Black Panther

Black Panther follows the traditional superhero formula for films where there’s already been an origin. For filmverse Black Panther, Captain America 3 was basically his origin film. This pattern is – see the hero’s strength, see the villain’s strength, the villain rises, it appears that all is lost for the forces of good and then the hero wins.

In films like that, the important is the specific details, the character bits, the frills. And Black Panther is very good at those.

Spoilers Underneath

Chadwick Boseman has the most difficult job. Because playing good is difficult and he knocks it out of the park. Heroic good in films tends to be reactive, and given very little to actively do. It’s a hard balancing act, of being awesome and good without being too preachy.

I am taking the time to say this mostly because the rest of this is all about how awesome everyone else in the film is but T’Challa is the base of all of that.

The most important detail is that Michael B Jordan will break your heart. I mean, actually break it. With a significant assist by Sterling K. Brown. It’s that moment where you realise that the opening narration isn’t T’Challa’s father to T’Challa, it’s N’Jobu to Erik. It’s an exiled prince telling the son he fears will never get to see his homeland all about it, and that breaks me because he knows he’s about to do something that will get him exiled for ever but is going to do it anyway because it’s the right thing do. Or at least he thinks it is the right thing to, and he might be right and Marvel are doing that thing again. The whole film is full of situations like that, see also T’Challa’s father is not a bad man, he might not be a good man, but he’s not bad, but he did a terrible thing, again, because he thought it was the least worst possible option, even though he was probably wrong. Did I mention, Marvel are doing the thing!

Then there’s the “I’m not crying” tears and how vulnerable and deadly Erik is at the same time, and the contrast between that and the equivalent scene of T’Challa and his father.

And then the ending, where Erik’s ready to be let down by Wakanda, the way he has been by everything else, and he isn’t, because it is every bit as beautiful as his father promised, and he’d still rather die than be imprisoned because he knows he’s right. That was the bit that made me cry.

Killmonger is very much one particular type of Marvel villain, he is the bad man with a righteous cause. He is Magneto, down to the name, it’s just that this time the cause is that much more real.

One of the reasons why the film works is that Killmonger isn’t the only one who believes that Wakanda shouldn’t be isolationist, Ntiri does too, it’s just Killmonger’s methods that are … too extreme. Too often in films like this, anyone who disagrees with the hero is wrong, and either misguided or evil. Black Panther makes sure that that doesn’t happen. The film is very careful that Ntiri is always good, and kind, and just, and agrees with most of what Killmonger is saying. Which is tricky to pull off, and it helps when you have Lupita Nyong’o to play the role.

A lot of thought has gone into this film. I mean, more than usual. T’Challa can get away with going “no, vengence is bad” to W’Kabi because he did forgive his father’s killer. T’Challa he knows that you have to forgive to avoid a cycle of violence (the end of which, last time, was the Sokovia mess). It means that, while you might disagree with his not killing Klaue, he’s not a hypocrite when he tells W’Kabi that it was better to take Klaue in alive. They must have had at least the vague outline of this plotted out when they were writing Captain America 3 to make sure it worked. I like it when Marvel plan and have joined up thinking.

Talking about awesome, let us now speak of Okoya. Partly, she’s a stock character I like done well, it’s someone who is loyal to the kingdom, not necessarily who is on the throne. But normally, they’re crusty old men with beards (hello Colonel Zapt in “Prisoner of Zenda”) and Okoya isn’t.

She never breaks. She sticks to her word. She serves Killmonger until he, and W’Kabi, break the rules. No matter how much it hurts her, her word is her bond, and her honour upholds the throne. Yes, she might be glad that they give her the opportunity to rebel, but until they do, she sticks with her duty. Charging a rhino at her was never going to work. (I do love that W’Kabi doesn’t even try to do anything else when his rhino stops. There’s a certain sort of “no go” when a rhino doesn’t want to do something.)

I love the fighting style of the Dora Milaje. Which I love. Because it looks so effective, and they actually train to be a person down, which makes so much sense. All hail fight tactics in films making sense.

The way the right of challenge was phrased made it quite clear that T’Challa wasn’t going to be dead, I mean, beyond it being his film and him turning up in the Infinity War trailer beforehand. You only phrase things that way when you need a get out clause.

All hail M’Baku, the noblest man in the kingdom. Because he could have taken the last of the heart-shaped herb and challenged Killmonger. No-one would have known that T’Challa wasn’t dead. I do like that the Jabari’s thing seems to be “we are awkward and we enjoy it” (even if I am deeply confused by Hanuman having followers that far west. I mean, I totally support Hanuman having worshippers wherever they are but …). I was so worried that he was going to be the film’s heroic sacrifice.

The heart-shaped herb as a whole sets up some interesting things for the future. Ignoring any spiritual-mystic stuff, the idea of a plant that both gives and takes away power is interesting, as is Killmonger destroying the remaining plants. I think he does it, not just to stop any immediate challengers to the throne but because I’m not entirely sure he expects to live long enough to have children. I think that’s supposed to be one of the contrasts to his father, T’Chaka and T’Challa. I also wonder how the burning of all the heart-shaped herb affects any future Panthers, because if it’s vital then there’s a problem, but if it’s not, then they’ve got other problems.

I feel bad for leaving Shuri this late in my write-up (and her bit being so short) because I love her so. Because she’s geek girl done accurately, adorable and a genius, all the way down to the terrible sneaker jokes. (Also, really T’Challa, what did you expect to happen when she said that the new gear used hits to it to produce force? She warned you!)

It was only reading the stuff around Black Panther that told me that Everett Ross in Captain America 3 was supposed to be an annoyance rather than a budding Trask/Gyrich-esque villain. Note to self – you and Hollywood have different concepts of annoyance and villainy. I do think that he was written deliberately less irksome/villainous in this one, when he’s being irksome in the interrogation of Klaue but immediately tries to save Ntiri from a bullet. It’s only writing this post that’s made me realise why they had to have someone get badly injured for the ending to work properly. Killmonger’s choice to die rather than be imprisoned only works if we know that Wakandan technology can save him.

I refuse to accept Angela Bassett is old enough to have a grown son, never mind a son who is old enough to be king.

The casting directors deserve so much credit for how well they cast the young T’Chaka and the young Zuri. I mean, yes, they cast the actor’s son for T’Chaka, and while they swear Denzel Whitaker is no relation, I think that’s just to hide how advanced their cloning programme is, because he moves like Forrest Whittaker, but only when Zuri’s revealed to be Zuri. All joking about cloning aside, it’s a clever little bit of physical acting.

Andy Serkis knew he was playing the weak villain who gets killed to make either the good guy or the villain look strong and played the role with gleeful aplomb. On the otherhand, I’d like to know how you get Klaw out of Klaue, as, AFAIK and Afrikaans isn’t one of my languages, Afrikaans is a say what you see language. I can maybe just about get Klow-eh out of that, but not Klaw.

Which brings me to the only thing that was a little off with the film. I understand the filmmakers were aiming for “there is more to Africa than you see in the news” but they do it by making Wakanda a melange of so many cultures. I think some of it is from the comics (Black Panther was never one of my comics, I only know characters that crossed over with the X-Men), because that’s who I am blaming for Hanuman being a God anywhere in Africa. Or Bast being a goddess that far south of Egypt.

In the words of one friend, “why are they speaking Xhosa so far north.” I know why they chose Xhosa, it’s immediately recognisable but … It’s noticeable.

That does seem a picky thing to comment on when the film was so bright and vibrant and good. Which it was, and I recommend everyone go watch it.

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Top 7 Films of 2017 – Explanation

The best film that was new to me that I saw last year was “Sleepless In Seattle.”

It’s so good, it’s got these little realistic touches and I found myself yelling at the screen, repeatedly.

It should be noted that the person who complained about me putting this in the post objected to me not putting “M” the year it was also the best film I saw that year. I just can’t win.

As usual, my criteria for films are:

1 – did the film do what it set out to do? (The Ebert rule)
2 – did it use it’s resources to it’s best ability? Or, a £250,000 film is not going to have as good explosions as a £25,000,000 film, or it shouldn’t, and if it does, there’s something wrong with the £25,000,000 film. It’s basically a technical merit score.
3 – Intellectual satisfaction – does the film’s plot pull some really stupid move at the last moment? Does the plot rely on characters being stupid than they are?
4 – Does this work as a whole? Did it work for me? And I am aware that this is the most subjective of subjective criteria!

This year, most of the films were failing on point 3.

Let’s start at the top:

1 – Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Yes, I am mostly rewarding the opening. But the opening contains more hope, joy and wonder than the rest of the films on this list combined.

The rest of the film was enjoyable, and I am a Cinema du Look girl, have been since I was young, so I found the visuals enormously appealing. Was it perfect? No. It needed better dialogue, Dane deHaan and Cara Delevingne are not quite strong enough actors to pull it off, and you can see the influence that the original Valerian comics had on The Fifth Element so bits of this feel like a re-run of that.

But still, it was solid and enjoyable overall.

Next come two films, where, despite their flaws, I wouldn’t mind seeing them again.

2 – Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2

3 – Thor Ragnarok

My comments for GotG 2 and Thor 3 are very similar. They did their thing and did it hard and to the best of their abilities. They’re fun.

After them is where we start to get to ishy films.

4 – Blade Runner 2049

The visuals are good, the acting solid. The parts that tie it back to the original Blade Runner are the weakest parts (although that scene with Rachel is the best scene in the film), which is odd, but not as odd as the choice to explicitly say that “to be human is to reproduce” which is a peculiarly regressive message for a science fiction film.

5 – Assassin’s Creed

Things in this film I will not knock. The actors, the fight choreography, oh my goodness, the cinematography. No, really, there are shots from this film I’d have as stills on my wall.

Things I will knock – the complete lack of characterisation, or indeed names, for people who are not Aguilar. You know the how to deal with a large cast thing that Mad Max: Fury Road did really well; this did it really badly. To the point that I cannot remember Aguilar’s modern name, and modern name is the main character of the film.

6 – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Partly its that so much money was spent making a film that was so bland in its vision of the future. There was none of that visual magic you got with the original films, which was disappointing. The plot was overwrought and stupid. It’s the stupidity I object to more.

Not as the much as I object to the stupidity of Atomic Blonde.

7 – Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde actually made me angry. The stupidity of the plot wastes so much.

It wastes an exceptional soundtrack and fight choreography, production values that are amazingly detailed (seriously, I had the same coat as Spyglass’s daughter at the same time 500 km to the South) and some damn fine performers, all for a “clever” twist. The twist is stupid, makes no sense and is significantly less cool than the writer thinks it is. It wastes everything to no good effect. It’s so … frustrating.

This could have been an excellent film, and it’s been ruined by the writer’s hubris.

Top 7 Films of 2017

Slightly fewer films than usual because 2017 was weird year. I hope to get the number up for 2018.

1 – Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

2 – Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2

3 – Thor Ragnarok

4 – Blade Runner 2049

5 – Assassin’s Creed

6 – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

7 – Atomic Blonde

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Somewhat jokingly, after I’d watched it, I suggested other names for Star Wars: The Last Jedi on twitter. They do sum up my problems with the film quite well.

Star Wars: This Could Have Been So Much Better

None of the problems are with individual actors or characters, indeed, I’d like to single out Domhnall Gleeson and Adam Driver for praise. None of the problems are due to the SFX or technical stuff. Very few of the problems are due to the director. Most of the problems are due to the writing. The writing, in terms of plot and cohesion, is bad. That leads to…

Star Wars: Poor Communication Kills

In the original trilogy, you had evil doing its thing; doing it bureaucratically sure but at least being vaguely competent. The forces of good, meanwhile, were outnumbered and outgunned but using their resources wisely.

Then came the prequels, where yeah, the forces of good were hubristic (I agree with Luke about that) and kept making every possible wrong choice in any given situation, but hey, evil was competent and skillful, and the Emperor basically played the entire galaxy like a fiddle.

The problem with Star Wars: The Last Jedi where you have incompetent evil versus useless good.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to watch the sci-fi office sitcom where someone (probably Captain Phasma) has to cope with their 3 variously incompetent bosses and their perpetual bickering, but it’s not very convincing as an evil empire. Why should I respect/fear them if their underlings don’t?

On the other side, you’ve got good guys who have managed to go from a position of power at the end of Return of the Jedi to being a very small rump against the Empire redux. They’re also marshaling their lack of forces very poorly.

The Resistance are tactically inept!

There’s no good reason for Admiral Hoda not to tell Poe about the plan. Not telling him almost lead to the whole plan failing. It also creates a giant plot hole about how come DJ knows about the plan when Poe doesn’t. Even if we presume he’s read the computer files that suggests it’s only Poe that they’ve deliberately not told which is an odd tactical choice!

I do wonder how much of that is Hollywood having issues with portraying heroic guerrilla warfare.

I couldn’t help but feel that if both sides were lead by robots, like BB-8 and BB-Hate (sorry, I have no idea what the evil robot’s name is), fewer stupid mistakes would have been made.

The story is very fragmented; Rey, Luke and Kylo Ren are the on-going Jedi-Sith-Skywalker saga, the idiot plot with Poe is the driving force of this episode, while Finn’s bit is interesting, and at least emotionally fulfilling even if it moves the plot forward not one iota.

Slimming those three plots down to two would make it a much better film (and I’ll let you guess which one I would get rid of).
Star Wars: ‘Talyn, Starburst’

The feeling that this could have been a better film is not helped by the way it feels like it has borrowed bits from other better films – like the last stand at Helm’s Deep/Krayt or Hoda’s/Crais’s big dramatic sacrifice. That last one wasn’t helped by the graphics looking so similar to the starburst scene.

That was one of the more visually appealing scenes.

Rian Johnson did seem to be trying to do things, but the film seems to be hamstrung by this being A STAR WARS FILM and therefore it NEEDS TO LOOK LIKE A STAR WARS FILM. I think it would have been a much better film if he’d been given more room for artistic expression.

Although, if he was being hamstrung, the script department were too. Which led to …

Star Wars: Maybe We Shouldn’t Have Been Mean About George Lucas’s Dialogue, They’re Stealing It 40 Years Later

Serious recycling, and dull and virtuous recycling at that. Really, who didn’t know that “if you strike me down” was coming in the end fight. Okay, so in the screening I was in, matters weren’t helped by D having a coughing fit right at the least opportune moment – D insists it was an accident.

The film was more interesting when it played with the formula; DJ’s thing about who do you think the Rebels get their weapons from, DJ being a Han Solo who didn’t come back and Kylo Ren not accepting the chance of redemption that his grandfather did take.

I’m not sure how I feel about Kylo Ren being beyond redemption. Or rather, I am not sure how I feel about Star Wars saying a character is beyond redemption, given who has historically been redeemed.

The heavy weight of the franchise, and its effects on the plotting and scripting really spoiled what were excellent performances by the cast.

I ❤ Rey, like beyond all reason <3, and I understand Finn.

I ❤ Rose, the way the film wants me to.

I want to smack Poe, probably more than the film wants me too (I have a low tolerance for charming but feckless), but I accept that the stupidest mutiny ever was not his fault.

I think Admiral Hoda is awesome, if strategically stupid (please film, if you’re going to tell me someone is a great general, don’t have them screwing up that much).

General Organa continues to be the only sensible person on both sides.

DJ is oh, he’s interesting, because yeah, he’s what true neutral actually looks like and it’s not a good look. And yet … basically, casting Benicio Del Toro is always a good idea.

Over on team actually evil, um listen, I cannot be reasonable about Domhnall Gleeson. He’s one of those actors who attracts my attention, and Hux only works because he’s a damn good actor and turns froth-mouthed ranting space spiv into someone with motivations. Like that little grab for the gun when he thinks Ren is down for the count and how quickly he moves his hand when it becomes apparent Ren is not unconscious. Because that man is a terrible, terrible coward (as well as being a space spiv).

Adam Driver is damn good. Like, he almost makes me want to sympathise with Kylo Ren, while keeping him the whiny, angst emo sith we all know and want to dip in a lake of lava. I am really impressed.

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The acting is good. The SFX, the CGI-is-not-good-enough-to-do-feathers-yet of the Porgs notwithstanding, and a couple of Leia scenes that I suspect suffered due to the unfortunate occurrence, was solid. Ditto the direction.

That’s why I get annoyed, because so much of this was good, and it’s let down by the incoherence of the plot.

Thor: Ragnarok

I can see why some people thought it was too broad. Because it probably was, a smidge.

I don’t quite get why people thought it was so wow, but it was fun. Which is something which should never be underestimated or undervalued.

Spoilers begin underneath

I would probably have restructured it slightly, with less time on planet weird so that Skurge got more screentime for his last stand.

Karl Urban is great in the time he does get. Because he makes it quite clear that Skurge is a loser, rather than evil, and that he’s in over his head. Without any dialogue. This use of Skurge also fits in with the overall theme of the Thor films – we all make mistakes, the important thing is to try to fix them, rather than pretend you didn’t make them (or you know, bury them and paint over them with a giant mural).

Thematic consistency, I like it.

The new stuff also makes sense of things from the first film, like why Odin flipped out when he thought Thor was being too blasé about war with the Frost Giants. To have one child go kill crazy is unfortunate, to have two smacks of carelessness.

I love that Thor has learnt enough to push Loki’s buttons back. That scene in the elevator is some of the best work Hiddleston has done as Loki, because he conveys how worried Loki is that this is it and Thor has finally had enough of him and it upsets him.

That’s the thing. Loki would do anything for Thor if Thor made it clear how much he loves him, while Thor just doesn’t get it because of course he loves his little brother. Even if they occasionally stab each other.

I know it was deliberate, but I didn’t like how every serious scene was immediately undercut with a silly bit.

I would also have saved “Immigrant Song” for the last fight only.

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I had been pre-warned that Matt Damon would appear, possibly so that I didn’t grab L and go “OMG, is that Matt Damon?!” It didn’t stop me from giggling and then going “OMG is that Sam Neill?!” Of course Odin is Loki, you’d think someone else that wasn’t Heimdall would have twigged roughly when the statue was made with horns!

I see that Doctor Strange has taken over his rightful role as explainer of mystic weirdness from Selvig. Which makes more sense than Selvig knowing about mystic weirdness in Age of Ultron.

I did love Doctor Strange inconveniencing Thor and then Thor being gloriously petty back. Particularly Thor’s smile of “sorry, not sorry”.

I know they killed off the Warriors Three to make Hela look dangerous but there must have been a better way. Then again, I am probably out of step with everyone else in missing them and the usual Earthers.

That being said, notice that Hogun, on his own, did nearly as much damage as Thor and Loki did in their first confrontation with Hela. Warriors Three represent.

I do love that Thor now has sub-plans for that moment when Loki betrays him. The boy is not as stupid as he looks or pretends to be. I’m also reasonably sure that Loki stole both the tesseract and any other shiny things present in the treasury, because he’s a power magpie in human form.

I also love that Valkyrie is every bit as fight mad as the rest of the Asgardians. I believe Thor when he says that he wanted to be a Valkyrie when he was little. I just get this vision of him running around pretending to be a Valkyrie, Odin going “someone’s going to have to tell him,” and Frigga going “nah, what’s the harm.” Loki is, of course, the one to tell him in the end.

I am trying to decide if Cate Blanchett can do *that* with her voice naturally or if she just has a voice SFX pedal on hand at all times. I want to believe she has a natural reverb setting.

Heimdall is the most polite rescuer ever – “sorry about the violence while I was rescuing you”.

I get why there was almost nothing of the gladiators’ revolt, but I would have liked to have seen a bit of it anyway.

Somehow, Chris Hemsworth looks ever more attractive the more damage he takes. That is voodoo, either from the actor or the director.

I know the scene where Bruce chooses to Hulk out is a counterpoint to the one where Black Widow forces him to, but I think Natasha did the least worst thing there so I am, once again, not the intended audience. It also shows the problem with any Hulk solo film. A goodly chunk of the audience are waiting for the bit where Bruce loses and becomes the Hulk despite himself.

I do love that Thor’s plans involve him doing the risky bit, and total trust in Loki, because he knows that Loki can be trusted, as long as you don’t give him time to think. I wish we’d got the hug that came roughly three nano-seconds after Thor realised that Loki was staying.

The loudest laugh I gave was when the Grandmaster landed amidst the people he’d held under. I live in hope he got his the same way the Beast Rabban got his.

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In other important news, I’d like to give a shout out to EJ at the BFI IMAX. He deserves any Nandos that he got from the blue forms.

Also, just an FYI, if you position yourself just right, the subway tunnels running from the BFI IMAX to Victoria have fantastic acoustics if you’re singing along with Robert Plant. It’s possible that I don’t need the help on the volume though 😉

Blade Runner 2049

 

A lot of the points I am going to mention cover the same ground as Selenak does here.  She explains what I liked and disliked better than I can, in fewer words, so I recommend reading her take on the film, and then coming back to read this for the couple of points where we disagree, and a few more specifically-me points.

 

  • I maintain my feeling of unease about a film about 30 years in the future of what people 40 years ago thought now would look like. Where are the films about what people now think 40 years in the future will look like?

 

  • Denis Villeneuve is a stonkingly good director.  He keeps a lot of the visual language from the original, but imbues it with his own feel which is a lot softer than Ridley Scott’s.

 

  • The BBFC rating includes a warning for sexualised nudity.  Anyone who finds any of the nudity in this film arousing has issues.  I think it was very well done, and thematically works but yes, the director deliberately went for “the commodification of sex and bodies is bad” and it worked.

 

  • The film works best when deals with the flipside of Blade Runner’s “what does it mean to be human”.  2049 asks “what does it mean to not be human?”

Everything below this is a spoiler.

Because the “what is it to be non-human” bits do work, I am more than a little bit miffed that the film’s main answer to the question is reproduction makes you human.  

My miffed is four-fold.  

1) I like to believe that I am not any less human than my friends who have reproduced.  

2) Of all the facets of humanity to choose, the film choose the one we share with animals.  Birds do, bees do it, even educated bacteria do it and so on.  

3) I am sorry to put this quite so bluntly, but in terms of the replicants wanting their freedom, I’ve never known the ability of their slaves to reproduce ever stopping slavemasters keeping their slaves enslaved.  

4)  It goes against the message of the first film, where being human is what you do, not what you are.  The replicants were more human than the humans, quite literally.  Leon and Pris’s willingness to risk what lifespan they had for Zhora and Roy Batty, Pris and Roy Batty’s love for each other and Roy Batty letting Dekker live are all more human than any act of the humans in Blade Runner.

I’m not sure some of the background of the story works with the information from Blade Runner.  Do you believe that a technology that had already been banned from Earth after several previous rebellions would suddenly become legalised just because someone said the technology was now safe?  I don’t either.

I presume that they let the replicants live out amongst humans to try to tie them in closer to humanity so that they’re less likely to rebel.  That’s also reflected in the words that Joe is expected to repeat in his check-ups.

I’m pleased that they decided that Joe wasn’t a human, mostly because you know, Ryan Gosling only has the one facial expression.  It also meant that something I thought was a plot hole wasn’t.  (I’ve gone with calling him Joe because I am terrible at remembering alphanumerics.)

I guessed that the child was actually the girl because the quickest way of hiding someone is saying that they’re dead.  I should have guessed who the child was because such an extreme immunodeficiency suddenly cropping up at 8 is … unlikely.  But I didn’t.  The DNA section threw up another plot hole though because if Joe has the DNA sequence of the child, it should be easy enough to compare it with his own, and, depending on what DNA segment is recorded, he should have been able to check if the female identity or the male one was the real one.

Joi is probably the most human of the characters, in one of the bits where the film decides humanity is the ghost in the machine.  Which is interesting, given that she’s the only unembodied/disembodied character.  She’s the one who makes decisions about herself and chooses danger rather than being forced to betray Joe.  She’s so lovely. And also opens up a whole vista of philosophical questions. Like is she any less human because she’s disembodied? Why does Joe choose her over another replicant (presuming, of course, that as a Replicant he’s not allowed to date humans – did I mention whole vistas?)?  Does Joi choose Joe as a name because it’s the name she’s been programmed to use it as a name or because she likes it?  How much of Joi is Joi and how much is the programming, and is that any different for Joe?

My favourite scene is the one where Joe is going back to Los Angeles and sees the advert for Joi.  He looks at her and it’s so full of love and sadness, because he knows that a new Joi would not be his Joi, and the ghost is in the electrons.  (Okay, so Gosling actually has three expressions, but he’d be more effective if he used the other two in more than one scene each.)

The odd thing is that the weakest scenes in Blade Runner 2049 are the ones that tie it into Blade Runner.

I feel bad about saying that because Harrison Ford is exceptional in his scenes.  The silhouette of Rachel was possibly the most terrifying unseen person since Joyce in “Forever” (Buffy, episode 17 season 5).  And yet, they slow an already slow film down and add nothing, because trust me, I already hated Wallace.  It feels like there were two scripts, one a direct sequel to Blade Runner, and one a more general sci-fi “what measure is a human” one, that they smushed together.

I am not sure what they were trying to do with Wallace, who was so much just Tyrell that D and I just called him not-Tyrell when we were talking about the film.  He’s just so unnecessarily horrible that I was hoping that dear, unstable Luv was going to gut him.  I am most sad that no-one gutted him.

My uncertainty with Wallace begins with his casting.  Given that he’s surrounded by faux-Japanese cultural motifs, why they didn’t just cast a Japanese actor is beyond me.  That was one of the things that did strike me, the film had much less of an Asian influence than the first one (even if I do understand the complaints that for all the Asian set dressing, there were no Asian characters in Blade Runner), and much more of a Soviet one.  It felt odd since I don’t think the Soviets were mentioned even once in Blade Runner, possibly to avoid dating the film.  I suspect this is partly a hangover from filming in Hungary.

On to some more general points:

  • I know why film-makers have characters use axe kicks in films.  They look cool.  I am willing to go with “rule of cool”, even if I don’t like axe kicks.  What I don’t get is why the characters being attacked by axe kicks never use the “proper” defence against them, even if that character is supposed to have fight training.  Axe kicks are so easy to defend against, why does nobody ever do it?!

 

  • I say this about every film he’s in, but when did Dave Batista get so good?  He’s a foot taller than me and about two of me in weight, and yet, when Sapper Morton put his glasses on I wanted to protect him.  That’s a neat trick.

 

  • I really like Hans Zimmer’s work.  If you need a film composer who can ape someone else’s style and rework it into something new, he’s the best choice.  The problem isn’t him, the problem is when the soundsystem of the cinema you are in can’t take all those tones at once, and you get massive reverb even when the soundtrack doesn’t want it.  Also, I’m reasonably sure that chunks of the soundtrack could be used for soundboarding people.  I know it’s deliberate but some of that really messed with my brain.

 

~~~~

In short (too late, I know), Blade Runner 2049 is a good film.  It’s not as good as Blade Runner.  It may or may not be a good sequel to Blade Runner.

Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde is a great soundtrack in search of a film.

I think my anger with the film is because of its wasted potential. It could, and should, have been so much better.

The acting is solid, as is the directing and the technical stuff. The make-up department deserve an Oscar nomination. No, seriously. A character goes into shock and they made the character up to the right shade of pale.

The problem is the plot.

It makes no sense. No, seriously.

Without the last two “twists” (neither of which is a twist if you’d paid any attention during the film), it just about makes sense, because of some serious legwork by the actors, mostly Charlize Theron.

SPOILERS BEGIN HERE

With the penultimate twist, it becomes a solid entry in the gay spy drama category.

Think about it, young British agent, commits a lesbian indiscretion and is blackmailed by the Soviets, becoming Satchel. In protecting herself, she loses yet another chance at happiness and gets Delphine, who is very much the girl she was, killed. But she’s got to see it through to get her freedom. It’s all very bleak and actually works with the story.

Unfortunately, that’s when they throw in the last twist.  Which isn’t a twist and ruins all that has gone before. I’m not joking about it not being a twist. If you’ve ever heard John Goodman’s voice before, you’ll get it about halfway through the film.

With the last twist, a CIA op has killed 3 Allied agents, and one defector, mostly because of a lack of communication by the CIA. And we’re supposed to be happy about this and think it was a successful operation.

Also, MI6 is so incompetent that it didn’t notice a CIA mole, who was pretending to be a Russian mole, for about 10 years.

You’ve got poor Spyglass, killed trying to do the right thing. Then poor David Percival, who is a see you next Tuesday, don’t get me wrong, and in the throws of the traditional British spy middle-life crisis, who finds out that a friend of his was killed by the Russians to protect someone who has betrayed Percival’s government, and therefore goes all dark side. We’re supposed to be happy she kills him, and that he gets blamed for the whole thing, even though she’s the mole and there isn’t a mole, she’s actually triple-agent but the CIA didn’t bother to tell anyone. And I’m like … no.

In short, when your most sympathetic character is a Stasi agent, there is something wrong with the film!

I’m not even going to go into the really weird thing where there is only 1 German actor, who gets no lines in German. All the other Germans and Russians are played by Scandinavians. Now the amassed Vikings all do a damn good job (no, seriously, all my love for Roland Møller and Bill Skarsgård) but if you’re actually filming in Germany, which this was, it’s a bloody odd casting choice.