Monday 12 August 2019

Blade Runner 2049: Or Why Has Deckard Become Tannhauser & Why Is The Venusberg Empty?

I want to take you back to 1982. A young(er) Wotan is wondering the mean streets one, hot, summer evening. A bit like Travis Bickle, but without the homicidal tendencies. It's the big city, but the bad end of town. I'm going to my favourite flea pit cinema. This was before the dreaded multiplexes had really taken off, Although Odeon cinemas, and their like, had long started to split up their theatres to smaller multi-screens. If you wanted to see a film on a full-sized, old fashioned screen, in general, you had to go to flea pits, These didn't have the money to alter their interiors and break up the screen size, with the consequence of allowing one  to see films as they should be: on really giant screens, This evening I'm on my way see a film that is being liberally panned by critics. They really, really hate it:

Said Roger Ebert: "He (Ridley Scott) seems more concerned with creating his film worlds than populating them with plausible characters, and that's the trouble this time. "Blade Runner" is a stunningly interesting visual achievement, but a failure as a story."

Said the New York Times "And it's also a mess, at least as far as its narrative is concerned. Almost nothing is explained coherently, and the plot has great lapses, from the changeable nature of one key character to the frequent disappearances of another. The story lurches along awkwardly, helped not at all by some ponderous stabs at developing Deckard's character. As an old-fashioned detective cruising his way through the space age, Deckard is both tedious and outre."

Indeed, perhaps the reviews are best summed up by Harrison Ford who, when asked to summarise the film in an interview at the time said sarcastically, "It's a film about whether you can have a meaningful relationship with your toaster."

But I had seen the trailer and some scenes on Barry Norman's "Film Night" (he hated it too) and liked its film noir looks, Plus, I liked P.K. Dick and his book upon which the film was, loosely, based. 117 minutes later and I thought I had seen a masterpiece of modern cinema. It took nearly a decade for professional reviewers to agree. And as long for the film to start to turn a profit.

So, here we are nearly 40 years later and along comes a sequel. And this time critics love it, falling over themselves to tell us how great it. But here is the rub, its not good. It's boring, overlong, unimaginative. It contains little logical consistency with the film that proceeded it,. It's derivative, but oddly of many other films and works of art. It's tedious and shallow and while presenting the same visual universe, it manages to make that universe look dull. And worse, it is a misogynistic, sexist mess.

It has taken me two sittings to get through this movie - and it is a "movie". I fell asleep two hours into its nearly 3 hours running time the first time. And yes, before you say anything, I watched it on the "big screen".

It's 30 years after the events of the original. The Tyrel Corporation has gone bankrupt, not after its founder was murdered in the original, but after a mass revolt of Nexus 8's - or something - caused all replicants to be banned everywhere - or something. Thus Tyrel is no longer the most powerful corporation on the planet. That corporation is now the Wallace Corporation, named after its founder, Lucifer, the Demiurge, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, sorry, I mean Niander Wallace. Wallace's company has become so powerful because it managed to bioengineer grubs as a food source - or something. It has also started "manufacturing" Replicants again. Not too sure why this was allowed so soon after the mass revolt of the Nexus 8s but hell, why not - or something.

Wallace is a Bond villain, but a really boring one. He is also Lucifer. We know this because he is the god of the replicants - given that he creates them. But unlike their orginal god, Tyrel, his replicants are flawed. They cannot reproduce. Did I forget to mention? It seems that Tyrel had managed to engineer his replicants to reproduce - maybe. Actually, perhaps this makes Wallace more like the gnostic Demiurge? A flawed god, who thinks he is the great creator but only of flawed creations?

These new Replicants are not only allowed on off-world colonies, per the first film but are now also enslaved and work on earth. Not too sure why, as they carry the exact same "risk to humanity" as the early Nexus 6s. More so perhaps as they have had their limited 4-year lifespan removed and yet still have the risk of developing their own emotions.

Blade Runner's still exist though, mainly tracking down those remaining Nexus 8s - or something. They too are replicants, like the "hero" of this film, Ryan Gosling's "K" (As an aside, in an uninteresting, misogynistic, and persistent, side story K has a romantic involvement with this world's version of Siri.). During one retirement of a rogue replicant, he discovers that Deckard and Rachel, of the first film, went off and had a baby replicant - born by biological means. The rest of the movie involves him trying to track down Deckard and this child.  "Dramatic tension" - apparently - is increased as he is being followed by Wallaces personal killing machine, henchwoman, a replicant named: Jaws, Odd Job, I mean "Luv" so that he might capture the child, dissect it and work out how to make his own replicants "self-replicating". Que, maniacal laughter while stroking the white, furry, cat upon his lap (No! He doesn't. Although, he does have a standard bond villain physical "flaw". In this case, he is blind. One is convinced that perhaps in director Denis Villeneuve's world view a flawed being can only make flawed creations? Given his treatment of women, nothing would surprise).

It takes K two hours of the film's running time to track down Deckard, after. a long chapter which seems to involve him wondering into the orphanage from Dickens' Olver Twist but being run by Fagan and visualised following repeated viewing of Mad Max 3. Indeed, I was very surprised when  Tina Turner didn't make a guest appearance singing "We don't need another hero. 

Deckard is living in the Venusberg, as conceived by Richard Wagner - or at least as often visualised by opera directors - in his work Tannhauser. Or in this case a decaying Las Vegas, But Venus is long gone. Indeed, all the gods have gone. Or if they are present, they are flawed, broken, represented as failing holograms of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. Venus may still exist in this world but as a giant, naked, commercial hologram, stalking the streets of LA. offering any lonely man a "good time". You see, in Roy Batty's famous final monologue (in which perhaps he finally comes to terms with his own mortality, the importance of others lives and why living may be worthwhile after all) he notes "I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate." The reference to "Tannhauser gate" has fascinated fans of this film for decades, even spawning a popular fan site based upon it. It seems to be the Denis Villeneuve  nod to this while helping him plod through his discussion of gods and religion

Final Act. Blade Runner 1982 orginal.

And here we have the two greatest "sins" of this movie - its misogyny and its shallow "investigation" of religion and "god". The orginal Blade Runner was an investigation and discussion of several things: misogyny, sexual exploitation, religion, racism and death. Death was its overriding theme and one that makes sense given that Ridley Scott, developed and made this movie so soon after the early death of his brother. But it also looked critically upon sexual exploitation, (watch closely the scenes between Deckard and "exotic dancer" replicant Zorah), misogyny (this time look at Pris's scenes with Sebastian, especially the last one with Roy), racism (Deckard's disgust and criticism is most obvious in the theatrical releases voice-over). And of course, the inevitability and "waste" of death and perhaps both coming to terms with it and the way it should help us value life. (the entire film, but especially the last act).

But how does Denis Villeneuve address these themes?  Well apart from the death or impotence of god - and the commercialisation of religion - he doesn't. Tyrel is dead, a poor god anyway in the orginal film, his successor is a bigger failure, unable to even design his creations to reproduce. The gods are in their heavens but clearly, just ordinary beings like ourselves,  Humans that we have projected to god-like status: Elvis and Munroe's holograms in Vagas. But even these are dying; broken down and hardly functional. Otherwise, we have commercialised our gods. They are reduced to prostitution on the streets of LA (giant naked, female hologram offering a "good time"). It's all, just,  so clunky. But worse, is Denis Villeneuve's treatment of women in this movie.

There are only four types of women in this movie: sex workers, subservient housewives,  and cold-hearted killers - or at least women that ask men to kill for them. And of course, the latter are the "bad guys" over whom the male lead must conquer.  There is only one exception, the human involved in producing memories given to replicants. But even she too is a female stereotype: weak and sick, confined to an artificial world because to enter the harsh, real-world would kill her. A poor delicate flower, good at heart, living in an artificial fantasy world.

 "What are little girls made of? What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice. And everything nice. That's what little girls are made of."

 Perhaps the perfect movie for societies determined to strip women of control of their own bodies? An interesting notion for a movie about a female replicant who gives birth even though that should be impossible.

Monday 22 July 2019

Like Colonel Kane, I Do This For You

I am back. What? No one noticed I had been away? Well, screw you! Anyway, it has been a few years but, I have now sat through too many bad films to remain silent. Actually, let's be honest, I feel like Colonel Walter E. Kurtz. Honestly! Don't you feel:

Call me mad, but like Colonel Kane, I do this so you may be saved. And if you don't get that final reference? Well, that's why I am here. And if you don't get the first reference? Why are you here? Scat! Get out of here! Another Marvel (Apart from Deadpool, Deadpool movies are good), DC, Disney movie will be along any minute now.

Friday 27 February 2015

Leonard Simon Nimoy March 26, 1931 – February 27, 2015

A very sad day.

"I'm touched by the idea that when we do things that are useful and helpful - collecting these shards of spirituality - that we may be helping to bring about a healing." — Leonard Nimoy

"I am not Spock." — Leonard Nimoy

"Spock is definitely one of my best friends. When I put on those ears, it's not like just another day. When I become Spock, that day becomes something special." — Leonard Nimoy

"You proceed from a false assumption: I have no ego to bruise." — Leonard Nimoy

"You know, for a long time I have been of the opinion that artists don't necessarily know what they're doing. You don't necessarily know what kind of universal concept you're tapping into." — Leonard Nimoy

 "LLAP" Leonard Nimoy, and also Spock

Sunday 22 June 2014


By David Brin, Ph.D.

"But there's probably no better form of government than a good despot."
George Lucas (New York Times interview, March 1999)

Well, I boycotted Episode I: The Phantom Menace -- for an entire week.

Why? What's to boycott? Isn't Star Wars good old fashioned sci-fi? Harmless fun? Some people call it "eye candy" -- a chance to drop back into childhood and punt your adult cares away for two hours, dwelling in a lavish universe where good and evil are vividly drawn, without all the inconvenient counterpoint distinctions that clutter daily life.

Got a problem? Cleave it with a light saber! Wouldn't you love -- just once in your life -- to dive a fast little ship into your worst enemy's stronghold and set off a chain reaction, blowing up the whole megillah from within its rotten core while you streak away to safety at the speed of light? (It's such a nifty notion that it happens in three out of four Star Wars flicks.)

Anyway, I make a good living writing science-fiction novels and movies. So "Star Wars" ought to be a great busman's holiday, right?

One of the problems with so-called light entertainment today is that somehow, amid all the gaudy special effects, people tend to lose track of simple things, like story and meaning. They stop noticing the moral lessons the director is trying to push. Yet these things matter.

By now it's grown clear that George Lucas has an agenda, one that he takes very seriously. After four Star Wars films, alarm bells should have gone off, even among those who don't look for morals in movies. When the chief feature distinguishing "good" from "evil" is how pretty the characters are, it's a clue that maybe the whole saga deserves a second look.

Just what bill of goods are we being sold, between the frames? Elites have an inherent right to arbitrary rule; common citizens needn't be consulted. They may only choose which elite to follow.

"Good" elites should act on their subjective whims, without evidence, argument or accountability.

Any amount of sin can be forgiven if you are important enough.

True leaders are born. It's genetic.

The right to rule is inherited. Justified human emotions can turn a good person evil.

That is just the beginning of a long list of moral lessons relentlessly pushed by Star Wars. Lessons that starkly differentiate this saga from others that seem superficially similar, like Star Trek.

The Apocalyptic Cosmology of Star Wars

One might, or might  not agree with it but it displays an interesting point of view:

John Lyden is Associate Professor Religion at Dana College in Blair, Nebraska. He received his B. A. in philosophy from Wesleyan University, his M. A. in theology from Yale Divinity School, and his Ph. D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. His dissertation concerned Karl Barth's theological use of Immanuel Kant's philosophical epistemology. More recently, he has been interested in interreligoius dialogue (especially Jewish-Christian dialogue) and the relationship between religion and popular culture, notable popular film.

Originally published in: The Journal of Religion & Film
April 2000


 The paper analyzes the saga of Star Wars as a text that has borrowed extensively from biblical apocalyptic. There is a cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil; a great cataclysm is foretold, but the faithful will survive with the help of God (The Force); a messiah figure (Luke) appears; and a new world order will come about in which justice triumphs and wickedness is punished. This myth is made relevant to modem viewers by being framed as a battle of technology vs. the natural human: the machine Vader vs. the human Anakin, the Death Star vs. the Force, Imperial walkers vs. primitive Ewoks. The films' apparent technophilia is cover for a technophobic message: we must remember our humanity lest we be absorbed or destroyed by our machine creations.

Sunday 3 March 2013

Listen to David Bowie's New CD free & prior to release

In an unprecedented move, Itunes are presently steaming on demand,  Bowie's new, and might I say best in years, album The Next Day prior to its official release. And whats more for free. I wouldn't normally encourage Itunes with free advertising but in this case... To listen log into the Itunes store on whatever device you normally use (or go here if you don't) and it will appear on the homepage. Or alternatively simply click THIS LINK. Hear it 8 days before its official release.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

New Short Film From David Bowie

Well, some might call it a music video but Bowie has been at this for far to long to throw out anything so "crass". And given his latest set of videos seem to be ruthlessly ridiculing the odd rumours about him that have circulated since his "retirement" 10 years ago... The video to the new single "The Stars (are out tonight)" proves no different. While the music shows a more than solid return to form. Musically closer perhaps to Outside then his previously released single which lay closer to the rather maudlin "Hours", the video features British actor Tilda Swinton, directed with Floria Sigismondi's usual flair for "jittery camera work" and cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth (Fight Club, The Social Network, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Hitchcock - one of the only good things about Hitchcock its worth noting).

Is it also satirizing the blog Tilda Stardust which attempts to "prove" that bowie and Swinton are one and the same? Perhaps, but given Bowie's strange sense of humor - and that the fact that the blog looks like a number of others that have appeared over that years regarding Bowie whose author seems suspiciously familiar - I would hate to guess. Although interested readers might want to investigate the "Nate Tate Affair"