Blade Runner 2049

 ★★★½

This is easily the best looking movie of the year. Part of my enjoyment in writing this review is picking the shot from the film I wanted to use for my blog entry. All of them were contenders. At nearly three hours long, this is a sci-fi epic. I found Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 to be a flawed, yet interesting addition to the universe of Blade Runner.

2049 explains much more than its predecessor does. The original Blade Runner (1982) managed to be more of a mood piece than a full-fledged action movie and this film is the exact opposite. Which is not a bad thing but not necessarily fully a good thing either. Personally, I found the ambiguity of the original Blade Runner (the 2007 Final Cut, of course) to be one of its strongest qualities. Connecting to the film’s themes of morality and liberty as well a leaving the ending more up to the viewer’s interpretation to what will happen to Decker and Rachel.

Denis Villeneuve continues his streak of making at least one film a year. This being his fourth year in a row. It baffles me how he manages to do it. Considering that the quality of his films have not gone down and have all manged to be at least consistently good. This movie is the most ambitious and most expensive of all of his movies and Villenueve still manages to continue with his streak. The shots are full of color in this movie and are just terrific to look at. I love how much variety there is in this film especially. Every scene is staged to perfection. I don’t think a better director could have been chosen for this movie.

Hans Zimmer handled the score for the movie, and lacked the amount emotion that Vangelis’ score had. Zimmer’s score fell back on not reusing sounds rather than having a central tune to the film. It puzzles me why they didn’t just get Vangelis to score the movie again or they could have even gone for a more unknown musician than Zimmer. I found the music to be the most underwhelming part of the film, which was very disappointing considering how iconic the original’s is.

2049 is a movie that while I may consider it to be unnecessary, is good at what it does. While a bit long, and lacking in its score. The film manages to add to the world of Blade Runner which helps provide for a good sequel. That while I felt was disappointing, ended up being much better than I would have expected when it was announced a couple years back.

Wonder Woman (2017)

★★★½

No setups for other films, no e-mailing of the Justice League to Bruce Wayne, just Wonder Woman. Patty Jenkins showed us all how to make the first actually good film in the DC extended universe. Other than flashy visuals, Wonder Woman is a championing of what happens when you can make a story that stands alone. This didn’t advance the plot of the other DC movies because it did not have to. This is Diana Prince’s (Gal Gadot) story.

 The film opens on the Amazonian island of Themyscira, where Jenkins creates a lush and colorful island that is just stunning to look at. The beautiful world of the Amazon Warriors is juxtaposed with the more grey and gloomy look of 1918 London as well as the front of World War I; showing what industrialization can do to land that looked just like Themyscira.

Wonder Woman‘s characters are instantly likable. Hearing this group of fighters talk and interact with each other was what really made the film work so well (other than the action sequences). Gal Gadot did a perfect job of playing a naive and good-natured person who is thrown into the crazy and hectic real world. Chris Pine’s portrayal of Steve Trevor is as a boastful, comical, and brave spy. Steve Trevor and Diana Prince’s chemistry worked as they provided foils for each other with Diana being an ideologue and Steve being a man more in touch with his actual world. Other supporting characters, such as Charlie (Ewan Bremner), Sameer (Saïd Taghmaoui), and Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) all are good inclusions in the picture.

The final act and the main villain is really the only weakness of the film. Which is a shame, because it felt like the film was avoiding tropes and cliches for almost the entire running time until the final battle. The final battle became also quite CGI-heavy and it looked like it was taken straight out of Injustice 2. Then Ares, the main villain felt underdeveloped and just thrown-in for the sake of it being a superhero movie. Now that isn’t to say that the final act is all bad, just like the other fighting sequences, the action is still great, but it was just a disappointment to see Wonder Woman fall apart at the end of the movie. If the final act could be compared to anything, it would be James Mangold’s The Wolverine (2013).

Finally, we have a film worthy of Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s kick-ass theme song written for the character. Wonder Woman is a step in the right direction for the DCEU.