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.
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.