In 1982, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner had an expectation of LA in 2019 that we will likely fall short of: flying cars and android slaves passing as human (called replicants). It painted a dystopian future (is there any other kind?) of dark moodiness and a staggering loss of basic humanity. On that front, we’re a little closer. I wasn’t a huge fan of the original. It had amazing visuals and production design, and thoughtful writing, but I was subjected to the original cut, which had that awful voice-over that managed to ruin an otherwise thoughtful and quiet piece. Blade Runner 2049 capitalizes on the world of the original, and creates a more engaging, more thoughtful, if less stylized film.
In Blade Runner 2049, thirty years have passed since is-he or is-he-not a replicant replicant- hunter Deckard (Harrison Ford) took a spin out of his job with for sure replicant Rachael (Sean Young). In the sequel replicant-hunting duties fall to for-sure replicant K (Ryan Gosling), and his discovery of replicant bones in the opening sequence start a chain of events that, according to his LAPD boss (Robin Wright), could “break the world.”
The mood of 2049 is in a similar vein as the original but whereas the first was dark and claustrophobic, technology and the plot have advanced enough to open up the world in both senses. Every shot is a beauty and director Denis Villaneuve (Arrival, Sicario) does an amazing job of pacing the action and balancing the slow, methodical walks (borrowed from the first). For a nearly three-hour movie, it doesn’t feel like it. Gosling and his heavy, sad eyes does an effortless job carrying the movie both as its emotional core and when he’s playing action hero. Ford doesn’t join the action until the third act, so don’t get too hopeful if you were pinning your hopes on his presence. He continues his 80s-movie icon tour, resurrecting Deckard like he did Han Solo and soon to be with Indiana Jones. His grizzled, worn old man routine hasn’t grown tired yet, and he keeps the spark in the film before tedium sets in.
Whereas Star Wars: The Force Awakens basically retold the same story as the original to recapture the magic of the original for a new generation, 2049 builds on the themes of the original, the dark, inherent sadness in the context of the story (artificial humans with an expiration date used as slaves and then hunted to the death afterwards) and adds a layer of hopefulness and thoughtfulness that manages to raise more questions than it answers. Able supporting turns from Wright, Dave Bautista, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri and a brief return from original actor Edward James Olmos fill out the film, and all help to add emotional weight throughout.
My Grade – A