My weekend films: the rather different “Blade Runner 2049” and “The Lego Ninjago Movie”

“Blade Runner 2049”

You really need to have seen the original 1982 “Blade Runner” to appreciate this long-delayed sequel because the new film is not a self-contained story but – and all the more satisfying for being so – a clever development of the earlier narrative. For this, we must thank Hampton Fancher, the co-writer of both works. Fortunately I’ve seen and massively admired the classic first movie four times, including “The Director’s Cut”, which meant that I was familiar with the back story but anxious about how the new work would turn out. In minutes, my fears were dispelled because “2049” delivers just about all that fans could expect.

It is not just the plotting that is so consistent with the original movie. French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”), British cinematographer Roger Deakins (“Sicario”) and Canadian production designer Dennis Gassner (“Skyfall”) have created a visually stunning world with some awe-inspiring sets and sequences that resonate convincingly the dystopian Los Angeles of Ridley Scott’s earlier work. Even the music, from Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer, while having having its own compelling character echoes the Vangelis soundtrack of old.

While in our world we’ve had to wait an astonishing 35 years for this second film, rather neatly in the cinematic world the action has moved forward three decades. The central blade runner this time is Officer K – Ryan Gosling in an ideal piece of casting – who is tasked with terminating replicants who have gone rogue and, unlike last time when it was merely hinted that Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) was himself a replicant, we are clear that the runner is an android who, initially at least, understands exactly who he is and what he needs to do.

Although women have not been flocking to see “2049”, the film does have four fascinating female characters: K’s virtual girlfriend Joi (Cuban Ana de Armas), his boss Lieutenant Joshi (American Robin Wright), his intended nemesis Luv (Swiss Sylvia Hoeks), and dream-maker Dr. Ana Stelline (Swiss Carla Juri). And, of course, it’s no secret that Harrison Ford is back. Plus we have more musing on the nature of humanity and identity. What’s not to like?

One of the many other delights of the movie though is that it offers some surprises and concludes in a manner that sets us up nicely for a third segment. Hopefully this won’t take 35 years to arrive because I can’t imagine being around that long. Meanwhile I’m going to see “Blade Runner 2049” again because, although it is long (164 minutes) and often leisurely, it is so rich in visuals and narrative that it invites repeat viewing. If I have a reservation about the work, it is that it lacks some of the iconic action scenes of the original, but I can imagine a final part of the trilogy with more vigour and a “Spartacus”-like exposition subtitled “The Replicant Rebellion”.


“The Lego Ninjago Movie”

“The Emoji Movie”, an attempt to emulate the success of “The Lego Movie”, was released just weeks before “The Lego Ninjago Movie”, the third construct in the popular plastic brick film franchise. “Emoji” was a disappointment, whereas “Ninjago” continues the winning formula of the Lego series.

Many children will already be familar with the Ninjago television series and, like “Power Rangers” (another recent film based on a television series), we have a set of heroes with their own colours and powers and, for those are unfamiliar with them, there is a quick exposition of the the six members of the Secret Ninjago Force. Like “The Lego Movie”, the story is neatly book-ended by some live action.

“Ninjago” does not have the originality of the first film in the franchise, but my 10 year old companion really enjoyed it and we can be sure that Lego characters will be back on the big screen sometime soon.


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