Monday 25 April 2016

Why I love Blade Runner: The Bastion

The Final Cut is the one they did in 2007, for the 25th anniversary of the film, and it is exquisite. It is the way I have always remembered the film when I'm not watching it. That's what they've done. They've cleaned it up. The dialogue syncs with the video, you can't see the stunt doubles' faces, the flying cars aren't on wires, and you can't see off the side of the set in the closing scenes on the rooftop.

It's got all that unicorn stuff that a lot of people don't like, but Deckard was always a replicant to me. Nothing to do with the unicorn, or the glowing eyes. It's just a better story.

Whenever they need one, they unwrap one of these Deckard replicants, install the original Deckard's memories, and then let him go out and get Chinese food, so that they can go and ask him to come back for 'just one more job'. Maybe they let him do more than that. Maybe he has a shower. Who knows? Then they give him a gun, and send him out to kill replicants who weren't engineered to think that they're human. They're basically monstrous, terrifying children. Petulant teenagers who can lift a full grown adult up with one arm.

He could've died at any point in that film, and I assume they'd just send out another one. I'm fairly certain that there's only one in the film, but hypothetically, they could. If he had died, it would've cheapened his role in the grand drama, and it is. That. A grand drama. For Deckard, Roy, Pris, Leon, Zhora, Rachel, and Tyrell (who is also a replicant) this whole story is life and death. It's huge for them. It's completely defining. But they're just playing roles in a game.

Making J.F. Sebastian one of the only humans that gets caught up in this whole thing (him, Holden, and Hannibal Chew), and the only one we really get to know, and everything that we see of him gives us insight into the kind of person that he is. Everything. The grubby workers overalls with precision tools in the front pocket that he wears. Speech, facial expressions, and body language that all move forward in moments, giving us piecemeal thoughts and actions. An apartment that is cluttered and untidy in two rooms, while the rest is in a state of near complete dilapidation. His friends consist of incomplete people, dummies, and children, with the only two that seem to be of any great complexity being a caricature and a teddy bear who're dressed in military getup.

Sebastian is the only one of the humans who're killed that we get to know, and they make a point of showing us that he is essentially alone. I mean, he's not. He's not. He has friends. He has his friends. The friends that he made. The friends that he genetically engineered. It's important to understand that. They're alive. They're living things.

J.F. Sebastian may be only tangentially associated with society, but he's not alone. That's what they're showing us.

He's surrounded by these living things, and the last time that they see him is when he leaves with Roy to see Tyrell.

How complex are their minds? How complex is their understanding of the world? It's stated in the film that Tyrell designs the minds of the Nexus models, but what are the extent of J.F. Sebastian's talents in the area? Their not complex enough not to walk into walls, but definitely complex enough to be wary of Roy and Pris where Sebastian is not. Not enough to look past the gift of human interaction.

So, these replicants play out their grand opera. Their lives and existences are defined, and their epic roles are cast in high melodrama, and in their wake they've destroyed something that was a kind of beautiful, and in reality, there isn't anyone left to give a shit. Not really. It's terrifying, and it's tragic, and it's straight up fucking beautiful.

Then you never see the teddy bear again after Roy and Sebastian go to see Tyrell. Did he understand enough of what was going on that Pris had to kill him? Was she worried that he might warn someone who came by? Did she coax the bear away from JF's other friends and crush the life out of him as a precaution? Did this all happen when we weren't looking?

I'm telling you now that I can't deal with that. That bit's too much for me. It can be argued that you can hear him greeting Deckard when he arrives, but you just don't see him, and that's enough for me. I argue that point, because the image of Pris at her most violently predatory towards this sentient teddy bear who only at the last moment might understand what is happening is too much for me.

But either way, the replicants still go on with what little's left of their lives, and the city rolls on. The Blade Runner unit gets out another Deckard when they need it, and the Tyrell Corporation gets out another Rachel and another Tyrell.

But next time it plays out this funny little guy who built himself his own little bastion from the decaying world around him and populated it with the things in his own mind won't be there, but the friends he left behind will be. Will they always wonder what happened to him? Do they continue to expect him home at any moment? Are they sad? Do they miss him?

It makes me cry every fucking time, because it should.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Wonder Woman: Dawn of Justice

I wanted to say a whole seperate thing about Dawn of Justice's Wonder Woman, because she's not in the title of the film, and really the only reason she isn't there is because it's been so long since she's been really clear in the public consciousness.

But when she turns up in the costume and her new theme booms through the cinema you're pretty certain that she needs her own film.

Outside of the comics she's mostly been an ensemble player since her TV series ended in 1979. Then for years it was Super Friends, then all those Justice Leagues that they've had, of which Super Friends is also one. There was the animated Wonder Woman, which despite being both critically and financially successful compared to other animated DC films is still fairly obscure.

But, I could go on about how much I really like all of the animated depictions of Wonder Woman until the cows come how, but I don't have cows anymore, and even when I did, they were steers. And they never really wandered far enough away that we really worried about whether or not they were home. But I could happily, because there's some pretty wild stuff in that rabbit hole.

Like so many other DC characters, Wonder Woman's public image sort of suffered at the hands of previous mainstream depictions. They weren't necessarily bad when it was that they were happening, except for Super Friends, which apart from that one half of every episode for that one season was more or less entirely terrible all of the time, but those other ones, they didn't age well.

Linda Carter was great, but the decades have flown by in their invisible jet, and she just sort of looks silly, but they all do. Less silly than Adam West, but probably about as silly as Christopher Reeves, except in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace where everybody looks incredibly silly.

I am way off mission here.

This new Wonder Woman is the Wonder Woman that I think she is meant to have been. They've gone back to the mythology. Imagine a more serious take on a cross between Highlander, Athena, James Bond, and Xena: Warrior Princess, which now that I'm saying it sounds really silly, but just try and imagine that, but with a really serious face.

That's what's happening. It's fucking weird if you think about it too hard. But that's who she's always been really. I mean tonally, no. No. DC are bad this, I've said so before, but this is good.

I've spoiled shit already. If you go back over what I've just said, I've spoiled stuff, but that isn't really important. What is important is that this new Wonder Woman is an Amazonian super spy, who's come to wreck shop.

That's her thing. It's one of her things. She has lots of things.

The lasso is there, and the braces, but she's also got a sword and shield, which makes sense as a great Amazonian warrior. The invisible jet is gone. I mean, I assume so. I didn't see it. That was terrible. I won't do that again.

Yes, I will.

Wonder Woman really drives home why as a DC Comics fan I really, really enjoyed Dawn of Justice. There are some weaknesses in the film as a film, but I don't rally care, because there were a lot of things in it that I really enjoyed, and of which I want more, and I want more of Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, which I will get in 2017's Wonder Woman.

We all understand the rush that was put on this movie. We know that it was just going to be the sequel to the last one they made, but with the title fight spin, but they were adamant that they would get their Avengers out of the gate, and I feel like they forced themselves to cover a ton of ground that they perhaps didn't need to, but the Wonder Woman stuff is good. Excited for the future of the franchise good.

Excited that she might spend more time in the foreground of the popular consciousness.

Sunday 10 April 2016

Wolf Children

I was nursing a fairly deep suspicion that the intent to get round to Mamoru Hosoda's Wolfn Children would be a thing that happened way down the line, but here we are. I found the time to get it watched again, and now you can have it. It's done.

The review is done. The film has been done for a while, and available for having for the good majority of that time.

We're a little down the line here, but not as far as I imagined.

Anyway, in much the same way that The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is very much about a girl who leapt through time, Wolf Children is about wolf children. Well, they're part wolf. Wolfier than me at that age. Probably wolfier than most of us.

This one is sort of urban fantasy in a way. Which is sort of a misnomer in this instance, as it isn't really an urban setting. I mean, it starts urban. Like, super urban. Totally not really the point though.

Mamoru Hosoda tells these stories that are the invisible things that are happening in our own world. Mythology in the background noise. We don't notice because we're busy with our own lives, but he brings us up to speed. That is very much what's happening in Wolf Children.

Like, you're buying groceries and swiping right, and that lady down the hall/balcony thing is raising actual wolf children.

It feels real world. It feels like a fantasy story set deep in our real world. The details make it work out like that.

I don't really want to give any of the plot points away, so I'll only say that it's about a family in which the children (of which there are two) have some wolf heritage. Being about a family there are happy things, and there are sad things. That's what happens in families. That's what happens in life.

It's got a lot of life in it. They cover a lot of ground. The story is really about the mum, and told mostly from her point of view, but narrated by the daughter. But it's about her acquisition of, and subsequent early life with the titular wolf children.

When I say, 'acquisition of', I'm not suggesting that she poached them or anything of that ilk. She gets them in the traditional way that people get children.

The whole thing is beautifully told. And animated. I like that. I tend to watch a lot of animation, and I like it when it's beautiful.

This beautiful animation of which I speak is reminiscent of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, but you'll get that. They're both a mix of traditional and CG, but you don't really notice the latter. I mean, if you're looking for it, you'll see it. There's a bit where they're turning crops out of the soil, and the soil is CG, but it's that sort of CG where they've covered it in hand painted textures, which I quite like as a thing.

Also like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, the details and crispness of the animation tend to wax and wane, but Hosoda knows what he's doing here. The moments are chosen well. You don't need the details when they're gone, and the fluctuating crispness is clearly a stylistic choice. These are common traits in anime (and manga), but he handles it differently. You can pick his stuff when you see it.

At the end of the day, I highly recommend Wolf Children. I think it's one of those films that everyone should see. You aren't all going to love it, but it's the sort of film they'd make live action and people would love if it was pulled off well.