Why “Blade Runner 2049” Is Already At the Top of Some Flickcharts (And Whether It Should Be)
I foresee a day when Flickchart’s “Add to my Flickchart” button will be able (at your behest) to cross-check with your streaming service and credit card history to see if a requisite refractory period has passed: “You only walked out of this movie forty-five minutes ago. Are you sure you want to add this to your chart already?”
Ranking a film you’ve just seen for the first time, especially one that you think you’re in love with, is a borderline immoral act. It invites recency bias into what is already a distortion-littered domain, turning the exercise of Flickcharting into a contest of “largeness in the mind” rather than any kind of honest evaluation of your relationship to the film.
But when a film impacts you in huge way, when you are buzzed with exposure to greatness, you may be forgiven for your eagerness to completely make it part of your world. And that means (to us) adding it to your chart tout suite.
That’s one possible reason why Blade Runner 2049 is already rising in the charts: recency bias fueled by irrational excitement.
Also, primed by some of the film’s the early buzz, some of us developed a deep need to not be disappointed. We needed this to be one of those few precious times when Hollywood didn’t waste its money and talent (and our time) on chasing an impossible goal, but rather had done something like justice to the material’s potential. Perhaps because of our desperation, simply “not being disappointed” resulted in overwhelmingly positive feelings, distorting our usually cold-blooded critical faculties.
So that’s another possible reason it’s at the top our charts: we walked into the theater already rooting for this film, and we’d’ve felt like idiots if we didn’t like it.
With all that said, even taking ourselves out of the equation (as much as is possible), BR2k49 is an impossibly great film; a science fiction film, a franchise film no less, which is almost completely devoid of cliche or exposition. As in the original, the world-building feels almost ancillary, the dialog boiled down to only cold, efficient character moments that are more effective at suggesting a complete world than by leapfrogging us across a collection of tropes and familiar patterns of action and conflict. At the beginning, the retro device of on-screen text is used to feed us the bare essentials, as the music starts to work its magic on us, but that is the extent of help that we get.
And let’s talk about the music. I can’t believe they got it right. Even in my fanboy-delusional state, I was assuming that we’d be experiencing the Lost World: Jurassic Park solution: call back to the iconic themes, and then fill the rest with serviceable notes. But Zimmer and Wallfisch have managed to create a legitimate masterwork, no less a one as the original was for Vangelis, an odd and explosive exploration of BIGNESS. Everything about the music is BIG: towering cloudy synthesizers, Tibetan chants and horns that resonate in time, utterly unlike anything Zimmer has done before and perfectly matched to Deckard’s and K’s gray and towering world.
I could also talk about the sound design, the beautifully organic casting, the color palette chosen with Ridley-esque exactitude, but all that is “merely” critique. For a film to rise past the double-digits, it must be more than a film. It must be a teacher. Its qualities as a film should serve to reveal something about the world or about ourselves that would otherwise be obscure.
Blade Runner 2049 is a master class on how doubt and ambiguity can make a beautiful thing seem so much more beautiful, and how we need a little bit of perplexity in order for the soul to really sing in the presence of great art. This film also teaches (chides, really) that those of us who had been mourning the loss of the 2001-style artistic science fiction film (perhaps unknowingly) have been woefully premature. Sometimes our culture becomes so afflicted with the disease of cynicism that we, ironically, are afraid to hope for the future of imagining the future, especially in sequels.
No more. This movie rose to the top our charts lifted by gunmetal drones and the gentle touch of giant invisible girlfriends. In place of cynicism our hearts are filled with a new kind of hopeful love, put there by a sad and handsome Pinocchio and the Golem he found in the desert.
It is, of course, early days. But even if we later retract our ebullience, we will not regret it, because it is in these brief ecstasies that we are reminded of the power of film to teach us and touch us, and to redeem our view of the world no matter how rainy and gray.