Posted on October 10, 2017
TL;DR: Someone call Topher Grace and tell him to find his copy of Final Cut Pro. Blade Runner 2049 is a good movie and an excellent sequel, but it’s at least fifty minutes too long. Kingsman, on the other hand, is a lot of fun.
Spoilers for Blade Runner 2049 and Kingsman: The Golden Circle follow.
Blade Runner 2049 has 88%/83% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.3 on IMDB
Kingsman: The Golden Circle has 50%/71% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.1 on IMDB
And I find some of those scores utterly baffling. That fully half of the critics gave Kingsman a thumbs down and nearly all of them gave Blade Runner a thumbs up is, I think, a testament to the Snooty Principle that I’ve talked about on this blog before.
People who intellectualize entertainment into a job, are more easily impressed with grand empty gestures than they are with well crafted good fun.
Now, I dropped out of film school so I can’t give you much in the way of an intellectualized response to either movie, but I can give a pretty succinct impression of my emotional reaction to them:
Blade Runner: Jesus Christ is this scene ever going to end? Is this movie ever going to end? Why is Jared Leto in this?
Kingsman: On the edge of my seat for every minute of it, broad grin on my face, laughing so loud at one point my wife punched me in the shoulder.
Now the classic take-down of reactionary film review such as the above is that a moron could use it to give a glowing review of a Transformers movie. I mean, Michael Bay doesn’t get to keep making shitty tent pole movies because they lose money. There are lots of Michael Bay fans out there.
What it really comes down to is the weight of your disbelief. Stephen King once said (or he may have been quoting someone) that some people’s disbelief is as light as a feather. They can get sucked into anything with moving images on it. Children, for instance. But for other people, the act of suspending disbelief is like an Olympic clean & jerk. And once it’s up there, it requires effort to keep it up there.
I would say my disbelief is of average weight. I’ll believe a lot with very little to go on. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and Joe vs The Volcano are two of my favorite films and they’re essentially fairy tales. But you have to help me keep that barbell raised over my head the whole time by telling me a good story.
Things that can cause me to drop the bar? Plot holes, Mr. Bay. Convenient coincidences, Mr. Bay. Bad dialog, Mr. Lucas. An overly, pointlessly, agonizingly slow pace, Mr. Villeneuve.
If my mind drifts to filmmaking questions such as, “Why is this scene going on so long?” and “Oh no, they aren’t going to try to recreate the most beautiful character in the history of film with CGI are they?” you’ve lost me. And I can’t count the number of times I caught myself wondering when a scene was going to end and why it hadn’t already. Actually, I can count them. It’s the number of scenes in the movie.
I wouldn’t even remove a single scene in Blade Runner. I would just trim all of them by 30%. Come in late, leave early. Filmmaking 101. And I have to say that I’m shocked by this failing because I loved Arrival. I heard people say it was a little slow, but I was hypnotized by that movie. Then again, Arrival came in at under two hours and managed to tell the story of first contact and the near destruction of the Earth.
Now when I say that Kingsman was just good fun, I don’t mean that in a Michael Bay kind of way. Or an Ernest Goes to Camp kind of way. I mean it’s funny, clever and fast paced. It’s full of the same creatively outsized characters and is full of the same hyperkinetic action sequences as the first one.
Trust me, you never have the chance to wonder when a scene is going to end. Matthew Vaughn hasn’t yet made the mistake of falling in love with his own images.
If you want to see the difference between “just good fun” and “just dumb shit” watch Kingsman: The Golden Circle and then watch Michael Bay’s dumpster fire The Island. Or better yet, watch Kick-Ass 1 and then Kick-Ass 2.
With The Island, if you don’t find yourself grimacing at pointless action sequences and wondering at shipping container sized plot holes, then you’re not reading this post because you’re a Michael Bay fan and you love Transformers movies.
But the difference between Kick-Ass 1 and Kick-Ass 2 is perhaps the best demonstration of how important a director truly is. Technically, 2 has all the same elements as 1, but it’s a brutal, bloody, boring mess. It has a mean spirit and completely misses the point of the first one. It does nothing to advance the characters created in the first one and goes so far as to destroy the web of relationships that were so critical to its success.
So, until we can get Topher to edit Blade Runner 2049 down to 1:56, go see Kingsman: The Golden Circle for a good time.