_blade runner 2049

—every time I come to think to write about I can never seem to do it justice. Just yesterday, I was talking about it again, and it all came flooding back in waves of carefully constructed nostalgia. “—Write about it,” they said, even though there’s something strangely precious about me not wanting to ruin anything more of Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 (2017), and that sits somewhere rather uncomfortably between private shame and arrant stupefaction. I was so very, very wrong, and so very, very happy, to be so very, very wrong.

I feel in a lot of ways I should apologise. I have never felt that way about a film before. Probably because I have never seen a sequel that had half the self-reflexive balls as this. To acknowledge, let alone interrogate, itself as a sequel, as well as examine the somewhat self-righteous relationship between the same nostalgia that reveres Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), but won’t entertain the notion of another. That. That’s something else. That’s a horse of a different colour.

And, honestly, what’s there to be precious about, really? The whole Blade Runner phenomenon is, was, and always will be, a syzygy of genius, a lovechild of luck, a missappreciated Moses of a movie, that attracts an untidy cult of philistinism. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, author Philip K. Dick’s befittingly pulpy fucking epitaph for the whole of the human race, is just as unapproachable. An identity crisis about a morose (and married) Deckard trying to Run enough credits together to get a really real sheep. There’s also a monologue in there about “kipple” that I’ll never forget; or the day I finished reading that book, which, in the words of my father, truly, truly did feel “—like saying goodbye to an old friend.”

That they ever managed to—quote—adapt—unquote—Electric Sheep? into Blade Runner isn’t a mystery. Dick had some hand in it, but one ultimately gave birth to the other. That’s the true marvel of Blade Runner, and now, Blade Runner 2049. It almost goes without saying that a lot of reboots and remakes disgrace themselves and disrespect their own material for a quick buck, but this isn’t one of those.

Blade Runner 2049 knows all of this. It’s almost uncanny, the sub/conscious reception, the opening weekend, the sense of history repeating itself like a practical joke in a geometry of synchronicity. There’s a majesty to all of this the film more than deserves, and without precisely detailing. Having seen it twice, and only hours apart, there are five stand-out moments that, for lack of a better word, convinced me, two of which were unintentional, will never happen again, and I will never forget:

The first, when K (played by Ryan Gosling) is walking through the ruins of a casino, coming up the staircase, suddenly the sound of birdsong coming from outside the Palace Theatre on High Street, Westgarth. The second, the soft, subtle sound of a tram bell, while Deckard (reprised by Harrison Ford) recollects the memory of his beloved.

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_logan

—hard. I think this film unsettles me for a number of reasons, partly to do with Sir Patrick Stewart’s reprisal of the role of Charles Xavier, partly because I’ve witnessed a similar decline for myself, partly thrice, and partly the realisation that, despite its many, many, many flaws, the X-Men are how I got into comic books. I could never really afford all the back/issues, but I still have some iconic copies, and three framed chrome covers hanging on my wall.

I think I loved the style, the colour, the power, of the X-Men, the most, and to see it die the way it has, slowly, and not all at once, is a little disheartening. Probably my favourite character is Wolverine (is Hugh Jackman), next to Cyclops (played by James Marsden) and Gambit (briefly played by Taylor Kitsch). The reboots, Matthew Born’s First Class (2011), Bryan Singer’s Days of Future Past (2014) and Apocalypse (2016), are so convoluted, they hardly manage to break free from their own lore. It’s very Alzheimer’s, the whole past in the present scenario.

Yes, it’s definitely hard to believe Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000) really kick-started the whole superhero genre, and has been unfairly forgotten ever since. It’s not a great film. Neither’s Bryan Singer’s X-Men 2 or Brett Ratner’s The Last Stand. The Wolverine spin-offs themselves have always been a bit hit and miss, but otherwise understandably, the salvaging of an iconic role steeped in a lot of mediocrity.

Really they’re unique morality tales about the nature of immortality. In another world, one without the X-Men for crutch, Wolverine works better as a centrefold story than it does a footnote. Instead, the X-Men themselves, perpetuated in comics, hushed in rumours, work better as legends than they do as fully fleshed-out fanfares. Why?

The superhero, like Superman, is limited by their own limitlessness, their ability to do more, to do the otherwise impossible, undermines any sense of threat. Being the last of something is one vulnerability, but ailing from the very limitlessness itself, is another. And that’s what I like the most about James Mangold’s Logan (2017). He’s always been people. Unlike any other mutant, Logan always loses when he wins.

Winning for Logan is about prolonging the loss of something, like the X-Men, or someone, like Xavier, because the majesty of its being, while be-ing, is too great for him to bear. He lives, he endures, solely for its legacy, as a living sort of testament. So when chance comes, outta the blue, to pass on the legacy of that legacy, literally and figuratively, Logan is finally free.

Unlike other X-Men or Wolverine films, Logan is distinctly, and refreshingly, restrained somehow. It feels easy enough to watch as a standalone film without needing any back-story, and seems to work better the less you know anything about anything. This could easily be an action film with a science-fiction twist, a post-apocalyptic wasteland drama, a gruesome romp through what-if after what-if. A true diamond in the roughest rough.

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_world’s greatest dad

—bears a striking similarity to Michael Lehmann’s Heathers (1988). So black in humour I almost turned it off. Written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, probably best known for his portrayal of Cadet Zed in the lamentably long-running Police Academy franchise (Wilson 1984; Paris 1985; Paris 1986; Drake 1987; Myersen 1988; Bonerz 1989; Metter 1994), this is Goldthwait’s fifth directorial feature. And something of an anomaly in Robin Williams’ (as Lance) career.

I’ve been on a Robin Williams retrospective ever since his unfortunate passing in 2014. I was in the middle of my Honours year of study then, and his death, together with a handful of other tragedies, left me a lot winded. I hadn’t seen Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King (1991) by then, and I wouldn’t see Dito Montiel’s underrated Boulevard (2014), perhaps Williams’ best tragic role since Omar Naïm’s The Final Cut (2004) and Mark Romanek’s One Hour Photo (2002), for another couple of years.

There’s a noticeable shift in Williams’ career after Steven Spielberg’s A. I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) as Dr. Know, a sort of undertow, a tiredness, to his performance. The funny has become a part of his act. Apart from his personality, somehow. The energy, the spark, reminiscent of the roles of my childhood, like Les Mayfield’s Flubber (1997), Joe Johnston’s Jumanji (1995), or Chris Columbus’ Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), is virtually gone.

In a role like Lance it seems easier for him to hide. There’s almost this dialogue, this duplicity, behind Lance being a passionate English teacher, as he was in Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society (1989), being unable to inspire his rather undeserving students. There’s also his rather cliché aspiration of writing the Great American Novel, but at the same time, an irony in that the only person capable of appreciating it is the aging shut-in Bonnie (played by Mitzi McCall). Almost a sense of having outlived one’s usefulness, not as a profession, or as an individual, but as a reflection, an aspiration, of the apathy of society itself.

The way this apathy manifests itself is not through pride, or arrogance, or even ambition, the seemingly obvious reason behind Lance’s opportunism, but a stoic, pitiable hope. A salvaging of the wasted life that is his son Kyle (played utterly, utterly shamelessly by Daryl Sabara, the very same brat from Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids {2001}) into something passably meaningful. What unravels from that forced meaningfulness is a truly unexpected delight.

The comedy is just seeping through the blackness, here. The first act is so dark its hard to sit through in good company, but the pay-off is amazing. If anything, the second and third acts could have been a little darker, to help evenly distribute the tar. What I find harder and harder to understand about films these days are examples of comedy, or horror, or science-fiction, or fantasy, that aren’t being praised for the films they are, not for the dramas they’re not. A comedy should make me laugh, and be praised for that alone.

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