Runway: Welcome Back Mr. West

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Runway movie poster

Finally, after weeks of private screenings and breathless audiences, visionary hip-hop artist Kanye, West simultaneously debuted his epic short-film Runaway on three cable channels. After watching it six times in one week, I can honestly agree with MTV when they say that, “Runaway solidifies Kanye West as the greatest pop star of this generation.”

Filmed almost entirely in Prague, Runaway is essentially a very long music video for West’s song, the aptly titled “Runaway”. The film clocks in at 36 minutes, more than double the length of another memorable music video, Michael Jackson’s Thriller. These 36 minutes are not boring at all. Runaway is truly an incredible piece of art, certainly on par with Thriller if not going above and beyond it in terms of aesthetic beauty.

But this is not “art” as in oil paintings or quiet museums. No, Runaway is instead filled to the brim with nine of Kanye’s new songs from his upcoming album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, along with fireworks and explosions, Nicki Minaj with a British accent, frozen ballerinas, and model Selita Ebanks playing a phoenix.

Yes, Ebanks is a phoenix, as in: the mythological bird with a 1,000-year life cycle.

The film centers on West’s character Griffin finding a phoenix-woman who has crash-landed on Earth. Griffin takes her in and teaches her about the ways of this world. Along the way, Griffin realizes that perhaps Earth isn’t such a great place after all. The film ends with the phoenix rejecting this world and reducing herself to ashes to return to where she came from.

Two of the best scenes in the film are easily the two most important scenes. The first one consists of Griffin taking the phoenix to a firework show outside of an airplane hangar. This is no ordinary firework show, as the viewer realizes, as a large float depicting the late Michael Jackson is carried by slow-moving KKK-like red-hooded figures while a marching band plays music and the phoenix looks on in wonder.

In an interview with MTV News, West said, “The hood, what it does represent to me … in relation to the Michael Jackson thing is not the KKK but the concept of cult, because it’s multiple people with this hood on.” West went on to say that the scene represented him taking the phoenix to his world and saying, “Let me show you what it’s about.” This is where Griffin and the phoenix begin to realize that maybe Earth isn’t so great after all.

The scene features West’s new song “All of the Lights,” which contains vocals from eleven other artists, including Rihanna, Elton John, Kid Cudi and Alicia Keys. Needless to say, “All of the Lights” is musically awesome, and the scene is incredibly telling.

The film ends with Griffin running through a forest searching for the phoenix. Alas, he finds that she has left him. The scene is set to the thought-provoking and remarkable “Lost in the World”, a soulful song made by West with indie-folk band Bon Iver (the song samples Bon Iver’s “Woods”). As the credits roll, spoken-word poet Gil Scott-Heron finishes the festivities with an eerie poem about the founding of our nation and its current state, repeating the line “Who will survive in America?” as the films fades to black.

With Runaway, Kanye West holds a mirror up to the world, exposing its many flaws and contradictions. It’s no wonder that the phoenix chooses to leave this planet.

Thanks to Runaway and all of his other award-winning albums, Kanye West will certainly go down in history as one of the most important musicians of all time. His fifth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is set to be released on November 22, and you can preorder the album on iTunes.

If you haven’t seen Runaway yet, check it out here: