Soundtrack Review: Blade Runner 2049

Soundtrack Review: Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 Soundtrack Review: This is a review of the film score Blade Runner 2049 by Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch.

At a glance:

Geek Score: 94.7
Total Minutes Of Excellence: 54.7
Album Excellence: 72%

How are the scores calculated and what does it mean?

Blade Runner 2049 is a 2017 American neo-noir science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling & Ana de Armas. It is a sequel to Blade Runner from 1982. Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years. The score is composed by Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch.

I still can’t believe someone had the balls to create a sequel to THAT movie from 1982 with all it’s legacy, but they did and apparently it’s pretty spectacular. Some reviewers even say that it’s better than the original, but I doubt that. I’m willing to believe it’s a great film and sequel to one of my favorite films of all time Blade Runner. I’m excited and scared at the same time, but one thing is for sure, I can’t wait to see it. Very few movies have fused visuals and sound in the way the original Blade Runner did. The massive vision of Ridley Scott and the extravagant and romantic score by Vangelis has become a staple of pop culture for 35 years and will continue to do so. Naturally there was a lot of talk about who would direct this film and who would score it. When Denis Villeneuve got the director gig, everyone expected Johann Johannsson to score this film as he did for Villeneuve’s Arrival and others. And soon after, Johannsson was confirmed as the composer. Then later on, it appeared Hans Zimmer would co-score the movie with Johannsson and then about a month or so ago an Icelandic source claimed that Johannsson wasn’t in the picture anymore and it would be a purely Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch score.

So what exactly happened? No one seems to know, but the rumor was almost immediately confirmed as fact and here we are. It’s interesting because I’m pretty sure I’ve read somewhere that Hans Zimmer dream project would be to score Blade Runner so now he got the chance. On the other hand I’ve read that this is mostly a Wallfisch score, and if so, why wasn’t Zimmer more involved? My feelings on this is a bit mixed. I was really stoked and looking forward to Johannsson scoring this after having great successes with Sicario and Arrival, but then again, if Zimmer (and hopefully Wallfisch) has a real affection for Blade Runner, surely that must be a good thing? And let’s not forget Wallfisch who has had a stunning year with one great score after another. That team up between Zimmer & Wallfisch excites me. I’ve been trying to avoid any "spoilers" for the score, but it has been impossible and when reviewers mentions that the score is sometimes trying to mimic Vangelis hallmark score, well I can’t help but be very excited for that. On the other hand, this isn’t the Blade Runner I knew 35 years ago, so surely it can’t be a copy of the original score?

The score starts perfectly with ‘2049’, a big beautiful bang and that very high pitched synth which does indeed remind me a bit of the classic score, but it’s more moody and ambient. You even have the slowly descending high pitched synth. There’s piano though, very minimalistic, very Inception-like. It’s all quite beautiful in fact and if this is a preview of the general sound of the score I will be quite pleased with it. This is a little homage to Vangelis wonderful score, no doubt about it, but with a little bit of that recent Zimmer sound as well. This isn’t a homage to the classic score however, so that mustn’t be our focus. This is a new score set in the Blade Runner universe, and if we get lost in nostalgia listening to this score we might well end up getting disappointed.

I listened to most of it a couple of days ago and I couldn’t shake the feeling of disappointment. It felt hollow, formless, cold. But then it got me thinking why I felt this way. I think it’s hard for me to let go of Vangelis score to the original Blade Runner and how it shaped me and my musical taste over the years (and still does). It felt a bit unfair to compare the scores and yet it’s almost impossible not to do. But this is the Blade Runner universe 35 years later, and everything changes. I’d imagine the world there 35 years later is more bleak and shapeless than ever, a little bit like our world now. I have fuzzy warm thoughts about the world I grew up in, but these days it all seems like a memory as the world is getting colder and more brutal.

The musical style of Zimmer, and I think it’s mostly Zimmer, is cold, bleak and ambient and pretty great for a science fiction world gone bad. Maybe this is one of those scores that is so integral to having the movie experience as well to properly get full enjoyment out of it. I’d like to think that’s not the case with the original Blade Runner, but it’s fused together into this gorgeous piece of art. When I listen to the score now I’m in the Blade Runner world. Will the same happen to this score once I see the movie? I’d like to think so. As it is though, this score puts me into some kind of science fiction world, and it could well be the Blade Runner one, but I’m not sure yet.

What I am sure of is that this is the kind of science fiction score I’d love to hear in 2017. It has massive soundscapes of synths, some of them retro, and a kind of ambient sound of a broken world, a broken system. The warmth of the original score isn’t here, but I don’t think it needs it. I don’t think it’s a case of this or the original Blade Runner score. Luckily we live in a world where both exist and both have their things to say in their own way. If it’s true that Wallfisch was the point runner for this score and that’s a huge change from his 2017 list of scores, with a couple of exceptions. After having listened to this, I still can’t warm to it, but I know that I like it quite a bit. How can I love it and be disappointed at the same time? I just can’t shake the initial hopes I had for this score and they haven’t been met. Instead I got a great science fiction score in it’s own right, but it’s not the Blade Runner score I was hoping for. A big plus however is Zimmer & Wallfisch’s version of ‘Tears In The Rain’ which is really good and then you have the massive ‘Blade Runner’ cue at the end which is like a "best of" and new ideas probably concocted by Zimmer as he likes to have these long "headliner" cues. I doubt it will be a classic like the original Blade Runner, but it is a great modern science fiction score, so if you buy it, get it because of that instead of nostalgia. But I’ll always wonder… what would Johannsson’s score have sounded like.

HIGHLIGHTS:
1. 2049
2. Sapper’s Tree
3. Flight To LAPD
5. Rain
6. Wallace
7. Memory
8. Mesa
9. Orphanage
11. Someone Lived This
12. Joi
18. That’s Why We Believe
20. Sea Wall
22. Tears In The Rain
23. Blade Runner

GD Star Rating
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Soundtrack Review: Blade Runner 2049, 7.6 out of 10 based on 13 ratings

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