“Blade Runner 2049” might just be a perfect sequel. There’s a catch, of course.
By perfect we mean the film doesn’t just continue the story started in the 1982 original. It apes the look, tone and pace of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic.
That means it’s as mind expanding as it is super serious. And dull. Oh, is it dull, just like portions of “Blade Runner.” Your tolerance for heady sci-fi will factor into your appreciation for what director Denis Villeneuve has crafted from this cob-webbed franchise.
It’s gorgeous all the same, a visual banquet for those demanding nothing less from a “Blade Runner” joint.
Ryan Gosling stars as Officer K, a Blade Runner out to retire replicants still running around in a world darkened by a collapsed eco-system. No sun. Precious little vegetation. The global warming lecture never arrives, thank goodness. It’s just part of the backdrop.
The movie’s opening text sets the stage. The Wallace Corporation picked up where Tyrell left off, creating robotic humans to do the jobs we won’t do. The updated replicants aren’t a problem like their predecessors.
It’s the bitter clingers that need to go, and K is more than up to the task.Science fiction soars when it opens up new horizons, asking questions with few pat answers.Click To Tweet
K’s latest assignment ends with a discovery: the remains of an old replicant complete with a secret that could change, well, everything. The finding attracts the attention of both K’s supervisor (a blunt Robin Wright) and the aforementioned corporation.
We’ll say no more about the story than that, in part for reasons as mysterious as the plot.
Rest assured, though, that Harrison Ford makes his return to the franchise as Deckard. He’s older but still game for a fight. That’s great news for those smirking at the thought of the 70-something actor playing Indiana Jones.
Gosling can do laconic in his sleep by now, given his McQueen-style turns in “Drive” and “Only God Forgives.” That makes him the ideal leading man for “Blade Runner 2049.”
The same holds true for Villeneuve, intent on making the belated sequel as visually arresting as modern cinema will allow. He’s got a bigger canvas to explore, both thanks to the eco-calamity and the film’s gargantuan running time (164 minutes!). The colors are gorgeous. The sets awe inspiring. The actors more than up to the challenge of extending part of the ’80s film canon.
Suffice to say cinematographer Roger Deakins’s odds of winning an Oscar early next year just ramped up dramatically.
Science fiction soars when it opens up new horizons, asking questions with few pat answers. “2049” does both with alacrity. The film introduces K’s love interest, played by Ana de Armas. Her very appearance ties directly to our cyber age. You’ll marvel at her and squirm all at once.
The film’s major plot point is equally brilliant, an organic extension of both the first movie and the growing conversations about artificial intelligence.
So why must it all be such a slog? The pacing is ponderous at best. The action, what little of it there is, doesn’t make up for the long waits. What emerges is a near classic bloated by artistic pretension.
“Blade Runner 2049” lacks the neo noir snap of the original even though there’s a mystery afoot here, too. It does pack some surprises courtesy of our FX age.
No spoilers here, either.
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The film couldn’t recreate the original Vangelis score without appearing archaic. Instead, we’re treated to a distortion drenched sound that moves the story forward without jettisoning the first film’s sonic template.
The film flirts with an anti-corporate screed but wisely lets the thought linger through the film. Other crucial parts of the production demand your attention, like Sylvia Hoeks as a character you’ll be talking about for a while.
The film itself? For all its bravura elements this critic started forgetting it minutes after leaving the theater.
HiT or Miss: It may take years to determine if “Blade Runner 2049” is an ambitious but flawed sequel or one every bit as good as the original, flaws and all.
I enjoy “heady sci-fi” a great deal, but the original Blade Runner was a pretentious mess. Ridley Scott really needed someone over him forcing him to cut about a third of that movie. Instead, what you have is film student onanism.
I’m almost alone among film buffs for this, but I’ve never cared for the original Blade Runner. While I can appreciate its visionary cyberpunk-meets-Noir aesthetic, the movie itself is dull, depressing, and mostly pointless. And its whole “what does it mean to be human?” theme has been done in a thousand other sci-fi movies, and I’ve always considered it to be pretty underwhelming. On the one hand, I’m glad the sequel didn’t compromise and managed to maintain the original’s vision, but that doesn’t mean I’m too excited to see it.
2001: A Space Odyssey has a similar reputation: although it’s celebrated as a genuine classic, it has actually stoked intense divisions, as an equal number of film buffs seem to hate it as much as those who love it, and a still equal number is ambivalent, not sure how to approach it. Of course, that’s what makes them so interesting, that they’re able to provoke viewers in such myriad ways. There’s also a similar reaction to the novels of Robert Heinlein, who despite his reputation as the greatest American science fiction writer has managed to gain an equal number of detractors as well as fans and defenders. Incidentally, although I love Blade Runner myself, I upvoted your comment for being thought-provoking in the same way as well.
Some may call the original “dull”. I call it a delightful slow burn.
I also think the original Blade Runner is overrated though I do like its art direction and Rutger Hauer is fantastic. I’m curious about the sequel, but I don’t want to see Harrison Ford sleepwalk his way through another movie to pick up a paycheck. Don’t care much for Ryan Gosling, either. The man can’t hold a candle to Steve McQueen.