For the BR2049 Bookshelf

cinefexBack in 1982, I remember standing in the old Andromeda Bookshop in Birmingham, upstairs in the magazine section. looking through Cinefex issue 9, which was devoted to Blade Runner. I very nearly bought it, but on limited pocket money funds decided to buy a few REH paperbacks instead, and maybe pick up the Cinefex at a later date. Damned fool I was. There was never any later date for Cinefex 9, as it quickly sold out and I spent years looking for a copy. Fortunately the issue was reprinted by Titan books in a hardback book many years later, which itself is OOP now and fetching rather large sums, so I did manage to eventually own and read it.

So, when I learned the latest issue of Cinefex would feature BR2049, I quickly ordered it, keen on history not repeating. It arrived a few days ago and it’s a pretty good read. It doesn’t look as if Cinefex devotes issues to single films as it used to (God knows there’s far more effects films these days than there used to be) so the BR2049 article shares the issue with articles on Dunkirk, The Dark Tower and the latest Kingsman film. Consequently the coverage isn’t as in-depth as it was for the original film (the issue also devotes a few pages to a pictorial of the original Blade Runner coverage from 1982, which is nice but does raise the forlorn wish that the issue might have simply been devoted to both films).

Of course in the good old days Cinefex coverage meant brilliant pictures of behind the scenes stuff, like models being built and matte paintings being painted on glass, and on the whole that’s all gone now thanks to CGI taking over. But BR2049 does feature extensive miniatures so there’s some nice pictures of that, amongst the CGI renders and wireframes that no-one on this planet can make exciting. I think the Cinefex article suffers from the cloak-and-dagger secrecy around the film prior to release, so although it discusses the creation of the 1982 Rachel, it doesn’t have any images to back it up, which have been made available elsewhere on the internet since the films release. Ultimately it’s a good article but not as exhaustive or complete as I would have liked, but hey, it’s different times now. We don’t even have the massive articles of Cinefantastique these days either. Progress, eh?

artbrA much more complete package, imagery-wise at least, can be found in The Art and Soul of Blade Runner 2049 book. Its an oversized (and consequently rather expensive, although Amazon have since reduced the price substantially) coffee-table book, that from the title might be inferred to be an art book but is actually more of a making-of book, dominated more by behind the scenes and production photographs than artwork. As a visual record and memento of the film and how it was made, it’s quite brilliant and everything a fan of the film could hope for. The imagery for the visual effects material is superior to the Cinefex article, although the text less substantial (so yeah, you really need both sources, unfortunately). The book also shares some of the limitations of the Cinefex article regards some of the more closely-guarded sequences (no imagery, again, of the CGI Rachel for instance).

It’s a brilliant book though. I might have preferred more substantial text but the imagery is breathtaking in the film so consequently that gets reflected here. There are some lovely behind the scenes shots and commentary about the film. It’s exactly the kind of book that I would have loved to see about the original film. Both are intensely visual experiences, and the Blade Runner ‘bible’ Future Noir is severely lacking in that regard. So maybe someone might write a more in-depth book about making BR2049 someday, who knows, but for now this will more than suffice.

george-hull-br6.jpgI almost wish one of the actors could have written a diary like Bob Balaban did for CE3K, that was a great book. Walter Koenig did a similar fly-on-the-wall book for ST:TMP. You don’t see that kind of book/coverage anymore but both were fascinating glimpses of the frustrations of making technically-demanding films and managing all the boredom behind the scenes. Yeah we get loads of DVD/Blu-ray featurettes on the best disc releases these days but that’s never as impartial/balanced coverage as one would prefer.

4 thoughts on “For the BR2049 Bookshelf

  1. Matthew McKinnon

    I picked up that Cinefex as well, though I haven’t read it yet. If you were interested in how the Rachel was achieved, there’s a good article in the Star Wars: Rogue One issue (CGTarkin on the cover) which should pretty much cover the technique.

    I had a subscription to Cinefex for a few years in the 2000s, it was teenage goal I want to tick off the list as I could never afford it back then either. But as you say, there’s only so many articles about renders/motion capture/previz etc that human being can stand. Instead, I’ve hunted down the old issues on favourite films, and I just pick up the odd new issue where the FX in a particular film interest me.

    That BR book is on my Christmas list. I hope I get it.

    1. Visual effects aint what it used to be is it? Technology seems to be king, and the art seems to be falling second. Seems a shame. Actually, I don’t know if it’s the sheer number of effects movies being made these days, but overall I think effects are worse now than they have been for some time. They no longer look ‘real’ most of the time, especially in the superhero films, it’s all becoming rather cartoony. And bland. Sure, films like Gravity push the envelope somewhat but I have to wonder if the sheer amount of CGI is bringing the overall quality down.

      It can only become worse if they have to start rendering for 4K now instead of 2K and upscaling. It’ll cost more rendering time and be harder to pull off realistically.

  2. Matthew McKinnon

    I think it’s that the software is the same everywhere, so the results are pretty similar: Marvel movies particularly have FX that say ‘contemporary, adequate but unremarkable’ to me, that don’t ever push the boundaries. Though I’m happier for things to go 4K – it’ll result in greater depth and detail overall: BR2049 and Arrival we’re finished that way.

    Whilst we’re on the topic of Blade Runner, I can’t remember if I ever flagged this up before…?

    I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age In America – 1950-1990 https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00EMAGIQ4/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_qMCeAbJ653WSJ

    It’s a genuinely wonderful compilation, and track two will be quite familiar to you.

    1. Ha, ha, you know I’m EXACTLY that BR obsessive that bought the ‘Harps of the Ancient Temples’ album that track is from? Interestingly, that was years ago and that OOP album is worth quite a sum- I’ve told my wife that after I’m gone she may find that all my strange junk might be worth something if/when she sells it on. She thinks I’m winding her up, her ignorance is cute. She doesn’t know geeks are inheriting the Earth.

      That compilation does look interesting, I’ll check it out, thanks.

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