Alcon Entertainment/Columbia Pictures/Scott Free Productions/Torridon Films/16:14 Entertainment/Thunderbird Entertainment/Warner Bros./Sony Pictures
Directed by Denis Villeneueve
Produced by Andrew A. Kosove/Broderick Johnson/Bud Yorkin/Cynthia Sikes Yorkin
Screenplay by Hampton Fancher/Michael Green
Story by Hampton Fancher
Based on characters from “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick
Based on his past track record with me, I didn’t hold out much hope for Denis Villeneueve directing BLADE RUNNER 2049. I was indifferent to “Prisoners” loved “Sicario” and hated “Arrival” so much that Patricia had to pull me away from the TV before I put my foot through the screen. But there was no way I was going to stay away from a sequel to one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made so I bit the bullet and took the plunge. Two hours and forty-three minutes I returned to this time and place and I was mightily impressed.
I don’t think there’s been a science fiction movie in the past twenty years that hasn’t been called; “A Dazzling Vision of The Future.” You know as well as I do that they say that about every science fiction movie. But BLADE RUNNER 2049 deserves that tagline. Just like it’s predecessor it brilliantly succeeds in transporting you into a world that seems just as real and fully realized as the one we all walk around in. And just like “Blade Runner” it wonderfully and skillfully meshes a hard-boiled film noir detective story with science fiction and it all works.
It’s thirty years after the events of “Blade Runner.” The Tyrell Corporation has gone bankrupt and due to an electromagnetic pulse set off over Los Angeles in the years 2022, most of the registered information about their Replicants was destroyed so they’re pretty much running around doing whatever they want. Most of them are just trying to live out their lives. The Wallace Corporation has taken over the manufacture of Replicants who are now even more closer to human that Tyrell Replicants. Guaranteed to obey, they are basically slaves and servants that are programmed to be at peace with their second class citizen status.
KD9-3.7, who is simply called K (Ryan Gosling) is a Wallace Replicant that hunts Tyrell Replicants. He’s a Blade Runner and a very good one. He does his job with intelligence, skill and precision then goes home to his modest apartment and his holographic girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas in what is the movie’s most heartrendingly earnest performance) In what I think may have been a slight winking poke in the ribs to the decades old “Is Rick Deckard a Replicant?” debate, we’re told right up front that K is a Replicant and what’s more, he knows he’s one as well. K is assigned by his boss, Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) to investigate an underground Replicant freedom movement and that investigation leads him to evidence that an experimental Tyrell Replicant named Rachel may actually have had the ability to conceive and give birth to a child. Lt. Joshi is terrified of the concept of a hybrid Human/Replicant being used as a messianic figure by the movement and assigns K to find and kill the now grown-up child, along with anything and anybody connected to him or her.
K isn’t the only one looking for the child. Niander Wallace (Jared Leto in a typical loopy Jared Leto performance) also wants the child for his own purposes. He wants to further enhance the capabilities of his own creations, which he refers to as “angels” so you can easily guess who he thinks HE is. Because as good as Wallace is in innovating Replicant bio-engineering, he still ain’t as good as Old Man Tyrell was on his best day. Niander assigns his own pet Replicant enforcer, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) to find the child and her plan is simple: let K do the dirty work, find the child and then she’ll step in. It’s not going to be a simple job for either one of them and along the way, K is going to be presented with the mystery of his past and it’s a mystery that may decide the future of Replicants.
BLADE RUNNER 2049 is what a sequel is supposed to be. It doesn’t rehash and remix elements from the previous movie. It does a very admirable job of continuing the themes of the earlier movie, amplifying them and presenting them to new characters who wrestle with them just as the characters in the first movie did. At the core of this movie is the same thing that was at the core of “Blade Runner”: what does it mean to be human?
The performances are first rate. I’ve long been a fan of Ryan Gosling and even if I can’t stand the movie he’s in (I so hated “La-La Land but I loved him) and he never oversells the emotion in any character he does. More than any other actor in recent years he greatly reminds me of Steve McQueen in that he does so much more with less. Harrison Ford doesn’t have as big a role in this as the trailers and promotion might lead you to expect but once you get to the end of the movie his return as Rick Deckard proves to be much more than stunt casting and it’s just plain fun to see him blasting away with that honkin’ big handgun. The music is by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch is is so evocative of the original movie’s Vangelis score that I thought it was Vangelis who had done the music until I read the end credits.
And much in the same way that the visuals of “Blade Runner” redefined the way we look at science fiction movies, BLADE RUNNER 2049 is visually gorgeous. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s beautiful, functional, surrealistic, naturalistic, futuristic and down-to-earth all at the same time. But I think that like the original movie, it’s going to take time for BLADE RUNNER 2049 to enjoy the same reputation. And I think that eventually it will. It deserves to.