It’s probably going to take another viewing to fully appreciate Blade Runner 2049. My gut reaction is it’s a great movie bordering on masterpiece.
Like its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t play out like the standard sci-fi film. It’s got action elements, philosophical considerations and a gripping and highly engaging mystery. Just for being a sci-fi mystery more concerned with putting together pieces of a puzzle instead of massive shoot-outs and explosions make 2049 an anomaly.
LAPD officer K (Ryan Gosling, La La Land) has established himself as a reliable, almost fully human blade runner. He’s a more advanced model replicant and he’s tasked with bringing in the older models. While rounding up his latest assignment (Dave Bautista, Spectre), K makes a potentially catastrophic discovery. One that could send the broken down future society plunges further into chaos.
With no one to truly confide in save his holographic construct girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas, Hands of Stone), K has a tough task made even more difficult with a third party invested in his efforts. New replicant creator (Jared Leto) isn’t thrilled with a potential wildcard and sics his top aide, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), to take care of the situation.
Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) was absolutely the best choice to direct a follow-up to Ridley Scott’s highly revered and influential sci-fi classic. The last time I’ve been this visually wowed was watching Arrival, not too coincidentally the last film directed by Villeneuve. There’s so many breathtaking shots from cinematography Roger Deakins (Skyfall) that it almost becomes commonplace. Villeneuve pushes the limits of sci-fi with incredibly creative locations and technology that doesn’t seem too far away.
Original Blade Runner screenwriter Hampton Fancher teams with Michael Green (Logan) and they explore some interesting concepts. The best is K’s relationship with Joi. K doesn’t fare well with regular humans, but is perfectly comfortable with his portable AI. That’s a similar thread found in Her, which also explored a deeper tech relationship.
One of the film’s most fascinating and somewhat odd scenes is Joi figuring out a way to consummate their relationship. It’s a little weird, but Villeneuve stages it in a manner that it avoids being icky. Another shows a character creating artificial memories in one of the movie’s best moments.
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This felt like a better way to revisit a beloved franchise than just retracing the steps of the first film. The trailers and promotional materials focus heavily on the return of Harrison Ford’s Deckard, but he doesn’t actually appear until the final act. While that invites some impatience waiting on his arrival, it allows for 2049 to fully be about K’s journey.
Gosling was a smart casting choice as he handles the occasionally sparse script with ease. His eyes tell a better story than some actors with their full repertoire unleashed. Both Hoeks and de Armas deliver career expanding performances. Robin Wright (Wonder Woman) is engaging as K’s commanding officer.
With a 161 minute run time, the film starts feeling a little too long. Some moments like Deckard and K’s first meeting and extended shots of K exploring could have been cut for the sake of moving the film along. The final action sequence lacks a certain amount of high stakes given the circumstances and wears out its welcome to an extent.
Maybe that’s because the action takes a back step to K’s strong story arc. Exploring this new world and the secrets that lie within truly make Blade Runner 2049 one of 2017’s most unique big screen experiences.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures