We haven’t spoken before about the forthcoming film adaptation of Dune here at Out of Dave’s Head, so let’s rectify that with the arrival of the first trailer.
The road to the screen (and the planet Arrakis) has been a long one for this production but it looks like the wait will have been worth it.
The director, Denis Villeneuve, has a pretty impressive track record with films including Sicario, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 under his belt, and that cast is simply phenomenal, including Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Oscar Issac, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Dave Bautista, Charlotte Rampling, Stellan Skarsgård and Rebecca Ferguson (in case you weren’t paying attention to that trailer).
But Dune is a notoriously tough nut to crack in transporting author Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel to the screen. Just ask David Lynch. It’s certainly a good omen that the director recognised the world of Dune was too complex for a single film and insisted on splitting the first book into two parts.
However, this is a huge undertaking and that sequel is not yet a certainty. Production company Legendary have not officially greenlit it, so if you want to see the conclusion get out there, buy tickets and see this film at a cinema (observing safe social distancing, naturally).
Fingers crossed that Villeneuve and company succeed, and we can all find out when Dune opens in December.
Let’s get this out of the way first: Blade Runner 2049 has not resulted in the kind of film I feared it would be when I first heard that this belated sequel would happen and thought: “That has to be the worst idea in the history of bad ideas.”
Quite the opposite, in fact. Director Denis Villeneuve, screenwriters Hampton Fancher (also partly responsible for the original) & Michael Green, executive producer Ridley Scott and their crew have offered up one of the most powerful science fiction films of the new millennium. It’s been a long time, in fact, since we’ve been given a cinematic experience as pure as this.
Set 30 years after Scott’s classic, the sequel sees a mystery set in place when Ryan Gosling’s Blade Runner retires a Replicant-in-hiding who has been guarding a secret which could change the course of the world forever.
From just that plot description it’s clear this is no mere retread of the first movie, which had a fairly contained hunter versus hunted narrative.
Villeneuve and company paint on a much broader canvas, and this time the questions seem to revolve around not what it is to be human, but what it is to be more than human. It has an utterly palpable mood of tense gloom, giving you the constant feeling that something big and awful is about to happen, but it does this by widening the scope of Scott’s world, which is quite an act to pull off.
The music (by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, with plenty of nods to Vangelis) is bold and wonderful, the sound design by Theo Green and Mark Mangini is overwhelming and the cinematography by the cinematic god that is Roger Deakins is dazzling and beautiful, all of which work together to produce something that absolutely demands to be seen on the big screen. As big a screen as possible.
Gosling is great in the lead (as ‘K’), and while it’s a little difficult to go into depth on his role while avoiding spoilers, he finds just the right balance of what must have been a tricky character to get right. The rest of the cast is filled out by superb actors who know how to make the best of smaller roles, but the film really belongs to Gosling and, of course, Harrison Ford.
Ford returns as Blade Runner, Deckard, and I honestly can’t recall when I last saw him so fully engaged and fully immersed in a role. He is magnificent, Deakins’ camera loving every deep crag and crevice on his sandblasted face, and is a full-on the movie star of the old guard. I hope this is the beginning of a renaissance for the actor, because I’ve missed seeing him do great work onscreen.
There is a slight thorn in this rose, however. An unfortunate element that stands out is that the future as presented here is very much patriarchal: street-walkers roam in packs, artificial women are everywhere, as companions and toys for men, their sole aim to pleasure. And there’s a great deal of violence towards women (four female characters are brutally murdered). This troublesome theme pushes to the forefront of the story with Jared Leto’s Wallace, as he casually kills one of the synthetics his company has just given birth to. It’s a (deliberately) horrific scene, and I’m still trying to decide whether this is a deliberate part of the texturing, a barbed comment on misogyny in society and even if so, whether it was a necessary choice for the film. I’m not so sure.
I love the original with a vengeance, and while I’m glad they didn’t attempt to replicate (…sorry…) that film, what results is a somewhat colder effort than Scott’s remarkable and enduring tone poem, and only time will tell whether this will similarly work its way into my affections.
It’s rather like hearing a new track by Led Zeppelin, riffing on one of your favourite Beatles songs, you know you’re getting something astonishing but you’re not sure if you’ll grow to love it.
However, against all the odds, Blade Runner 2049 is a towering achievement, a smart, powerful juggernaut of a movie which ultimately suggests something akin to hope for mankind. In an era of cookie cutter sequels that we’ve been given a sequel to a great movie that forges it’s own unique path is close to a miracle, which means that, much like the original, it’s a film which comments on its own premise (you’ll need to see the film to fully understand that).
Movies like this don’t come along too often and when they do we should celebrate them. Go to a cinema and experience it.
If you’re anything like me you’re desperate to see something new from Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, so this just-released making of featurette should send you to bed happy or start your day right.
Featuring lots of beautiful new footage (courtest of Roger Deakins, one of the true modern masters of cinematography), this may well be all you need to see between now and October 6th. I’ve certainly reached the point where I don’t want to see anything more beyond this, as I plan to go into the cinema as spoiler-free as possible.
In the meantime, feast your eyes on the featurette and pray to whatever movie gods you hold dear that this won’t sully the memory of Ridley Scott’s seminal 1982 movie.
Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, is executive produced by Ridley Scott, Tim Gamble, Frank Giustra, Yake Badick, Vale Hill and Bill Carraro, produced by Andrew A. Kosove & Broderick Johnson, Bud Yorkin & Cynthia Yorkin, story by Hampton Fancher (based on characters created by Phillip K Dick), screenplay by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green and directed by Denis Villeneuve.
Considering I once thought of Blade Runner 2049 as being on top of my ‘Most Unnecessary Sequels Ever’ list I’m amazed this film has become one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and the brand new trailer has only ramped up that anticipation.
One of the most enticing aspects promised by the trailer (and everything else we’ve seen from the film so far) is that, while it’s obviously set in the same world as executive producer Ridley Scott’s 1982 original, it already very much feels like its own thing.
This possibly shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, since director Denis Villeneuve has displayed such a strong voice in films like Sicario and Arrival, but it’s heartening to have it confirmed that this won’t be a soulless retread.
It’s also worth pointing out just how beautiful Blade Runner 2049 is looking, and cinematographer Roger Deakins is certainly earning his pay. This baby is going to be eye-wateringly stunning on the big screen.
Released on October 16th, Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, along with Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto (no, wait… come back…), Ana de Armas, Mackenzie Davies and Edward James Olmos.
Hopefully you’re as buzzed by this as I am…