Darke Reviews | Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

I would like to ask you some questions.

First there are some disclosures. I have not read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick, nor really any of his other works. I suppose this doesn’t surprise my regular readers as me reading books with movie ties is a rare bird indeed. Another important disclosure, I had never watched the 1982 Blade Runner until within the past two years. Sure I had seen parts, but never all the way through. I am not sure how I missed it (aside from being 6 when it came out) until recently, but it happened. I think Blade Runner is a seminal work of science fiction which has inspired an easy fifty percent of film in that genre since then. I think it is a master craft of film making in its art direction, style, acting, and story. I also think it is heavily flawed in it’s pacing and let us not discuss the consent issues. It is easily the pinnacle of Ridley Scott’s directing career, and while films like Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven are also going to be long remembered – none of his later works will have such a cultural impact as the Blade Runner (or Alien, which needs to be acknowledged as well).

First question: Should Blade Runner have been retired?

It’s hard to make a sequel 35 years later. Very few have succeeded with such a large gap between films and even fewer have this long of a gap, but there is a lot that can help make it less painful. Start with bringing back an original writer from the first film, in this case Hampton Fancher, who has literally done next to nothing else in the writing realm, so I can’t speak to his style beyond what we know. We do know he has both story and screenplay credits. Beyond that we add Michael Green to our recipe. Green is a mixed bag having given us the Green Lantern movie we do not speak of in polite company, but also Logan, but also again the claptrap that was Alien: Covenant. He leaves me scratching my head to his impact on what is otherwise a nearly flawless execution of story; a story I won’t discuss beyond what you see in the trailer as spoilers duh. It feels like a natural continuation of the world of 2019, city speak, blade runners, and off world colonies. A world of billboards as tall as buildings, neon, concrete, and rain. I see the thirty years of evolution in a world that is dying yet fighting and clawing for its last breath through humanity and machine. Because of this execution, because of how the story played – it evoked emotion and thought.

Things movies forget to do in genre films often enough. Movies like mother! provoke. Movies like High Rise provoke, but they often can leave you feeling confused on how to feel about what you saw. You know it was art, but you can’t quite pin it. The same goes here, but with a defter hand. You know this is art when you watch it, but you can more eloquently describe how it made you feel or think without questioning the artistry in the process or asking “was that necessary?”.

Much of that credit needs to go to Denis Villeneuve (Happy birthday 50!); who gave us one of the best science fiction movies of this decade in Arrival. He is the only man I would want to direct this film, even as I watch it I know the hand on the wheel has precision and intention without being full of himself (*stares at Nolan*). The word that comes to mind to me at times watching how beats play out, how the camera works, how angles, and colour are used is sublime. Villeneuve is a director you need to watch for. He needs to continue making science fiction, I am positively begging him as he is able to blend technical precision, emotion, and thought into film – all the while using cinema for all it can bring to you. His staging is incredibly intentional and I noticed more than once certain patterns and trends in aspects of the film making. In my opinion, there is absolute reason why he choose to have it snow off and on during the running time. Don’t go looking for anything, it is nothing major – just an impression.

Let’s talk acting. I have heard people say this is Harrison Fords best performance. I am not sure if I agree, but it is certainly in his top 5. He does bring all his years of experience to bear and it is an absolutely solid performance, but I have to say he’s upstaged. Ryan Gosling, who I knew was solid after seeing Drive, gives what in my opinion is an Academy Award winning performance. There are people who may say after films like Drive or Only God Forgives this role isn’t a stretch and I would disagree with them. There is a lot of nuance to his role as our Blade Runner but also chemistry with one of his co-stars Ana De Armas. Anna plays Joi; and while I have not seen anything else in her body of work, I hope to see much more. She is engaging in her role and the interactions with Gosling are part of what made me feel so I must give credit where it comes due. Another new comer to western cinema is Sylvia Hoeks who reminds me of someone I can’t quite place. Her character Luv is as complex as any other and uses her time on screen to maximum effect. Other actors worth mentioning in their roles are Robin Wright (Wonder Woman), Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), MacKenzie Davis (The Martian and an admitted girl crush), and Carla Juri (Brimstone).

Don’t even get me started on the effects. Villeneuve made the brilliant decision to go as practical as he possibly could. If someone told me he made real holograms for some of the shots I wouldn’t be surprised. Minatures, Bigatures, full sized props and set pieces absolutely litter this film like confetti on New Years Eve. It’s magnificent and grand. The computer effects that do exist are generally seamless and hold tight against the practical. There’s even a few shots I had never quite scene before and amazed me to see now. While some of those may have been done, I don’t think they’ve ever been done that well.

So by now I have heaped the praise. I would love to tell you it is flawless in all facets of execution. It is not. There remain pacing issues, which left me near the two hour mark thinking I had been watching for easily two and a half. Not nearly as prevalent (and with 100% improvement in consent issues) as the first was, it still didn’t quite hold every single shot. There are scenes and beats which could have been trimmed and no loss would have occurred. As my dearest best friend pointed out, if you are thinking about the run time while watching it – they got something wrong. Additionally, there are a handful of nitpicks I could make but it would be pedantic to do so. I have heard the word pretentious thrown around in regards to this and while in large part they are wrong, I did find Leto’s performance little more than that descriptor. The movie struggles to try to be as important or have plays like the first but doesn’t quite reach the shoulder of Orion.


Blade Runner 2049 is well deserving of the praise it is getting. It is a well crafted, technically masterful, beautifully acted and directed film. It is just shy of me using the word Great when applied to it. I don’t know if it will ever, or could ever , be seen in the same light as the original.  I don’t know that this long after and with the nostalgia for the first and its myriad versions it would have a chance anyway; but then again who does expect it? The movie succeeds in a way that so few do especially in this genre in that it made me have rich emotions watching it. It made me think about what it was trying to do and what it was showing me. I left me thinking about it beyond this review on the drive home.

I have another listing for the spectacular films of 2017 amidst the slurry of releases this year and I will be surprised if anything coming out the rest of the year will reach the heights the films thus far have. Of course other films, such as Thor and Justice League will make lots of money, but will they be this GOOD. Will they make me feel a range of emotions or just turn off the brain for a bit. Even The Last Jedi, which is the only remaining film I am eagerly anticipating in 2017 will no doubt be good, but not this close to Great filmmaking. Great Sci Fi.

Next Question: Should you see it?

If you are a fan of the original, sci fi, curious, or otherwise want to have the potential for rich discussion with me or others around it – yes. Yes you should. This weekend. If you don’t like the original or thinking sci fi (thats ok too ya know) you may want to give it a pass or at least matinee.

Seeing it again?

Maybe. Probably.

XD or 3D?

The XD or other equivalent sound systems and screens do improve the movie from a standard definition and basic Dolby stereo. The 3D might be ok, but it was just fine without.

I take it then you are buying it?

No question in my mind.

So it made you feel?

Yeah and I am really happy about that, even if all the emotions involved weren’t joy themselves.

Last Question – you’re walking through a desert. Kidding. Whats next?

Next week I hope to see The Foreigner and Happy Death Day.

Why did you choose that poster for your image?

Because I am tired of teal and orange….long story. Might post on it.

Darke Reviews | Enders Game (2013)

For those who know my opinion on the writer of this book, his stances and my own choices regarding this film: I have not changed nor violated them. I am, however, working to become a professional reviewer of film. While I can choose to watch or not watch any film I wish and will continue to do so should someone foolishly think they could pay me to watch a movie I do not support, I will need to review it. That day is a long way off, but in the meanwhile, we have a Sci-Fi movie released which had I *not* known about the original author would have likely seen. So I feel I owe it to my readers to cover this film.

All of this disclaimer aside let’s talk about Enders Game the movie.

The movie is based on a critically acclaimed and award winning book released in 1985. The author Orson Scott Card has written twenty two different stories along the arc of Ender and the world around him. The subsequent releases were not always told in chronological order and may not even involve the titular character directly. I cannot comment on the contents of the book, its arc or how much the film is different from the source; though I am told by my best friend it is a good book.

The story itself focuses on a young boy, approximate age 12 in the movie, named Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield – Hugo) . He is a cadet in some form of military academy where every move is monitored. The monitors are Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Anderson (Viola Davis). After being put through an uncomfortably vicious and devious test by the monitors he is given the chance to attend an advanced school. The ultimate goal in this world is to use the youth and adaptability of children to create the next generation of military leaders in order to defeat an insect like enemy called The Formics who invaded us years ago and nearly destroyed us. Ender is put through even more challenges that grow increasingly difficult and separate him from his support structures. His sister Valentine (Abigail Breslin – Zombie Land), his classmate Petra (Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit), and any other friends he makes. The entire time creating enemies of other classmates. Eventually Ender graduates to command school and is put through even more simulations that pit his computer avatars against avatars of the enemy. Graff is determined to make Ender some form of messiah for the human race capable of ending the war with the Formics.

Ok thats the background and if you think its complex, the movie only does a marginally better job of executing on the principles. I lay that on a screenplay by the movies director Gavin Hood. This is the same director who gave us X-men origins: Wolverine in 2009. The rest of the review will wait for you to finish bashing your head on your desk from being forced to remember that abomination of celluloid. Hood is given the gift of good actors and solid source material that made it hard to screw up. He almost does at times and I am not sold on the ending in any way shape or form. There are some elements mid way through the film that even when fully explained make no bloody sense. There are also significant pacing issues that made me feel like I was in stop and go traffic on a California highway. Thats where actors come in.

The movie is absolutely dependent upon its children. Sixteen year old Asa Butterfield must carry this film on his shoulders. It lives and dies on his ability to cover the complexity of Ender. He shows the stress the character is placed under in one moment and then shifts to a calculating and tactical genius in the next. There are times he doesn’t work as well, where the character comes across just a bit too strong and others insufferably weak. It could be due to the age of the character, the way the character was written, bad directing or bad acting. I can’t say specifically, but it is a flaw. Sadly both his female costars (Breslin/Steinfeld), whom are both Oscar nominated for previous works, are given precious little screen time. They do well with what they have and again this may be directorial or story that keeps them out. I wish I could have seen more of both young women as they are quite talented and make the most of the time they are given.

As far as the adults. Hrm. I am torn. I want to say they did well. It’s Harrison Ford for crying out loud. Viola Davis and even Ben Kingsley. This performance almost lets me forgive BK for Iron Man 3 earlier this year. Almost. There’s just something about them in this movie that feels too much. Just a bit over the top and a bit shallow at the same time. The actors are fine, there’s just something intangibly wrong with it.

The technicals on this one are fine. The “Game” visuals are entertaining as is the 3D training battle ground.


I cannot in good conscience say to anyone see this movie as I want to deny Orson Scott Card any residuals. That being said, the movie was engaging until the last fifteen minutes and surprisingly entertaining. Those last few minutes are critical and completely destroy any goodwill the previous two hours brought.

Overall – the movie is an ok entry into the Sci-Fi genre this year. We’ve had better and we’ve had worse. It exists and some folks will truly enjoy it. Others don’t share my opinions on the author and do not have the same issues I do with seeing it.

For those folks, I respect your opinion and right to have them, I will say see it as a Matinee. I really do believe the end of this one hurts the overall narrative. (even if it was in the book, it was really ham handed).

Anyone else…

Curious – Cheap Seats (most of the money then goes to the house not the studio)
On the Fence? – Netflix
The rest of ya’ll – Give it an absolute pass.
Tomorrow night I review one of the most anticipated movies of the fall – Thor 2: The Dark World

Darke Reviews | Paranoia (2013)

I am reasonably certain most people have not heard about this little film, even with its star packed cast. What a lot of folks don’t know is that August is often considered a death slot for the summer season. This is where studios send movies to die that they have little faith in. Schools are coming back in session, last minute summer vacations and just the dog days of summer keep people away from the theatres by comparison to the  May, June and July releases. Studios will spend less time marketing, with rare exceptions, anything in August and if something sells its a blessing to them more than anything else.

Why do I tell you all this? Because it’s clear to me this is how the studio felt about this movie. A director (Robert Luketic) best known for his mostly unsuccessful comedy work such as Legally Blonde, the Ugly Truth and Killers was given what should be a high tension corporate espionage thriller. Odd match right? The movie shows it as well with a definite lack of finesse and technique through and through.

Nearly every twist and turn is telegraphed a mile away by anyone paying the closest bit of attention. Because of that moments that should have you wondering what will happen next you already have the answer. Ultimately the movies greatest sin is a lack of consequences for actions. Sure the big bad pays, but there are other elements to the film that should not be tied up as neatly like a christmas present.

That isn’t to say this is a bad movie folks. It sounds it, but it’s not bad. Bad is reserved for the equally uninspired World War Z. This film has the benefit of a relatively strong and motivated cast that I didn’t feel was going through the motions. It’s a testament to the actors natural ability that they could do what they did with what they had to work with.

Liam Hemsworth (Thors little brother, yes he is as cute) plays Adam Cassidy a young technician for a multi million dollar cellular company. He is up to his eyes in bills paying for his sick father (Richard Dreyfuss). He is offered the proverbial golden goose  by his boss played by the eternally awesome Gary Oldman; who per normal puts all his passion, his accents and his ability to blend into any role he does into the part. All Adam has to do for his boss is fake being a successful executive in a rival company to steal ideas from them. The owner of the other company is played by an oddly shorn Harrison Ford who felt that he needed to go toe to toe with Oldman in the acting department. Thankfully he is more than capable of keeping up, though once or twice I wanted him to yell Get off my plane. The supporting cast is surprisingly talent and believable in their roles. Amber Heard as the love interest, Lucas Till as the geekier best friend, Julian McMahon as the wanna be heavy (the weakest of the supporting) and Losts Josh Holloway as an FBI agent.

There are some twists, but as I said before most if not all of them are telegraphed long in advance. The pacing is off the entire film however keeping you just off balance enough that it is awkward more than tension building.


Paranoia isn’t going to be a summer sleeper, but you may fall asleep watching it. Save this one for the DVD or TV you aren’t missing anything.