Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch reprogram Vangelis for ‘Blade Runner 2049’s dynamic score


Four stars

Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, Blade Runner 2049

Making a follow-up to Vangelis’ 1982 Blade Runner score is nearly as big a challenge as making a sequel to the film itself. Vangelis imbued the original score with an abundance of personality—many of its cues were reportedly first takes, just Vangelis recording his initial reactions to Ridley Scott’s groundbreaking film on a Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer hooked up to some serious reverb boxes. In scoring Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch had to maintain the sonic universe Vangelis created while complementing the vision of a different filmmaker. (Reportedly, Vangelis turned down the job.) That Zimmer and Wallfisch succeed in this is a relief; that they excel at it is a miracle.

Zimmer and Wallfisch draw a few elements directly from Vangelis’ toolbox: some thrumming sci-fi noises that could have occurred in the film itself; that falling-off-a-cliff reverb; and, naturally, the Yamaha CS-80 itself. (The latter, still popular for its pressure-sensitive keys, makes a swooning appearance in “Mesa,” playing a melody once removed from Vangelis’ “Blade Runner Blues.”) In other places, they update Vangelis’ methods a bit: The throat singing that lends low-end menace to “Wallace” is a subtler version of Demis Roussos’ Arabic-inspired nonsense vocal on Vangelis’ “Animoid Row.”

But beyond that, Zimmer and Wallfisch add many of their own personal flourishes to this new Blade Runner soundscape, and nearly all of them are good. Staking out a space between darkwave and the symphonic electronica of Jean-Michel Jarre, they manage to capture the wistfulness (“Joi,” “Rain”), desolation (“Someone Lived This,” “That’s Why We Believe”) and cold, terrifying wonder (“Sea Wall”) that helped Ridley Scott—and now, Denis Villenueve—to build a place that lives on in our consciousness long after the final credits have rolled.

Note: The 93-minute soundtrack includes two Elvis Presley and two Frank Sinatra songs, which appear in the film (albeit in truncated form) but distract from the vibe of the set. And it ends with a Lauren Daigle vocal track that, to my knowledge, doesn’t appear in Blade Runner 2049 at all. Also, it’s awful.

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