Alright, honestly? I’m never sure where to start when it comes to writing film reviews. They usually seem to only have a middle—no beginning, no end. Just words words words -30-.
So uh… Where do we start with Blade Runner 2049? I think with the color yellow. Yea, yellow. Because it’s in every fucking frame of this movie—in the light, in the mise en scene of a plate in a drying rack, in the blonde hair of Madame. It shows up everywhere.
And there’s no way in hell it isn’t symbolic of something. But what? Well, in looking at the Wikipedia page for Yellow it sez that, “According to surveys in Europe, Canada, and the United States, yellow is the color people most often associate with amusement, gentleness, and spontaneity, but also with duplicity, envy, jealousy, avarice, and, in the U.S., with cowardice.” So let’s dig into that a little.
I’m drawn mostly to the cowardice aspect for some reason—in the sense that K, in being the reluctant hero, is also being cowardly throughout the film. But that type of palate would be expected to change and soften along with the character as the movie goes along.
So maybe it’s not that. It’s definitely not gentleness as this is a pretty brutal movie. It’s amusing, sure, but there’s no sadistic amusement coming from the violence. It’s fairly subdued and noir-esque.
Avarice? Nobody in this film is driven by money. They’re driven instead by a quest for the truth. It’s a lot like Children of Men in that way: both are mystery films set in a dystopian future that revels in the slow reveal.
Envy, jealousy. That relates to K pretty well. Envy that he isn’t human, jealousy of others in real relationships. But the color isn’t connected to one character but instead is a character in and of itself and so to have a definition only define one character while leaving the rest out isn’t logical.
A lot of characterization of the color comes from the fact that they chose to move and change the light during shots. Yellow swaths of light swirl around the actors in scenes at the Wallace Headquarters. Fluorescent lights follow people walking into an archive and shut off after the middle distance. Rooms are never fully lit and yet it never feels like a forced concept. It’s this really well executed way of keeping a scene fluid. With the lights timed in this way, faces fall into and out of shadow slowly or quickly during takes. The noir influences really show as the light slowly slashes through the scene, moving the shadows and creating dynamism much different from static lighting. The moving shadows seem to be a visual metonym for the shifting truths in the film.
I don’t remember much of the original Blade Runner—and it’s probably a concept they used in that film that I never noticed. But this film worked well as a standalone motion picture if not one that truly felt like it was the third film in a trilogy missing the second film, Blade Runner 2021. Where you get to see the black out and the love story and the corporate take over. It’d be a dope-ass movie and yet…
What I do remember about the original film is that it felt clunky and slightly overwrought probably because I watched the ultra-extended-mega edition with unicorns and shit. All that extra footage probably killed the pacing a la Apocalypse Now Redux. But, while this is film is ridiculously long, it never felt slow. It always felt like it was moving toward its goal in some way. It’s a lean film with a lot going on. While it’s nearly three hours long, there’s really no unnecessary stuff.
Actually, I take that back. The call backs to earlier in the film and the repeated lines were all a little cheeseball and I couldn’t stick by them. So the writing only hit the mark by about 85% which is fine, that’s still an .850 batting average. So while it’s a lean film, it still could’ve been cut down by a few minutes.
See? And then it’s over. No ending, Huis Clois!