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Author Topic: Review: Blade Runner Black Lotus - S01E01 - 'City of Angels'  (Read 132 times)
Lazaras
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« on: November 30, 2021, 06:11:51 am »

Background
I was born the same year blade runner came out. The sequel was literally the one movie in my adult life I made a point of going out to see in theatre rather than wait for it to hit streaming, blu-ray, etc. I wanted to see it in theatre because of how many questions the original had me asking. It came out Thirty Five years after the original and I went in utterly terrified based on how Ridley Scott had turned Robin Hood into 'Generic Class Warfare Story where Generically Handsome Person pontificates and makes damned sure to hammer The Message into the audience's skulls because The Message is important and they must understand The Message.'

While 2049 suffered from rather severe pacing issues? The.... Everything is about as good as I could have asked (other than sound mixing. I had thought that was the theatre's fault, but on seeing it digital ya the music is UNIVERSALLY too damned loud.) The set dressing was... Man if they released 3d scans of the sets to explore in VR, there yo ugo BAM sold. I will buy a VR rig since it would take me hundreds of hours just... Exploring to take in all the minutia and detail that you might see in a ten second shot. The story was heartbreaking and wonderful and left me wanting to know what happened next and what happened to get us to that point and....

As a friend of mine put it: It was the tin soldier and ballerina. There is this shot right before the end confrontation that.... I can remember seeing this and literally thinking 'do not analyse right now. take in all the detail. Process later' because it pulled a lot of differing thoughts and emotions in me and....

The Black Lotus Trailer

My exact comment
'thanks, I fucking hate it.'

This isn't blade runner aesthetically or tonally. Sure it is very solidly cyberpunk but it doesn't feel like I am in the same world Deckard or Joe walked in.

It feels like a goddamned game mod, and if it were a mod I would have been pretty jazzed for this to come out of an amateur's hobby, but for a professional studio? This looks like someone fired up MMD, and threw shit at the wall.

If you are going to buy the license to a property, respect that expense enough to make effective use of it. I am not opposed to CG. I am opposed to the CG looking like someone slapping shit together with premade assets and acting like they did all the work.

And then there is this stock feeling jpop music. What, Vangelis and Hans Zimmer too classy for you and you wanted to just throw all tone and atmosphere in the garbage in favor of a generic anime soundtrack?

This insults me on every level.

---
I made that comment the day the trailer hit. I re-watched the trailer and my feelings remain the same.

The Second Trailer
Blade Runner Black Lotus Adult Swim Trailer

'Wait, did.... they actually listen to feedback and scramble to fix shit?' Music has that noir jazz somber feel rather than 'generic anime soundtrack.' It has little details like the lighted umbrellas, the GIANT BILLBOARD PEOPLE, the loglo of crammed together neon.  Fine fine it feels... low budget compared to a lot of CGI I've seen in spots and jawdropping in others, but at the same time? I'm willing to excuse much, because this....

It feels Right.
It feels like Blade Runner.

I hadn't seen this trailer til the show actually dropped because the first look trailer left me jaded and bitter and not just angry but Offended that they thought they could go in with such low effort on something that was this close to my heart.

There's a cruel joke there when I feel this way while I'd just gotten done lecturing people over not letting a piece of media define them to the point of lashing out at detractors.

Then the bleeps and bops pop in and the happy bubbly feel goes away, because the setpieces stop feeling like 2019 LA, or even 2049 LA, and instead start feeling like Generic Cyberpunk Setpiece #1984 complete with stupid Gun v Sword Melee fight and Generic Waifu Girl declaring 'I'm gonna kill them all.'

Episode One
Note: I will not be going into Details. For those that want to follow along Details are Important and even if something feels Minor NOW, it's bound to have importance of one stripe or another later on.

Here we are folks, the actual thing is here and....

'The Eyes look Wrong.'

Literally my first thought. No comments on the music, setpiece. The girl's Eyes. They look Wrong. They look like cheap painted doll eyes. Lifeless and without depth to them. 

Generic opening with generic rap/pop 'I can feel you now' looping on and on and, past that? The thing that jumped out at the opening for me was that. The Eyes look Wrong.

If I seem to be harping on a nitpicky detail? That's because it isn't a nitpicky detail. The franchise focuses on Eyes a lot. Not just 'huh replicants eyes have this shine effect to them like an Owl's.' But Eyes in general.   Though the eye in the opening does belong to a replicant given the shine effect as the laser passes over it.  Little details, but Important in the grand scheme of things.

The opening concept of PoV girl not knowing what's going on or where she's at as way for the audience to come into this world? I like it. Vehicle designs are on point. The LoGlo of LA feels to me like I'm coming back home, if Home were this cold encrusted people jammed everywhere hellscape that is.  The opening sound design is similarly wonderful. It evokes a familiarity to the franchise without being a direct lift. These opening shots on the whole feel Right, they feel like whoever did them understood what they're supposed to be doing.

It's just this gut feel while going through this amazing and atmospheric intro that things will stop feeling Blade Runner and get Generic in a hurry. The dread of that looming blandification sours what should be essentially a long Money Shot laced with memberberries for us oldsters to just drink in.

Then the first facepalm. Girl in a dark alleyway lost, with a vague idea of where she needs to go. Three guys go in to mug her in an and then 'go go gadget waifu powers activate!' Don't get me wrong, it's entirely thematic for a replicant, especially an assassin model to out and out pulp these guys (look at Luv v Joe in 2049. He won purely because he was literally BUILT to take on military model combat replicants.)

It's just.... I'm tired of rail thin waifu bait girls hurling around guys three times their size. Worse still is that sudden flip from frightened lost out of towner with barely any idea of where to go with nothing on her to sudden combat monster. Yet even with that inward groan as that first fight progresses. She's still not completely dominating the fight. It's three on one, she isn't outright defying physics by breaking bones and doing matrix stunts. So, it may just be me expecting the worst especially given one and a half trailers were blandly generic with bland generic anime girl doing generic action things.

Instead my hopes went from crushed to risen as the fight progressed. She's using leverage rather than strength v strenght. It's very clear she's going off muscle memory and hindbrain training she's only getting flashes of. Growing more confident in how she fights as those memories are brought forward and even when momentum is in her favor it's still fairly realistic, albeit with a bit of acrobatic flair at the end.

So far everything's still feeling pretty Blade Runner. Music Is moody and atmospheric ethereal mixed with horns combined with setpieces that still look like it's 2019(ish) LA.

Second half opens with it still feeling right. There's an expo dump in a room with lots of honesty? Pretty outstanding bits and pieces in the background. Thankfully they dodge the exposition dump grind everything to a halt trap, establish a few things, and....

You would be forgiven for sighing and 'protagonist centred morality' when protagonist does scummy thing. However this absolutely FITS a dystopian world.  It's not nice, it's not KIND. Hell, for all we know the lady here 9El) is bad news. I do like that dude that she's dragooned into helping her just kinda shrugs and 'Eh any way this pans out I'll be alright.' That moment made me smile because it's clear this guy has dealt with this song and dance routine (if not the same details) before and survived.

Show remains atmospheric and feeling decent.

Second fight has El vs a bunch of goons with at least one gun involved and her with a sword. It's silly. The bad lighting does explain why it's at best three on one at a time with a few hanging back rather than a full on dogpile. It's goofy anime thing but at the same time she stumbles, she trips up. She isn't in full control but she doesn't look incompetent. She looks, well... like she's taking on a dozen armed thugs and Not Dying.  Of course she wins. She' a replicant with apparently a specialized skillset ment for murder. I'm just grateful it isn't this weightless waifu ballet faceaplmery.

Final Thoughts
So far the biggest negatives I have are the opening and closing songs, and the eyes looking wrong. There are rough patches, but at the same time? It so far feels at least in the same neighborhood as what I'd want, if not the right address.

There is footage from the trailers that leave me dreading when this turns from blade Runner, to Generic Dystopia with Anime girl, but... for now it's those trailers acting as a boat anchor weighing down enthusiasm more than anything the actual show's done, which is kind of the opposite of what trailers are supposed to do.
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J. Wilhelm
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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2021, 06:48:15 pm »

Somehow I think that the CGI sequel(s) will be detrimental to the franchise. I know there's tons of Blade Runner spin-off novels, games and such. But there's no substitute for live action and Blade Runner,as a derivative (not the same) as the Philip K Dick story started as a live action movie. They should not digress from that, or else they risk putting off their predictably increasingly important cult following market. You don't want to go down the Ghost in the Shell path where at the end the public is visibly unimpressed.
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« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2021, 08:01:05 pm »

I think it's good.
Each to their own I guess.
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Lazaras
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« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2021, 06:39:44 pm »

If you like it? Awesome. I'm just not really sold on the concept they're pitching.  Granted I like the tinkerer El 'convinces' to help in Ep1 he seems pretty neat as side characters go. I'm just personally tired of waifu anime sword girls, moreso here in what is effectively a neon noir setting.

Do the later episodes get better? No spoilers please. I am considering slotting in to binge the rest so i can have a better picture of things and to give a more honest opinion
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