It’s 35 years since the original Black Label appeared in Blade Runner and Johnnie Walker has done what any self respecting multi-million dollar corporation would do – milk the product placement for all it’s worth with the new movie, Blade Runner 2049.
And why not? They haven’t cut corners, with the limited edition bottle being a stunning replicant of the one in the new movie. The packaging is sleek and the drink inside is, well, I’m more of a Speyside drinker, but the bottle is amazing. Not that I cared after the fourth glass, not that I cared about much in the end. I've seen things you wouldn't believe. If only you could see what I have seen with your eyes.
I’ve lost count the times I’ve watched Blade Runner but it always ends up being a cathartic experience. None more so when you are three sheets to the wind and getting battered with Batty. The following is a mix of notes (cleaned up for posterity as most that was written down was spelled incorrectly or just plain incoherent), asides and musings on what is one of the greatest movies ever made… oh, and a little bit about the whisky, too.
The version I watched was The Final Cut, obviously. The only version of Blade Runner that need exist. I’ve only got it on DVD but was still utterly impressed by the transfer - Ridley Scott and co put in a lot of effort into the DVD release of the movie, remastering the original 4K print. I actually took time to look at the box a little bit, while the 8-bit oak tree of the Ladd Company appears on the screen, the glorious tin box it comes in.
Got to be a collectors’ item, I thought, the warm glow of two whiskies in. To Google! Bloody hell, Amazon is selling it for £199. I’m rich, for choosing to not chuck away my DVD collection like I did with my CDs. I am rich! I still wouldn’t be able to afford a real snake, but kerching. My mind wanders to the other boxsets I have… no, back on track.
The film’s on its way, the opening crawl sets the scene, a city spewing fire, a world of lights and spaceships, big almost Egyptian-like buildings then an eyeball reflecting the fire. What. An. Opening. Then it all shrinks to one room, a film noir-ish interrogation scene and I remember just how small and intimate much of Blade Runner is. Among the expansive world-building and set-pieces much of it is set among the desolation of the world.
It’s not just the light that burns but the whisky too
Five minutes in and I’ve forgotten to take a sip of whisky, so I have a glug instead. It still burns, but my coated taste buds start to behave themselves. I try and guess what the wanky whisky notes for this bottle would be, in the context of the Blade Runner world.
“I’m tasting the steam off of Deckard's noodles, mixed with the second-hand smoke of Rachael’s slim cigarette, combined with unicorn dreams,” I scribble.
It turns out I’m not very good at the adjective assault needed to be a true whisky writer. In defeat, and watching Deckard have his own glug of whiskey about 11 minutes in, while discussing the replicants he needs to chase down and kill, I do a bit of research about what this bottle of Johnnie Walker is really meant to taste like.
In a brilliant case of nominative determinism, the Master Blender for this batch is someone called Jim Beveridge. And he reckons the whisky “has a cloud of smokiness and an air of femininity.”
So a bit like Dot Cotton then. I am drinking the Dot Cotton of the whisky world.
I check the bottle, while Deckard chats to the maker of the replicants, and I then have my own unicorn moment.
The abv might be stronger than a normal bottle of Johnnie Walker. It’s 49 per cent. That number rings a bell. 49… 2049. They’ve bottled it at the percentage of the year of the freaking sequel. Now, that’s clever. Another sip, a nod in appreciation of that little Easter egg.
“It tastes like the abject terror of knowing you are not real, with a pop similar to a thumb in the eyeball.” Nope, still terrible.
A little more research, another drink poured. I'm starting to regret researching the bottle before the movie starts as I'm only getting fleeting glimpses of Deckard in the rain, arguing over his food choice.
It turns out that there’s only 39,000 bottles of this stuff, so now I’m feeling bad I’m wasting it. I should be having this next to a roaring fire, with my best friend, pondering what life really is. Instead, I'm in my pants Googling ‘how to be a whisky reviewer’. Then, Deckard meets Rachel. I’m blown away (as I am every time) by Sean Young’s performance. She’s easily the most robotic-moving of the replicants but her innocence, not knowing she is one, is heartbreaking.
Another sip, it’s all getting a bit emotional. Imagine finding out your whole existence is a lie, memories just downloaded from a disc on a shelf, feelings faked by ones and noughts. Actually, didn’t Elon Musk pretty much confirm that we’re all living in a simulation?
To Google! Yes, he did. But scientists have just announced that they reckon we probably aren’t. Woop, my now fuzzy head is calmed by the news that we are just meat sacks living in a real world, with real problems and none of that fake news.
Some more fantastic big-world shots, a woman’s giant face on a billboard pointing at things, the Coca-Cola sign, the fog, the rain, the crowds of people on the streets. The world maybe the future but, my god, Ridley Scott mined all the ’80s bands for the clothes worn by the street dwellers. New Romantics. Devo devotee. Extras from a Siouxsie and the Banshees video. Backed by the Vangelis score, you can practically smell the synth sex. There’s even a saxophone solo thrown in for good measure, the ‘80s instrument of choice.
In the Final Cut version, the best version, the score becomes even more significant. I’m not quite sure if it’s the whisky warping things or me misremembering but there’s many a scene that meanders in Blade Runner without the removed theatrical cut voiceover, once allowed to go on a little too long for the sake of exposition. And it’s fantastic.
But I ruin it by doing a little bit of my own voice-over. “there's Deckard, brought back into action for one last job, flying in his flying machine. He loves the whisky. The hot hot whisky.”
Yup, terrible, but still better than Harrison Ford’s bored try that the theatrical version was burdened with.
The Rutger Hauer Power Shower
Enter Rutger Hauer. This changes everything. Yes, the name Roy Batty sounds like a comedy Coronation Street character but he is still one of the best villains ever to grace our screens.
When him and Pris (Daryl Hannah, playing the doll-like psychotic replicant to perfection) visit JF Sebastian in his home, we get one of the strangest scenes ever seen in a big-budget movie.
Batty and Pris walking around a derelict building with Sebastian’s ‘toys’ wandering around the place. It’s unnerving to watch. Here's a guy surrounded by toys growing older faster than he should be.
Surrounded by replicated adults who will die before they hit the age of four but want to grow old. It's a great contrast. No wonder Batty loves the toys. He's still just a kid!
It tastes of questionable things
And now I’ve lost my train of thought, the notes start to get even more illegible. There’s some more tasting notes: “It tastes of questionable things, like tears in rain.”
A note on when they visit the eye maker: “Love that what’s his name just starts putting eyes on the eye guys shoulders, legend.”
Some other thoughts: “I have whisky glass envy… His flat’s a bit odd, looks like it’s made from the inside of a Tomb Raider tomb… Rachael is wearing a cracking coat… Ah, snake man, making artificial snakes as there are not enough fucking snakes in the world... I want a lightsaber brolly.”
The notes get more disparate, I think at this point I give up writing and just watch the movie.
There is an idea for a videogame that needs to happen right now: “Why haven’t they made an LA Noire/Papers Please-style Blade Runner game, where the aim is to tell if someone is a replicant by their facial expressions and answers? That’d be ace.”
I agree with drunk me. That would be ace.
There’s also a bit about the rain in Blade Runner. Apparently drunk Marc was very interested in Blade Runner’s rain.
“You can tell [Ridley] Scott is a northerner, there’s so much rain in Blade Runner, Rutger Hauer should have done a George Foreman and created his own product, capitalising on the rain. He could have made the Rutger Hauer Power Shower.”
And drunk me on Rutger Hauer himself…
“No one fondles a dove like Rutger. No one. Not even Prince… What’s going on with Batty’s trousers? They are up to his armpits...That last monologue. Tom Hardy’s entire acting oeuvre is based on this one seen. I have no proof but it is genuine fact... Batty is singing, he’s like Freddy. Why isn’t he wearing a shirt? Why is he howling at the moon. Why is it raining inside? Rutger Hauer is the greatest actor in the world, he must be doing amazing stuff now.”
A cursory check on IMDb reveals he’s in a movie called Gangsterdam, a film about gangsters in Amsterdam. There is no god.
And finally, some ‘mind blowing’ moments of realisation:
“William S Burroughs had the rights to the Blade Runner name?”
I had to Google this when sober but it is true, something to do with a novella of the same name. Not sure how drunk Marc found this out.
“Hang on, Gaff is the admiral in Battlestar Galactica, how did I not know this?”
Again I had to do another Google but it’s also true. Actor Edward James Olmos was just 35 when the movie was made. Good spot, drunk Marc.
And that’s it, my slightly drunken meta look at Blade Runner, while drinking the Johnnie Walker: Special Edition Blade Runner 2049 version of the whisky.
Don’t drink and write, kids.
There’s just time to publish verbatim a couple of other notes that don’t make any sense to me, so if anyone knows just what the hell I was going on about, please let me know!
- They both have sore hands, that must mean something.
- 50 minutes in he’s drinking a stupid cocktail in a green glass. Stick to the whisky Dekhart (sic). Stick to the hot hot whisky.
- Boiling eggs in a big test tube. Nasty.
- If only I could afford a real snake. Bloody Brexit.
- Ah, the TDK sign on the building. They only just got rid of that one in Piccadilly Circus.
- Enhance 15 to 23, great focusing on the photograph, didn’t even have to shake it like a Polaroid when it came out. Legend.
- 41 minutes in there’s more whisky, a dream of unicorns - probably nothing, doesn’t seem significant - can’t believe they still have CRTs in 2019.
- Tears in rain… tears on train… beers on train, like beers on train.
Blade Runner 2049 is out in cinemas now. The Johnnie Walker Blade Runner 'Directors’ Cut' Limited Edition Whisky is out now for £99.99.