was fantastic, but didn’t steal the show from Ryan Gosling, who was, from beginning to end, clearly the film’s lead.
Rogue One’s Tarkin came close, but this is the first film I have seen which featured a digitally recreated actor, where – despite the fact that I knew they weren’t real – I was completely convinced by their performance: an astounding achievement.