So I was watching that Blade Runner 2049 trailer yesterday, and despite my burning love of the original movie and equally potent hatred for sequels that arrive decades later for seemingly no reason I have to say…I was kinda digging it.
The Gosling (he’s got his faults, but that stoic-yet-vulnerable badass shtick of his seems well suited to a Blade Runner movie if you ask me).
Combining all that with the knowledge of the Villeneuve and Fancher of it all meant that, yeah, the trailer was doing its job very well. I was excited. Aroused. Teased. Stoked. Enthused. In short, I was quite fucking enraptured, alright?
Except for that voice-over.
The trailer opens with an ominous synth blast and the retro hum of a flying car. Then that voice-over intones, ‘Every civilization…’
And then a second’s dramatic pause before it resumes with…something.
Something it took me three tries to hear. I had to move the clip back and replay it three times and then really, really laser-beam focus before I could register that next line.
Because Jared Leto’s voice? It’s nothing.
I can’t think of a better way of putting it. There’s plenty of hate out there—some justifiable, some less so—for Leto, so this is not me adding to that. This is just a cold appraisal of a mystical entity that confuses me.
It’s not just me, right? Jared Leto’s voice—it’s not a thing? Not just in this trailer, but in everything he’s ever been in.
Even on the opening, ‘Every civilization…’ bit of the trailer I was struggling. And that had the hook of being the by-its-very-nature intriguing first line of a trailer.
Actors usually have voices. Their voices act too, often in very distinctive ways.
Harrison Ford swaggers; Ryan Gosling mumbles something that’s probably compelling?; James Earl Jones booms with authority; Cate Blanchett oozes mystique; Sam Elliott narrates; Viola Davis tells you what’s what; Liam Neeson threatens; Frances McDormand is compassion; Catherine Keener condescends; Rosario Dawson makes you want to go along with whatever the hell she might be up to that day; Tommy Lee Jones huh? what d’you say, Tommy?
To a greater or lesser degree, actors have voices. I know that Jared Leto has a voice too. Like, academically, I get that that’s a fact.
But also no.
After finally hearing Leto’s voice in that Blade Runner trailer I did a little experiment: I paused the clip and I firmly tried with all my might to hold his voice in my mind. It was gone again within half a minute. Like trying to trap neutrinos in the palm of your hand it evanesced with apparently zero effort. Attempting to replay his line in my head in his voice just led to the line playing in that version of my own voice that exists in my head. You know the one. The cooler version of what you actually sound like. Then I tried Leto’s line in Harrison Ford’s voice in my head. That worked fine. Of course it did. Because Harrison Ford’s voice is a thing.
I tried others.
Leto’s line in Kevin Corrigan’s voice? Fine.
Leto’s line in Alison Brie’s voice? A-ok.
Leto’s line in Sigourney Weaver’s voice? A-yup.
Shit I managed to hear Leto’s line in my head in Dustin’s voice.
And I don’t have a single fucking clue what Dustin sounds like!
But I bet his voice is a thing.
I went back and replayed the Blade Runner clip again to hear the results of Jared Leto’s voicebox vibrating in his throat; his tongue and his lips forming those vibrations into words I understood. Again I tried to hold it, and again it escaped with nary a trace like a minuscule kitten’s fart. The words remained, but the voice did not. Like the elision of physical states as separate dimensions collide and a momentary cosmic smoothing happens—which is a nonsense sequence of words describing nothing that I’ve just made up, which I bet nonetheless still has a sound that’s more of a thing than Jared Leto’s voice.
Put it this way: I heard it about 20 seconds ago and again it’s gon—oh, no wait, I think I got it!
No, nevermind, that was Dustin’s again.