Monday, October 30, 2017

It Came From The Cineplex: Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 was written by Michael Green and Hampton Fancher. It was directed by Denis Villeneuve (which is pronounced "Den-EEE Vill-nuv.")/

Green is a very uneven writer, who previously penned Green Lantern (yikes!), Logan (very good), Alien: Covenant (oy) and the upcoming Murder On The Orient Express. Fancher is primarily an actor, who previously wrote the original Blade Runner, The Mighty Quinn and The Minus Man.

Villneueve is a darned good filmmaker who directed Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario and Arrival.

According to IMDB, the movie was co-produced by Bud Yorkin. If you're of a certain age, you may remember him as the producer of such iconic TV series such as All In The FamilyMaudeGood Times and Sandford And Son. So what the hell's he doing producing a movie like this? Talk about strange bedfellows! Apparently Blade Runner 2049 must have been in development for quite a while, considering Yorkin somehow produced the film despite the fact that he died in 2015.

The film is of course a sequel to 1982's Blade Runner. Man, if ever there was a film that did NOT need a followup, it's that one. It's a thinking man's sci-fi movie, and a perfect example of a "one and done" movie. The story had a definite and satisfying ending, and what happened afterward was best left to the audience's imagination.

That's why when Blade Runner 2049 was first announced, I naturally expected the worst. I anticipated a sub-par, mindless, modern sci-fi action film that tarnished the legacy of the original. Fortunately that isn't the case here. Blade Runner 2049 is the rare sequel that actually surpasses the original. There, I said it. It's better than Blade Runner! Deal with it!

I have to admit I was horrified when I sat down in the cineplex and this logo flashed across the screen at the beginning of the film.

Uh-oh. It's a Sony picture. That's something you never want to see at the start of a movie.

Sony Pictures is the wonderful studio that pumps out hit after hit, year after year to universal critical accla... HAW, HAW, HAW! Sorry, I couldn't finish that sentence with a straight face. Sony's the absolute worst, as they consistently churn out flop after flop. Seeing them desperately try to come up with a hit is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Virtually every decision they make as a corporation is wrong. How the hell do Anthony Vinciquerra and Tom Rothman keep their jobs?

Fortunately this time things worked out, and they managed to make a decent movie. I guess if you swing at enough balls, you're bound to hit a homer eventually.

The original film has been very divisive among science fiction fans since it first premiered. Half the audience claims it's a thought-provoking, revolutionary piece of visionary cinema, whose spectacular production design and world building is still influencing movies today. The other half thinks it's the dullest piece of schlock ever shot to film, filled with bizarre characters and over the top acting. Oddly enough, they're both right!

Ever since I first saw the film way back in 1982, I've been a Blade Runner apologist, adamantly defending it against its critics as one of the best sci-fi films ever made. I hadn't seen the film in years though, so I recently rewatched it to refresh my memory before seeing the sequel.

Wow. What a difference a few years makes. This time around, I began to see some of the haters' points. Blade Runner really is a plodding, glacially-paced film. I don't mind slow burn movies now and then, but if a film's going to demand my attention than it damn well better be leading up to something amazing. 

Sadly, that's not the case with the original Blade Runner, as absolutely nothing happens in the entire film. Four Replicants illegally return to Earth to find their creator and demand he extend their limited lifespans. They find him, but unfortunately he can't help them. They murder him, then sit around waiting for retired Replicant-killer Rick Deckard to blunder in and kill them all. That's pretty much it!

The best part of the film comes at the end, when Deckard hunts down lead Replicant Roy Batty. He handily wipes the floor with Deckard, and just as he's about to kill him, he feels his own death coming on. He lets Deckard live, then sits down and gives a poignant little speech about "tears in the rain." In that instant the artificial person becomes more human than the real thing.

It's a powerful moment, but hardly worth the two hour slog to get there. One decent scene does not a good movie make.

The film erroneously concentrates on Deckard, the least interesting and most uncharismatic character in movie history. Batty's story was much more compelling, but unfortunately he's shoved to the sidelines, appearing in just a handful of scenes. I dunno, maybe that's why he's so interestingit's the Boba Fett Effect.

Then there's the whole "Deckard = Replicant" controversy that's been brewing over the years and further dividing fans. Many viewers are under the ridiculous and misguided notion that Rick Deckard is secretly a Replicant, while the other side thinks that's the stupidest thing they've ever heard.

I fall squarely in the "Not A Replicant" camp, as storywise it makes absolutely no sense. We're told that Replicants have a built in three to four year lifespan, yet Deckard's been hunting them down for decades— long enough that he's actually retired from the job. 

Some fans argue that Deckard's years of memories were implanted, but everyone around him acts as if he's been doing the job forever. If he was unknowingly a Replicant, EVERYONE around him would have to be in on the secret and be careful never to spill the beans.

Not to mention the fact that the entire point of the movie is Deckard's awakening humanity. He's been on the job so long that he's become as cold and emotionless as the Replicants he hunts for a living. When Batty lets him live, he ends up becoming more human than Deckard. In that moment, Deckard's own long-dormant humanity finally awakens.

If Deckard's secretly a Replicant, then the entire theme of the film becomes pointless!

The "Deckard's A Replicant" notion didn't become a thing until long after the movie's initial release. Original director Ridley Scott then heard about the theory and absolutely loved it, going so far as to release a re-edited version of the film, called Blade Runner: The Final Cut. This rejiggered "ultimate" version makes it clear that Deckard IS a Replicant.

Even folks who were involved in the film think this is a mistake. Original screenwriter Hampton Fancher adamantly states that in his script, Deckard was never meant to be a Replicant. Even actor Harrison Ford, who played Deckard, thinks it's a stupid idea.

I had a baaaad feeling that Blade Runner 2049 would confirm the theory once and for all. How could it not? It's a sequel after all, so the issue would have to come up. Thankfully, director Denis Villeneuve was smart enough to skirt around the issue, leaving the answer vague. If you're Pro Replicant, there's nothing in the film to prove you wrong, and vice versa. Smart!

On the plus side, the original Blade Runner does feature a tremendous example of world building, and is a visually stunning example of pre-CGI special effects. But without a compelling story, it's all meaningless. It's a cold, passionless and emotionally distant piece of filmmaking. Maybe that was the point, who knows?

Happily, Blade Runner 2049 avoids all the problems of the original. It doesn't simply rehash the same plot, but tells a new and compelling story, that's a logical extrapolation of the first film. It also focuses on the right characters this time, as well as expanding on its world building. In effect it does everything the original failed to do. 

Maybe it helped that the filmmakers have had thirty five years to think about the film and figure out what not to do in a sequel.

Sadly, like its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 is a box office dud. So far it's grossed just $81 million against its whopping $150 million budget. It's done much better overseas, where it's made $142 million, for a worldwide total of $233 million.

That's still not enough to make it a success. Due to marketing and other costs, these days movies need to make twice their production budget just to break even. Blade Runner 2049 has a long way to go before it passes that magic $300 million amount. Which is too bad, as it's a darned good movie.

The film's box office failure shouldn't come as a surprise, as the exact same thing happened back in 1982 with the original Blade Runner. It only managed to gross an anemic $32 million against its $28 million budget, making it a HUGE financial disaster. It didn't become a fanboy fave and cult classic until long after its theatrical run.


The Plot:

It's long and convoluted, so strap yourselves in.

We begin with a wordy opening caption, just like in the original movie. Early in the 21st Century, the Tyrell Corporation created Replicants, artificial humans who were indistinguishable from the real thing. They were used as slave labor, doing jobs no human wanted. In an effort to prevent them from revolting, all Replicants had a built in three to four year life span. Apparently that plan didn't work, as the Nexus-6 through 8 Replicants rebelled anyway, causing the Tyrell Corp to go bankrupt. There was then an ecological disaster, as famine swept the Earth.

Niander Wallace (played by Jared Leto) when swooped in and invented "synthetic farming," which saved the world. He then took control of the Tyrell Corp's assets, perfecting Replicants with the release of the Nexus-9 series. These new Replicants have no lifespan limit, but are more obedient and less prone to revolt. They're still used as slaves though, and some are employed as "Blade Runners," hunting down the few remaining older Nexus models who are wandering around. Agent K (played by Ryan Gosling) is one such Replicant.

OK, we're all caught up now.

Agent KD6-3.7, or K for short, flies to a remote farm outside L.A., where he's tracked down Sapper Morton (played by Dave Bautista), a rogue Nexus-8 Replicant. They have an epic fight, and Morton says he feels sorry for K, as he wouldn't be hunting his own kind if he'd seen the miracles he's witnessed. K has no idea what Morton's talking about and kills him. K launches a drone to scan the farm, and discovers an old chest buried under a dead tree. He radios for a squad to retrieve it.

K returns to the LAPD, where he undergoes a baseline test to make sure he's not developed any rebellious glitches. He passes, then goes home to his sparse apartment, where he activates his holographic girlfriend Joi. He tells Joi he's bought her a new mobile holo-projector, which will allow her to pick up objects and even leave the apartment.

Back at the Police Department, the forensics team discovers the chest K found contains a female human skeleton. Closer examination reveals the woman died during an emergency C-section. K notes there's a Tyrell serial number on one of the bones, indicating the woman was a Replicant.

This is a huge shock to everyone, since Replicants weren't designed to become pregnant. K's boss Lieutenant Joshi (played by Robin Wright) says if the public finds out that Replicants can breed, it'll tear the world apart. She orders him to destroy the skeleton, burn Morton's farm and track down the Replicant child, if it's still alive. K has mixed feelings about killing something that was born instead of made. He takes one of the female Replicant's eyeballs (because this movie, like the one before it, is all about the eyes) and leaves.

K goes to the Tyrell Pyramid— now called the Wallace Corporation
— to find answers. A helpful clerk looks at the serial number on the eyeball and says it's from an older Replicant model, and may be hard to track down. Apparently there was an event called The Blackout in 2022 that wiped out virtually all previously recorded digital files (?). 

A Replicant named Luv helps K and discovers the serial number belonged to Rachael (played by Sean Young), an experimental Replicant seen in the first film who went missing thirty years ago. Luv plays a recording of Rachael talking to Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford), the hero of the previous movie.

K then visits Gaff (played by Edward James Olmos), who shows up purely for fan service, er, I mean gives him some info he already knows. Gaff says Deckard and Rachael fell in love and eloped. K realizes the two had a child who's still out there somewhere.

Luv reports to her boss, the blind Niander Wallace. He says that in order to establish additional off-world colonies, the world needs more Replicants than he can build. In order to meet the demand, he needs Replicants that can breed. He claims that Tyrell figured out how to accomplish this, but his notes were lost during The Blackout (how convenient for the plot!). Wallace says the secret lies with the Rachel and Deckard's child, and orders Luv to find it. Luv goes to the Police Department to steal Rachael's remains (which K was supposed to destroy).

Meanwhile K returns to Morton's farm and finds a photo of a woman— who's not Rachael— holding the magic baby. He realizes the farm was full of Replicants who were protecting Rachael's child. He examines the tree again and notices the date 6/10/22 carved into it. This upsets K, as it's his inception date, and he— and the audience— assume this means he's the special Replicant baby.

K reports to Joshi, who asks him about his most precious childhood memory. He tells her about the time a group of bullies chased him to steal his carved wooden horse, and he hid it in a furnace so they wouldn't find it. Wow. Cool memory, dude! K realizes this has to be an implanted memory (since he's only a few years old), but notes the horse had the date 6/10/22 carved into it.

K discovers records of two children born on 6/10/22— a boy and a girl. They were both taken to an orphanage in San Diego, but the girl later died there of a genetic disease. K flies to the orphanage to look for info on the boy. His spinner's shot down by scavengers, who surround and attack him. He's saved by Luv, who's secretly been monitoring him and remotely wipes out the scavengers with bombs.

K enters the orphanage, which is run by a Caretaker (played by Lennie James of The Walking Dead fame). He orders the Caretaker to show him his records. When he looks for info on the boy, he finds those pages have been torn out of the book by someone. K notes that the orphanage feels familiar to him, and is shocked when he sees the furnace from his memory. He's even more shocked when he finds his wooden horse inside! This pretty much seals the idea that K is Rachel's son and was born, not made. This is all way too obvious though, which means it's gotta be a red herring.

Back at his apartment, K tells Joi he thinks he's the Special Replicant Child. She says if he was born then he has a soul, and needs a real name. She decides to call him "Joe." He's still not convinced his horse memory is real, so Joi suggests he contact a memory implant specialist, which is apparently a thing in the future.

K visits Dr. Ana Stelline, who creates memories for Replicants. Stelline's a "bubble girl" who has a defective immune system and lives in a sealed, sterile room. She was "orphaned" when her parents moved to an off-world colony and left her on Earth (CLUE!). She uses a technobabble device to examine K's wooden horse memory, and declares it's real. This upsets K greatly.

Back at the Police Station, a visibly agitated K fails his baseline test. Joshi warns him that her superiors will be coming for him, as they believe he's the Replicant Child. She gives him forty eight hours to disappear. K returns home and uploads Joi's program from her server into the mobile emitter so he can take her with him. He warns her that if the emitter's destroyed, there's no backup and she'll be gone forever, proving K doesn't understand how computer files work.

Luv arrives at the Police Station and asks Joshi where K is. She refuses to tell, so Luv kills her and searches her computer files to find K. Meanwhile, K takes the wooden horse to a specialist, who tells him contains radioactive tritium. He says there's only one place to find that sort of radiation— the ruins of Las Vegas.

K flies to Vegas, where he finds Rick Deckard living in an abandoned casino (that apparently shields him from radiation). Deckard holds K at gunpoint, assuming he's there to kill him. After a brief fight, Deckard realizes K's just there for info.

Deckard confirms that Rachael did indeed became pregnant, but because he was still being hunted (for some reason?) he left her in the care of a group of Replicants (including Morton) before going into hiding. He's never seen his child and doesn't know where it is.

Suddenly the hotel's attacked by Wallace's goons, including Luv. K dispatches the henchmen and battles Luv. She severely injures him, and destroys his mobile holo-emitter, "killing" Joi (which we all saw coming). She leaves K for dead and takes Deckard back to Wallace.

K's rescued by a members of a Replicant Freedom Movement who were also tailing him (I thought this guy was a cop who knew how to move around secretly?). Their leader Freysa says she was there when Rachel died in childbirth, and saw the baby as a miracle. They deliberately caused The Blackout in order to destroy as many records as possible and protect the child, as well as to destroy the secret of how Tyrell made Replicants who could breed.

K proudly tells Freysa that he's Rachel's child, but she tells him it was a girl. He says if that's true, why does he have memories of the wooden horse? She says that memory was implanted in many Replicants, in order to unify them or something. He makes the incredibly intuitive leap that this means Dr. Stelline is really Rachel and Deckard's child.

Freysa tells K that Wallace will torture Deckard to find out the secret of Breedable Replicants. They say if Wallace succeeds, he'll be able to create as many Slave Replicants as he wants, which is something they can't allow.

Back in L.A., Deckard's brought to Wallace, who questions him. Deckard insists he doesn't know who his child is or where to find it. Wallace tries to bribe Deckard by bringing in a Replicant, er, replica of Rachael, who looks exactly as she did thirty years ago in the original film. Deckard's visibly shaken by the sight of Young Rachel, but composes himself and tells Wallace that "the real thing had green eyes." Angered, Wallace orders Luv to kill the Rachael copy, and tells her to take Deckard to an off-world colony, where they have ways of making him talk or something.

Luv and Deckard fly off, followed by two escort vehicles. Suddenly K appears in a Spinner, blowing the escorts out of the sky. He forces Luv's car to crash land on a beach. K and Luv have an epic beatdown fight that goes on way too long. Meanwhile Deckard, who's cuffed inside the Spinner, is in danger of drowning as it slowly sinks.

Luv mortally wounds K, but he manages to rally and hold her head under water, killing her. He rescues Deckard just before the Spinner sinks. K says Deckard's free now, as Wallace will assume he drowned in the car.

K takes Deckard to Dr. Stelline's bubble. Deckard goes in and realizes Stelline is the Special Replicant Child, and the daughter he never knew. Outside, K slowly lies down on the steps. He stares up at the snow falling down and peacefully dies.

• Regular readers of my blog know that one of my pet peeves is when a movie's set in a radically different society and features incredibly advanced technollgy, but is set just fifteen or twenty years from now. 

The original Blade Runner was definitely guilty of this, as it took place in the far off year of 2019. Even back when I first saw it in 1982, I knew we wouldn't have artificial people, flying cars and offworld colonies by then. Would it have killed them to have set the movie in 2119? Or even later?

Since Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel, it naturally suffers from thie same problem. Its future history feels extremely compressed, as none of the things we see in the movie are ever going to come to pass in the next thirty years.

• Ridley Scott was originally set to direct the film, but chose to work on Alien: Covenant instead. I didn't care for Covenant at all, but let's all thank the Movie Gods that it exists, because it kept Scott out of the Blade Runner 2049 director's chair. Scott's done good work in the past, but his recent output has been spotty at best, so I'm grateful he kept his hands off this film (he did sign on as one of the producers though).

• Ryan Gosling was director Denis Villeneuve's first and only choice to play Agent K. Gosling was the perfect choice too, since I can't think of an actor better suited to play a stoic, emotionless android. ZING!

• Or course the biggest casting news in Blade Runner 2049 is that Harrison Ford returns as Rick Deckard. Ford apparently forgot how to perform the role though, and pretty much plays himself in the film. In fact, looking at the image above, it would not surprise me a bit to learn those are his own clothes, and he just wore 'em to the set and growled, "Let's get this over with."

• Villeneuve was hoping to get singer David Bowie to play Niander Wallace. He'd have been perfect, but sadly, Bowie died before filming began.

• Are you a fan of actor Jared Leto? Well, that's too damned bad then, because virtually every second of his performance is seen in the trailers. His appearance in the film amounts to little more than a cameo.

Leto is an infamous method actor, and you may remember reading about his jaw dropping antics on the set of 2016's Suicide Squad. Welp, he was at it again on during the filming of Blade Runner 2049. He didn't mail any rats or used condoms to his co-stars this time, but he did have himself fitted with a pair of milky contact lenses that completely blocked his vision, in an effort to accurately play the blind Niander Wallace. 

Sigh... couldn't he just act like he was blind? How hard could that be? Actors have been doing it convincingly for hundreds of years now. Once again, I gotta say that I think so-called method actors just don't understand how to do their jobs. If you have to actually BE angry in order to ACT angry, then you're just not doing it right.

• Speaking of Niander Wallace, I'm having a problem understanding his relatively youthful appearance. The original film was set in 2019, so obviously Blade Runner 2049 takes place thirty years later. Fine.

We're told that sometime after 2019, Wallace took over the bankrupt Tyrell Corporation and turned it around, making it more successful than ever before. Wallace looks to be around forty years old (in real life, Jared Leto's currently forty five). Did he really take over the Tyrell business when he was just TEN?

I suppose you could argue that he may have discovered some youth drug as a byproductg of Replicant technology or something, but... I dunno. There's something seriously wrong with his timeline.

• Edward James Olmos makes a very brief cameo as Graf, his character from the original Blade Runner. Unfortunately his appearance does little to advance the plot in any way, and is nothing but pure fan service. The movie basically points at him and says, "Hey, remember GRAF? Remember the cool origami animals he made? Eh? EH?"

• The most surprising return in Blade Runner 2049 has to be Sean Young, as a newly created Replicant of Rachael as she looked thirty five years ago (our time). 

In order to recreate the young Rachael, the filmmakers used model Loren Peta as a body double. Peta was outfitted in Rachael's signature wide-shouldered dress and faux 1940s hairdo. The effects team then created a highly detailed digital head of the er, young Sean Young. This CGI head was then painstakingly mapped over Peta's real face.

It's a pretty darned good illusion too! Much, much better than the dicey recreations of Grandma Tarkin and Princess Leia from last year's Rogue One. I tell ya, CGI's getting scary good these days, and it won't be long before it becomes altogether undetectable.

• Dave Bautisa (Drax of the Guardians Of The Galaxy films) shows up for a few minutes as Replicant Sapper Morton. I'm puzzled by Morton's tiny little glasses here. 

Replicants are designed to work as slave labor in hostile environments that are deadly to humans. They're created, not born. This implies that they're superior to us, right? So why the hell does Morton need glasses then? Replicants are stronger than humans, so shouldn't their eyesight be better as well?

Both the Tyrell and Wallace corporations advertised their Replicants as "More human than human." Based on their poorly made eyes, it looks like that's a big fat lie!

• Hans Zimmer wrote the music for Blade Runner 2049, which has definite echoes of the original film's 1980s synth-laced score. It was a nice touch, but I have to admit it was a bit jarring to hear synthesizer music in this day and age.

• Whenever Agent K comes back from a mission, he has to undergo a baseline test to make sure he's not getting squirrelly and thinking of rebelling. This test consists of him sitting in an empty white room, repeating phrases spoken over a loudspeaker. 

The phrase he has to repeat is "Cells interlinked within cells interlinked within one stem. And dreadfully distinct against the dark, a tall white fountain played."

These lines are from Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire. I have no idea what the book's about or what this might mean, but later on we see a copy of it in K's apartment.

• The name of the building in which Agent K lives is "Mobius 21." I'm betting that's a nod to sci-fi illustrator Moebius, aka Jean Giraud, who did production design on the original Blade Runner.

• Whenever Agent K activates his holo-girlfriend Joi, we hear a brief startup tone. For some reason it plays the first few notes of Peter's Theme, from Peter And The Wolf.

I'm sure this probably means something, but I have no idea what.

By the way, Joi's "mobile emitter" works EXACTLY like the one used by the holographic Doctor in Star Trek: Voyager. In the show he was initially confined to the sickbay, but later the crew acquired a futuristic mobile holo-emitter, that allowed him to go on away missions with the human members of the crew.

• Man, the infamous and cliched "orange and teal color scheme" is alive and well in the movie's poster.

• As part of its world building, the original Blade Runner featured ads for lots of actual companies and products, in an effort to ground the movie and make it seem more realistic.

The problem is that many of the companies chosen actually went out of business long before the film's 2019 setting. Fans have dubbed this curious phenomenon The Blade Runner Curse. Here's an example of a few of the companies hit by the so-called curse:

Pan Am went bankrupt in 1991.

Atari changed hands and is now a completely different corporation. 

RCA was bought by G.E. in 1986 and dismantled. 

Bell Telephone's monopoly was broken up in 1982, shortly after Blade Runner was released. It merged with several other companies and became AT&T.

Cuisinart filed for bankruptcy in 1990, but reorganized and is still making kitchen gadgets.

Of the companies featured in the first film, the only two that are still going strong are Coca-Cola and Tsingtao Beer.

Oddly enough, Blade Runner 2049 still features prominent and incongruous ads for Pan Am and Atari. When asked about this, Denis Villeneuve explained that both movies take place in an alternate reality, where these corporations are still going strong. And where artificial humans were developed sometime in the 2000s!

There's also a crap ton of Sony product placement in the film as well, which I guess shouldn't be surprising.

• Surprisingly, the Blade Runner films have always been vague about just what the hell a Replicant is. Yes, yes, they're artificial people, but what the hell does that mean? They're definitely not robots or androids, as we see they're filled with blood and guts, and can be killed the same way a human can. They're sentient, and they're alive.

They're not cloned humans either. In Blade Runner, we saw an elderly Chinese man named Chew in a lab, who somehow designed and created Replicant eyes. This implies that they're constructed, not grown.

Apparently they're just synthetic people that are built in some undefined way, and are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Somehow Eldon Tyrell figured out how to create life. Artificial life, yes, but life just the same. So... wouldn't that technically make him a god?

Even more astonishing, Tyrell somehow created a Replicant that could give birth!

• As I mentioned earlier, there's a very definite "eyeball" theme running though these movies. Again, I'm not sure what this means, but I'm sure all these eyes symbolize something. Window to the soul and all that, maybe?

 The very second scene in Blade Runner is of the LA cityscape reflected in an eye.

 The Voight Kampff machine, which tests for Replicants, examines the eyes as part of its process.

 Batty has some eye-related fun.

 Pris highlights her eyes.

 We also learn that in certain light, Replicants eyes shine red.

Batty kills his father by crushing his skull and eyes.

Blade Runner 2049 also begins with an extreme closeup of an eye.

And of course Niander Wallace is sightless, but sees with the help of a swarm of flying drones.

* In the original film, Replicant Roy Batty and his pals were all Nexus-6 models. The Nexus-6 had a built in four year lifespan. In Blade Runner 2049, Sapper Morton is a Nexus-8 model, which can live much longer and even visibly age. Agent K is a Nexus-9. They're similar to the 8s, but are more subservient and less prone to revolt.

So where were the Nexus-7s? When K examines the bones found at Morton's farm, they're labeled with a serial number that begins with N7. The bones turn out to be Rachael's, so it's pretty obvious she was a Nexus-7 model— and possibly the only one ever made. 

The Nexus-7s were apparently capable of becoming pregnant, and the last model created by Tyrell before he was killed. The secret of "Breeding Replicants" was lost with him, which is why the 8s and 9s, which were designed by Wallace, can't reproduce.

• At one point Wallace and Luv walk through a room filled with containers displaying various Replicant prototypes. Some fans have pointed out that the model at far right looks a LOT like the Engineer from Ridley Scott's Prometheus and Alien: Covenant movies. They're convinced this means the ALIEN and Blade Runner universes are connected. 

Gods help us if that's true. Ridley Scott needs to stay as far away from the Blade Runner franchise as possible, before he ruins it as well.

• As K walks through the city, he's bombarded by ads featuring gigantic holographic people. Boy, I can't wait for THAT particular method of marketing to become a reality. That was, I say, that was sarcasm, son!

Blade Runner 2049 is a thoughtful, intelligent and well-made sci-fi film that's a rare example of a sequel surpassing the original. Instead of rehashing the same plot, it expands on the story in a logical and meaningful way, which is a rarity in Hollywood these days. It clocks in at a whopping two hours and forty three minutes, but thankfully doesn't ever drag like the original. I'm giving it a very rare A-.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Flash Season 4, Episode 3: Luck Be A Lady

So far the producers of The Flash are living up to their promise to make the series fun again. Luck Be A Lady ramped up the comedy to eleven, possibly making it the funniest episode of the entire series. That's a good thing, by the way!

This week's storyline was also much more coherent and focused than last week's murky, muddled plot. It also didn't hurt that this episode's villain Hazard was much more fleshed out than last week's awful Kilg%re. Hazard was sympathetic and even likable, despite her villain status.

Luck Be A Lady also features several major cast changes as well. So far it's been traditional to feature a new version of Harrison Wells in each season. First we had the actual Harrison Wells, then in Season 2 we had Harry (who was from Earth-2) and last year we got HR, who hailed from Earth-19. Apparently there's not going to be a new Wells this year, as Harry's returned to the show. He's probably the best of the Wellses so far, so that's probably for the best.

The other big change this week (SPOILERS!) is the not-so-surprising departure of Wally West. As I've been saying for the past few weeks, Wally no longer has any actual function on the show, as the writers seemingly have no idea what to do with him anymore. Looks like they finally realized that as well, as he leaves the series at the end of this episode.

It seems like the writers realized STAR Labs was getting a bit too crowded, and decided to do some pruning this season. First Julian was summarily banished between seasons, and now Wally's getting the boot. 

Although I liked both characters, it's probably a good idea to whittle down the cast a bit, so we don't get more characters standing around in the background like extras.

This week Team Flash discovers Barry accidentally created twelve new metahumans to menace Central City. I have a feeling we'll be meeting one per week until the mid season finale, when the Flash will face off against The Thinker, making room for a new story arc in the second half.

There's one other big revelation this week, involving Joe and Cecile, who announces she's pregnant. Hopefully this doesn't immediately mark her for death. In past years I could easily see that happening, but surely the writers wouldn't do something like that in this lighter, more fun season.

I do have to wonder though... if the producers thought there were too many Wests on the show, why are they bringing in another?


The Plot:
In his lair, The Thinker observes a Central City resident named Becky Sharpe, a mousy, unassertive and disheveled young woman who may be the unluckiest person on the planet. On this particular day she comes home to find her boyfriend cheating on her, groped by a gambler at her casino job, and ultimately fired for spilling a drink on a customer. Her luck changes though when she boards a bus filled with eleven other passengers, including Ramsey Deacon (see last week's episode). As the bus pulls away, an explosion bathes the passengers in a bright light.

Cut to STAR Labs, where Wally's anxiously waiting in the Breach Room for a visit from Jesse Quick. A portal opens, and Harry, (the Harrison Wells of Earth-2) steps through. He tells Wally that Jesse's breaking up with him (and apparently couldn't bother to tell him in person). Wally's crushed.

Meanwhile we see Becky, who now looks like a beautiful, confident young woman, saunter into a bank and simply take a million bucks from the vault. Apparently the bus explosion somehow changed her luck for the better. The more good luck she has, the worse things go for everyone around her, as Central City experiences disaster after disaster. Barry rushes to the scene to stop Rebecca, but slips on thousands of marbles that accidentally spill into the street (!).

At STAR, Team Flash realizes that Becky is a metahuman  who somehow generates a luck field. They're puzzled as to where she got her powers though, since she wasn't in town during the particle accelerator explosion that created all the city's other metas.

At Joe's house, Cecile calls a plumber to check the house's noisy pipes. Joe's shocked when he finds out it'll cost $15,000 to replace them. Cecile suggests selling the place and buying a new one, but Joe's reluctant to leave his family home. Meanwhile Barry and Iris' wedding plans are scuttled when they can't seem to find a venue. All this bad luck leads Cisco to believe that Team Flash has been cursed by Becky.

Cisco, Harry and Barry examine CCTV footage and discover that Becky got her powers from the bus explosion. Barry realizes it's all his fault. Back in The Flash Reborn, he exited the Speed Force right next to the bus, which caused an explosion that exposed the passengers to dark matter and gave them all powers.

The pipes burst in Joe's house, and he tells Barry that Cecile wants him to sell. Barry says it's no big deal, as Joe will still have his memories of raising his family no matter where he lives. Good Ol' Sentimental Barry!

Cisco tracks Becky to Jitters, and Barry rushes there to try and talk her out of using her good luck powers. Note that he doesn't try to arrest her, so... I guess that means he's OK with all the money she stole from the bank? Becky says she's not gonna stop, as she's had bad luck her entire life, and the universe owes her. Barry lets her leave, since getting too close to her will cause him to have bad luck (which he's already having, so... I don't see the problem).

Iris calls Barry and says to meet her in a church. When he gets there, she tells him she wants to get married NOW. As in this instant. She says bad luck has canceled their wedding plans dozens of times now, and she's afraid if they don't get married immediately, they never will.

Barry agrees, and they approach the altar. The priest begins the ceremony, but suddenly starts choking, as he's allergic to cinnamon incense and has to be carried away. Cue sad trombone.

At STAR Labs, Cisco and Harry are arguing just like in the old days. Cisco asks why he came back to Earth-1 if he's just going to fight. Harry admits that he helped his daughter Jessie form her own Team Flash on Earth-2 (even though the last time we saw her she was moving to Earth-3 to help out there). Jesse then summarily kicked him off the team he founded, proving she's really quite the piece of work.

Suddenly alarms start blaring, as Becky's luck field inexplicably begins spreading throughout the city. 
Cisco gives Rebecca the code name "Hazard." She returns to the casino where she worked, this time as a customer. Every time she wins, Central City residents lose. Suddenly the STAR Labs particle accelerator comes back online and threatens to explode (which seems impossible, since it already did so four years ago, but let's just roll with it or we'll be here all day). 

Cisco and Harry try to shut down the accelerator while Barry rushes to the casino to stop Hazard. Unfortunately her powers cause him to slip on a pile of loose quarters, and he falls and handcuffs himself. Wah-wahhhhhh.

With seconds to go, Harry gets the brilliant idea to just let the accelerator explode. For some insane reason, Cisco agrees. The accelerator overloads and sends out a blast of blue energy that reverses Hazard's powers (but apparently no one else's). Barry's then able to free himself and haul her away. When Cisco asks Harry how he knew the accelerator wouldn't destroy them all, he replies, "Lucky guess." Oy.

Hazard's taken to Iron Heights prison. Cisco tells Harry he doesn't have to return to Earth-2, as he'll always have a home here. Awwww. Harry shows the gang an infrared image of the bus that was exposed to dark matter, and they see there were twelve people aboard. They realize there are still ten metas out there.

Harry theorizes that someone wanted Barry to exit the Speed Force at that exact place and time to create an army of metas. But who? In the background we see the Samuroid head from The Flash Reborn lying on a table. We then see The Thinker is using the helmet to spy on Team Flash.

Wally enters and says he has no purpose on the show anymore, er, I mean no place on the team anymore, and is going off to find himself in Blue Valley, wherever the hell that is.

Joe comes home to see Cecile fixing up his house. He says he's decided to sell, but she says she's changed her mind (of course) and wants him to keep it. She then tells Joe she's pregnant, leaving him completely and motionlessly stunned.


• When the Thinker's listing Becky Sharpe's run of bad luck, he mentions that she writes "I am jinxed" on her MySpace page. I think that was supposed to be a joke. MySpace fell far out of favor over ten years ago, so only a loser would still be using it.

• During Becky's run of bad luck, she walks up to her car and sees it's been booted. She shrieks and says, "Great! There goes another car!"

Um... does that mean whenever the city boots her car, she just abandons it and buys another one?

The Flash often follows what I call "The Inverse Superhero Costume Accuracy Rule." This means that whenever a major character like Mirror Master appears on the show, he'll be dressed in a normal men's suit instead of anything resembling his costume from the comics.

On the other hand, when an extremely minor character appears— like Hazard, for instance— she'll look EXACTLY like she does in the comic, as if she just stepped off the printed page. Frustrating!

• Believe it or not, Hazard's actually a villain from DC Comics. She first appeared back in 1987, in Infinity Inc. #34. She's the granddaughter of The Gambler, a Golden Age villain who often faced off against Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern.

In the comics, Hazard used a pair of special dice that she'd roll to influence probability, and cause a person to have good or bad luck.

By the way, Infinity Inc. #34 was drawn by Todd McFarlane, the creator of Spawn and one of the co-founders of Image Comics.

• I love Becky's awkward I.D. photo, that looks like it was taken before she was ready!

• After a rousing game of Laser Tag, Joe buys lunch for Team Flash. We see Barry order three burgers, five churros and six funnel cakes (!).

It's been a while since the show reminded us that due to his speedster powers and increased metabolism, Barry needs to eat a huge amount of food every day.

• Jesse Quick makes a very brief cameo in this episode, to give Wally the brush-off in her Breakup Cube message.

I dunno why they didn't just have her appear for real in the episode— maybe actress Violett Beane just wasn't available (although a quick check of IMDB shows she's currently not doing much). 

Whatever the reason, her absence this week didn't do the character any favors. Between breaking up with Wally long distance and throwing her dad off the team he helped create, Jesse really comes off as an enormous asshole in this episode. 

• Harry tells Cisco that his daughter Jesse kicked him off the team he helped her form on Earth-2. Wha...? The last time we saw Jesse was in the Season 3's Into The Speed Force. In that episode, Jesse announced she was moving to Earth-3, to protect it while its resident speedster Jay Garrick was off occupying the Speed Force.

I guess once Barry entered the Speed Force in the Season 3 finale, Jay was free to return to Earth-3 and Jesse must have moved back home to Earth-2. All while we weren't looking!

• Once again, Team Flash implies that every metahuman that appears in Central City had to be created by the particle accelerator explosion. I don't have time to go through every episode for proof, but I'm sure that's not true. What about all the metas Zoom sent from Earth-2 to challenge Barry? What about Grodd? And King Shark?

• This week we find out that when Barry exited the Speed Force, he accidentally exposed the passengers on a city bus to dark matter, creating twelve new metahumans.

You know, it really is very nice of these metas to politely take turns and show up one per week, instead of attacking the city all at once.

• Last week I said I didn't understand how Kilg%re's powers worked or how he got them. I still don't understand how they work, but at least this episode explains how he came by them— exposure to dark matter. Better late than never, I guess.

• Iris gets a STAR Labs alert and says there are two 211s (aka robbery) at both the First National and O'Sullivan Bank.

The Flash loves to use comic book writer and artist names in its Central City landmarks. I can't seem to find any DC personnel named "O'Sullivan" though. I guess sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

• When Becky enters the bank, her powers cause everyone around she passes to experience bad luck. First her Uber cab glitches, so the driver can't charge her for the ride. Next a bank guard chokes for no good reason, knocking a repairman off his ladder and causing him to grab hold of a security camera. Then a customer knocks his coffee over, which shorts out the teller's computer. Lastly a woman on her phone runs by, yelling at her presumably senile mother not to touch the oven (meaning Becky's power must be able to reach through phone lines!).

This all happens in one long tracking shot, and reminds me a lot of the opening "slapstick" scene of Superman III (aka The One With Richard Pryor).

• By the way, Becky sashays into the bank vault to the tune of Luck Be A Lady, sung by Frank Sinatra. Although the song was written by Frank Loesser, the version heard here was conducted by bandleader Nelson Riddle, who frequently worked with Sinatra.

So what's all this got to do with anything, you ask? Welp, Riddle also composed most of the music for the 1966 Batman TV show! Neal Hefti wrote the opening theme, but Riddle did all the rest.

The Flash is famous for its ridiculous comic book science, which often outdoes the most outlandish technobabble on any of the modern Star Trek series.

In this episode though, Harry explains Becky's luck powers in a way that comes dangerously close to making sense! Check out the following conversation: 

Harry: "Okay, Ramon, what you call juju, I call quantum entanglement. Discrete quantum particles are connected, and when triggered, they simulate a synchronicity that, to the untrained eye— to the common eye— could seem like luck."
Barry: "So if Becky can affect the particles around her in a positive way, then their connected particles start spinning negatively."
Caitlin: "So when good things happen to her, bad things happen all around her."
Cisco: "Great, she's got a good luck field."

Quantum entanglement is a real scientific phenomenon, and connected particles really can affect one another over great distances! This is actually a pretty clever way to attempt to scientifically explain something as esoteric as "luck." Well done, writers!

• This week we learn that Iris' middle name is Ann. Good to know.

• Cecile calls Joe in a panic because the ceiling pipes in his rapidly decaying house are leaking. Barry shuts off the water at superspeed to prevent further damage. Later during Hazard's Bad Luck Spree, the ceiling starts leaking even more. How's that happening if the water was shut off? Did Joe or Cecile turn it back on in between scenes?

• Cecile calls a plumber, who says it'll cost $15,000 to replace the pipes in Joe's house. Joe moans and says, "My great uncle paid less for this whole place. I guess I'm gonna have to open the piggy bank."

Wow. Joe must have a sizable piggy bank indeed, if he can draw $15 grand and not clean it out! How much do CCPD detectives make per year?

• At the beginning of the episode, Hazard's fired from her dealer job at the casino. Later after she acquires her good luck powers, she enters the casino as a customer and wins millions.

Eh, I don't think so. It's highly unlikely any casino would ever let a former employee in to gamble.

• Late in the episode, Becky's powers increase exponentially, which sets off an alarm in STAR Labs. Caitlin says, "Guys, there are low probability events happening all over the city! Becky's quantum field is expanding!"

In other words, STAR Labs has sensors that can detect bad luck. Got it!
• Becky's bad luck field causes the STAR Labs particle accelerator to power up and threaten to explode. Um... just how's that possible? Didn't it already explode four years ago, in the very first episode? How can it explode again? Did Cisco rebuild it? And if so, why?

• Becky's powers cause a goose to be sucked into the engine of a plane flying over Central City, causing the pilot to attempt a water landing.

The plane's pilot looks a LOT like Captain "Sully" Sullenberger. He's the pilot who landed US Airlines Flight 1549 in the middle of the Hudson River back in 2009. There's no way you can convince me that the resemblance wasn't intentional.

• When Harry and Cisco let the particle accelerator go ahead and explode, it expels a massive wave of blue energy that shorts out Hazard's powers. 

First of all, I don't see why the wave would interfere with Hazard's powers, since she didn't get them from the original accelerator explosion. Secondly, it's lucky (heh) for Barry that this second wave didn't shut down HIS powers as well! Especially since he got his speed from the initial explosion!

• Once the crisis has passed, Wally announces he's leaving the show, and is going to stay with a friend in Blue Valley. A couple things here:

First of all, it's odd that he doesn't go to Earth-2 to be with Jesse, since she's the source of all his angst and soul-searching.

Secondly, in the comics Wally West grew up in Blue Valley, so I assume this is a nod to that big of trivia.

There's a rumor that Wally may be leaving to show up on the upcoming Titans TV series. In the comics, Kid Flash was an integral part of the Teen Titans from the beginning, so it would make sense for him to show up on the team.

I have a feeling Wally's not gone for good. Hopefully when he eventually comes back, the writers will figure out something to do with him.

• At the end of the episode, we see The Thinker's monitoring Team Flash through the Samuroid helmet they picked up in the season premiere. What a lucky break for The Thinker that Cisco just casually plopped it on top of a backup drive in the STAR Labs Cortex, perfectly placed so its eye cameras could capture the gang's every movement. I guess The Thinker really thought that through!

 The funniest part of the episode— heck, of the entire series— was when Cecile told Joe she's pregnant, and he simply froze in place for several seconds before they smash cut to black. The actual video looked pretty much identical to the still image above!

• This Week's Best Lines:
Barry: (as he's hit while playing Laser Tag) "They got me!"
Cisco: "Oh, you have failed this city."
(this is of course the catchphrase Oliver Queen growls to villains and corrupt businessmen over on Arrow)

Cisco: (to the kid who shot Barry at Laser Tag) "You better watch yourself, Chad. Come at me at the paintball field next time. I'll kick your little... (sees Chad's mom) Hey! Mrs.
McConnell. How you doing? Chad's a treasure. He really is."

Wally: "What is what is this thing?"
Harry: "Break... Breakup cube. You don't have breakup cubes on your Earth? Oh, that's not good. Okay. Okay. A breakup cube is, uh... kind of what it sounds like. You know, you record a message for the person you want to... the person, and you, uh, pick a music setting, and then there's a tissue that pops out if you need that. You know, a breakup cube."

Iris: (as Barry enters the room while she's trying on her wedding dress) "Barry! Oh, my God.
Turn around!"
Barry: "I did!"
Iris: "Did you see?"
Barry: "No, I didn't see."
Iris: "You saw!"
Barry: "I did see. But just for a second."
Iris: "Which is like an eternity for a speedster!"

Barry: (trying to avoid a funeral procession as he and Iris rush to be married) "Sorry, sorry."
Iris: "Sorry, excuse me. Beautiful service."
Barry: "So sorry."
Iris: "I love this coffin. Is that cedar?"
(once again, these two have terrific comedic timing, so it's nice to see them get to use it for a change!)

Harry: "But then, Jesse goes and kicks me off the team, all right? Apparently I'm too much like me, whatever that means. I push too hard. You know, too many tests. Too many training sessions. You know, I don't allow the team enough time for their personal bonding. I don't understand millennials."
(apparently millennials are a thing even over on Earth-2!)

Harry: "This is not my world."
Cisco: "Oh, and Earth-2 is? Did you make a bunch of friends there that I don't know about? What, are they all tall, brooding dudes with bad haircuts?"
Harry: "I have I have colleagues. Work colleagues. And, uh... some of them I don't dislike."
Related Posts with Thumbnails
Site Meter