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by Jehuda Saar

Entries in Ridley Scott (2)


Altered States


William Gibson tells a famous story of walking out of a showing of Blade Runner at its original release, as soon as he realized that what Ridley Scott was showing onscreen was a touch too close to what Gibson himself was writing about in what would become the cyberpunk classic Neuromancer. Afraid that these images would influence his writing, he walked out of the theatre and only saw the movie much later. 

Altered Carbon, now showing on Netflix as a ten part first season series and based on a Richard K. Morgan novel of the same name, is probably the first time we get to see such an excellent representation of the world described so meticulously in Gibson's "Sprawl" trilogy, as well as a perfect marriage between the powerful images of Blade Runner and the imagery of Neuromancer. 

A number of attempts have been made at bringing the vision of William Gibson to the big (and small) screen. None have really been very successful, most never saw the light of day. Attempts to turn Neuromancer itself into a movie go back as far as 1986, and the latest rumour dates back to the Summer of 2017. And yet while watching Altered Carbon on Netflix I felt very strongly that we finally got something worthy of these cyberpunk classics on screen. Concepts going from AIs interacting with humans to “jacking in”, to “sleeves”, “stacks” and “casting” are all easily understood, and all that future tech and the effects it has on society and its morals are deftly handled. 

Once again I’m happy something like Netflix exists out there. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Netflix or maybe Amazon spending multimillion dollars on single episodes of a series. These streaming services make something like Altered Carbon possible. Here’s hoping that series’ success leads to more interesting and far reaching projects of this nature. 



I've Seen Things You People Wouldn't Believe...


I am one of those people who walked out of a screening of the original theatrical release of Blade Runner, back in 1982, knowing I had just witnessed something important without being able to put the finger on what exactly it was that made it so special. There were the visuals, of course. The “neo-noir”, or in this case “neon-noir”, that characterised Ridley Scott’s vision. The philosophical aspect certainly got the mind racing: not so much a study of the meaning of life, but more what it meant to BE alive. We did not realise back then to what extent it was going to influence movie making in particular and culture in general, nor could we have predicted the cult-status it would gain over time. Ten years later I walked out of the “Director’s Cut” release with a much better awareness of the movie’s importance. Over the last two decades I read pretty much anything about Blade Runner I could get my hands on, culminating in “Future Noir”, the “making of” book that left no stone unturned. But the thought that we would one day see a sequel left me somewhat uneasy. There was something about the ambiguity of the ending that I felt would be ruined if we revisited these characters some years down the line. 

And yet, here we are, some 35 years later, with “Blade Runner 2049”, a story that takes place 30 years after the events of the original movie. I won’t spoil the story of this sequel. I will just say that if you were a fan of the original, you should see this one. This time Ridley Scott stayed on as Executive Producer, while the directing honours were handed to Denis Villeneuve, of Sicario and Arrival fame. As it turns out, Villeneuve was an inspired choice. Somehow he manages to create an “homage” to the original movie while giving us a story that stands very well on its own. He carefully uses some images, and even musical bits in key moments, to create a clear link between the two stories, something that crazy fans like myself will be sure to spot, but these never come in the way of the storytelling and, for newbies, won’t be a distraction. 

Accidentally, Villeneuve seems to want to tick all the key cultural highlights of my 18 year old self: his next project will be a remake of Frank Herbert’s Dune, a book I used to carry around at that age and quote as if it were the Bible itself. 

And most importantly, the writers and Villeneuve somehow manage to keep the ambiguity I so cherished in the first movie, about the true nature of some of the key characters, while adding a new dimension to the story of these “people” in search of a soul, or what it means to have one.