Blade Runner 2049

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As I start to write this I am not sure if it’s a soundtrack review or just my reaction to the movie but as I have been thinking about it since I saw it 2 days ago, I feel compelled to just type.

The original movie is special to a lot of people. I saw it when it opened, I was motionless and in awe all the way through. Afterward I remember repeating ‘how come no-one knows about this movie?’ Then there was no internet and it hadn’t received a lot of reviews. We all know that it had a slow start but has come to be regarded a classic and changed future science fiction films for ever. Applause to Mr Ridley Scott! So from then on the movie was embedded in my psyche, a constant referall when others talked about other sci-fi films.

It’s an audacious thing to do, venture into that unique world 35 years later but then the theme of ‘skin jobs’ opens a whirlpool of morality issues more relevant than ever as we have now cloned a sheep, have robots building cars plus there is huge investment being put into synthetics of the bodily type. Why would we not want to look into the world of the future? Especially as it’s set 30 years from the first film and 2049 is only 32 years away.

We know what we are doing to the planet but feel little is being done. The digital age when newborn was exciting. We could email each other which was exciting and life changing. But we gave little thought to it’s immense power. And so when K or Joe [the name given to him so as to humanise his relationship with his hologram girlfriend] is seen climbing a hill of metal waste, we nervously smile to ourselves out of recognition. It’s the same when K travels to the eternal redness [almost orange] of Las Vegas.  Is this what we are facing we ask? All this gives us an attachment to the film we didn’t necessarily have when the first film came out.

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There are so many nods to the first film and if you haven’t seen the original you will miss them all – to misquote Roy Batty “we have seen things…”. They are beautifully placed. In fact if you haven’t seen the original and haven’t bothered to do some homework you may not get to grips with this amazing sequel at all and this is a good thing as both films are tightly seamed together and with an insert saying “30 Year On” could be watched as one.

It’s got a much slower pace that Blade Runner, almost meditative. But to me it wasn’t a good idea to have a running time of 2 hours 43 minutes even though it looks as good as it does which might make it easier for others to deal with the length. In fact I do remember when seeing the original which runs for 1 hour 57 minutes, I wanted to see more of this strange new world. I, like many, rewatched the first film just before going to to see the sequel and realised how the films chapters fitted together like lego, you never loose concentration. With a tightening up of several scenes in this new version it would have flowed much better.

One character didn’t fit quite right for me in 2049. That of Nianda Wallace played by Jared Leto who follows on from Eldon Tyrell. Tyrell built a corporation on genetically engineering replicants. As he was murdered it’s obvious that another character had to replace him. Wallace has taken the replicants far beyond Tyrell’s Nexus 6 range. First off [and probably a daft thought but I’ll go ahead anyway] – why was he blind? It seemed to close to Tyrell’s obvious sight problems which he overcame with impossibly thick spectacles.  Secondly -we know one has to be mad to genetically engineer on such a huge scale but surely Wallace has really lost the plot…reaching the scale of becoming god as he didn’t speak but prophesied in every line he delivered. In the scene where he meets Deckard none of what Wallace said made any sense.

And what of the beleaguered soundtrack? I was exhilertaed to hear that Johan Johansson was originally going to score it. A perfect choice in my mind and he is one the most atmospheric composers. But then he was pulled off the project. The reasons why abound on the web so I won’t repeat them here but I will say that the producers intervened way too late which is just absurd on such a crucial movie. And it shows, the replacement score by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is sufficient but not mind blowing.

Nor surisingly it sounds rushed. It’s a sound pallet which creates an atmosphere rather than addresses any specific moments in the film. It’s a good and fitting atmosphere but it doesn’t take any part in building any character cues even though there a couple in there they do not give any insight. The opening track ‘2049’ begins with the same electrifying and mechanical doom as the original soundtrack but none of the score has the rich melodic feel of Vangelis who built a world of varying textures. A beautiful other worldliness.

And there’s the rub – even though the first score was not nominated for an Oscar [oh how that still hurts] it ranks as one of the of the best ever. And it is one of the best ever, it is outstanding. So who was ever going to match that and should it have been similar to the original anyway? Well, I guess not but in my humble opinion why not?

Saying all this I do like the new score but it’s just not special. There was a glimmer of the original soundtrack but you had to wait a while to hear it. In what I hope and surely is a tribute to Vangelis, it’s entitled ‘Tears In The Rain”.  But let’s not dismiss Zimmer & Wallfisch. Let’s not dismiss it just because it hasn’t the playability of the first score. And let’s remember in 2049 the world is more bleak planet than the first film and this new score definitely tells of a stark, terrifying and lost future.

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HIDDEN FIGURES BY HANS ZIMMER, PHARRELL WILLIAMS & BENJAMIN WALLFISCH – SOUNDTRACK REVIEW

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“This started off with all of us piling into a room and playing together. I had this idea: How do these women think differently about mathematics? They dance about math. The rhythm shouldn’t be straight, it should swing a little. It really was the three of us. People don’t understand that we really do work well as musicians in bands.
Hans Zimmer

Initially this was a problem for me, I don’t really like it when two composers work on a soundtrack let alone three. Call me a purist but I have heard a few collaborations on scores and they always come across as uneven. So I put some work in and read about how they they put it all together. Williams is one the films producers who was working on some songs with a 60’s vibe, Zimmer said that he would have “the right playbook”. And of course Wallfisch had previously contributed music to Zimmer’s ‘Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice’ score. It still didn’t sell the idea to me but I settled sown to listen to the score.

Hidden Figures is the story [not well known before the movie] of African American women working at NASA in the early 60″s.  It opens with Katherine, a plaintive piano that is overtaken by a female voice which accompanies it well. Mission Control gives us the first rush of a ‘spacey’ sound – a short pulse with a driving under bass. This returns in the start of Space Task Group, the piano returns and the low tones telling of the continued failures of the group. Plucked strings and a short base line gives a comedic nuance to Slice of Pie.

Redacted is a joy of a cue with those plucky strings re-apearring and then at 1:01 a bass and a muted trumpet make a delicious sound [I love this cue!] Redstone is another strong cue where  ‘babbling’ voices gives a sense of a puzzled mind working at 100 miles an hour, it’s a clever twist. The babble is reprised in the tense cue Launch. Rocket Peril is not short of a small symphony which soars.

All the rich elements which make this soundtrack follow through in cue after cue, giving the soundtrack a richness of texture. It’s a soundtrack I will return to. To say it has a feel-good factor does not cheapen the overall score, it strives and lifts. I heard the signatures of all three composers albeit that Williams touch only came to my mind a couple of times. Has it changed my mind about collaborations? Well, I will admit that as much as I really enjoyed this score I think I remain cautious.

TRACK LIST

1. Katherine 2:37
2. Mission Control 1:17
3. I’d Already Be One 1:08
4. Space Task Group 2:56
5. Slice Of Pie 1:05
6. Redacted 1:26
7. With All The Angels 1:35
8. Redstone 1:36
9. Call Your Wives 3:23
10. Launch 2:21
11. That’s Just The Way Things Are 2:25
12. Sign 1:11
13. Kitchen Kiss 0:55
14. Mary And The Judge 1:30
15. I Like Her Numbers 2:07
16. Ladies’ March 1:25
17. Mary And Levi 2:12
18. Euler’s Method 1:23
19. Proposal 1:40
20. Pearls 2:41
21. Katherine Calculates 1:32
22. Lift Off 3:11
23. Warning Light 0:59
24. Rocket Peril 3:10
25. Hidden Figures 3:50
26. Epilogue 0:38
Total Album Time: 50:13

Columbia Label

Note that there is also Hidden Figures The Album featuring songs used in the film together with songs composed by Pharrell Williams, also on the Columbia label.

A CURE FOR WELLNESS by BENJAMIN WALLFISCH Soundtrack Review

 

a-cure-for-wellness[Soundtrack Cover]

This is by far one of the most interesting of Wallfisch’s scores. Given the eerie subject matter – a company’s CEO is in an idyllic but mysterious ‘wellness centre’ in the Swiss Alps. An employee, sent to retrieve him, who soon realises that the spa treatments are not what they appear to be – the scope is quite wide. And with cues entitled .. Terrible Darkness, Nobody Ever Leaves and Clearly He’s Lost His Mind, Wallfisch has definitively delivered.

It opens with a young female voice humming a short refrain which we hear throughout the score and which has an old world feel about. Rites is a strong cue, dark and ethereal with chorus and very deep mail voices [such as in Buddhist chants], these seem to rise from another world. Feuerwalzer is a waltz intertwined with a full orchestral dramatic cue. Clearly He’s Lost His Mind starts with music that would have suited the end piece in The Shining. The end cue, Volmer’s Lab has a childlike feel, almost a message after the mayhem trying to assure us that everything is well. Volmer Institut has an unexpected beauty about it whilst Lipstick is almost indescribable and sounds like continued distorted volume!
This is an odd score for a very odd film but it’s totally compelling. The mix of orchestral works with some of the darkness sounds I have ever heard on a soundtrack, give this score a overwhelming sense of fear and madness.

TRACK LIST
1. Hannah And Volmer (4:35)
2. Nobody Ever Leaves (1:49)
3. Bicycle (2:00)
4. The Rite (3:42)
5. Feuerwalzer (3:44)
6. Magnificent, Isn’t It? (2:11)
7. Actually I’m Feeling Much Better (1:59)
8. Clearly He’s Lost His Mind (2:49)
9. Our Thoughts Exactly (1:03)
10. Volmer Institut (3:02)
11. Terrible Darkness (3:18)
12. Lipstick (4:21)
13. Waiting (0:55)
14. Zutritt Verboten (3:38)
15. There’s Nothing Wrong With You People (1:25)
16. Lockhart’s Letter (2:12)
17. Volmer’s Lab (3:32)
18. I Wanna Be Sedated – Mirel Wagner (3:38)

Milan Music

2015…The Other Scores

Vector 2015 Happy New Year background
Filmic Tracks

Now that the Oscars have signaled more or less, the end of the awards season I would like to list a few scores which either didn’t appear in any nomination lists or if they did, didn’t get the gong they deserved. It was a strange year for scores in as much as it started so slow and then [as always I guess] they came in their droves at the end of the year. Comedy scores were many and there was so much good stuff in the endless TV scores on offer.

I have waxed lyrically about some of these scores in the Reviews section of this blog and played tracks from all scores on my Filmic radio show on  Radio Nowhere so if you have some time on your hands and a comfy seat check out some of these brilliant scores which didn’t get the attention they deserved.

In no particular order:-

Ant Man  – Christophe Beck
The Man From Uncle – Daniel Pemberton
The Fantastic Four – Marco Beltrami & Philip Glass
Aesino’s Inocentes – Pablo Cervantes
Broken Horses – John Debney
Desert Dancer – Benjamin Wallfisch
Far From The Madding Crowd – Craig Armstrong
Lost Rover – Johnny Jewell
A Little Chaos – Peter Gregson
Listen Up Philip – Keegan DeWitt
Ex Machina – Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow
The Duke of Burgundy – Cat’s Eye’s
Gold Coast – Johan Caroe & Lasse Martinussen & Angelo Badalameti