Continuing the theme of “what if Harrison Ford, but older?” explored by Indiana Jones and Star Wars films released this past decade, the trailer for Blade Runner 2049 dropped last week shows that new director Denis Villeneuve deeply understands the universe that Ridley Scott wrought some thirty five years ago. As a cyberpunk dystopia, its arrival follows the box office bomb that was the recent Ghost in the Shell adaptation and the TV adaption of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
It wouldn’t be Blade Runner without Vangelis' menacing, synth-laden score, and Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (The Theory of Everything) promises to deliver on these expectations beautifully. As Jóhannsson recently said in an interview with Slashfilm, "this is a sequel, not a remake, so we're doing something that exists in the world but is new as well."
However, we are made to wait a bit longer to see what Johannssohn is devised for the film, as the music for this trailer comes courtesy of Cieran Birch, titled "Decay" and published by Elephant Music. The trailer follows the initial teaser, which featured the original Blade Runner theme as composed by Vangelis; the music, written by Cato, clearly takes cues from Vangelis, but is also very much its own sound.
After a six-second “trailer for the trailer,” our first scene opens with a pulverizing saw tooth bass tone. At thirty seconds we get the studio title cards, and musical motif that ends cadentially at 0:45. We are reminded at this point that Scott is still involved as Executive Producer, further reassuring an audience who may be rightly concerned about the idea of a Blade Runner sequel.
The next round of shots introduces the viewer to Harrison Ford’s voice, reprising his role as Rick Deckard. Coincidentally, Deckard has been missing for the past thirty years in the film universe. Deckard trepidatiously steps into his old apartment, gun in hand, pointed and shaking at Ryan Gosling’s character, Officer K. A synch point with his footstep brings the synth down to a deep, low rumble as we hear Officer K’s nonchalant response, and the proverbial torch being passed to a new generation in acting.
Are these synthetic sounds particularly well-suited to dystopian fiction, or are these aesthetics merely inherited from the original? By 2017, the world of Blade Runner feels increasingly like a parallel universe than an implausible near future as it did in the early eighties. The style of “80s synth” has achieved recognizability as an aesthetic, and one of the most important films to use it is taking that mantle and hopefully extending it in imaginative ways that leverage the technological advances in synthesized music that have occurred over the past three and a half decades.
By 1:26 the audioviewer is introduced to some sounds of an aesthetic and overall fidelity that reminds us that we are indeed watching an action trailer from 2017. At 1:39 and shortly thereafter, gun shots are rhythmically tightly synched to the soundtrack, another very common technique in action trailers these days.
At the end of the trailer, an unknown character tells Officer K, “your story isn’t over yet. There’s still a page left,” and the camera pans up to a smiling Gosling. We'll see -- and hear -- what this page brings later this year.
- Curtis Perry