BladeHeads hoping to learn intimate details about Denis Villeneuve’s continuation of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci fi detective masterwork will be disappointed by this review. I’m treating “Blade Runner 2049” like a high tech “Crying Game.” Remember that? “The movie everyone is talking about… But no one is giving away its secrets.” Spoilers for the flick will likely be available on twitter roughly 0.0001 nanoseconds after the film’s first public showing so check there. You won’t find them here.
I will say the new film is set thirty years after the events of Scott’s film. Ryan Gosling is Los Angeles Police Department’s Officer K, a blade runner who hunts down and eliminates rogue humanoid androids called replicants. When he makes a startling discovery in the field his supervisor Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) sends him to track down the only person who can help save humanity, retired blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). “You’re a cop. I did your job once. I was good at it,” he says.
I will also say that Jared Leto plays a replicant manufacturer named Niander Wallace, that David Bautista makes an appearance and that it rains a lot. But that’s it.
“Blade Runner 2049” is a beautiful looking movie, simultaneously lush but austere. Villeneuve’s frequent collaborator, cinematographer Roger Deakins, creates eye-catching tableaus that blend moody film noir, desaturated dystopia, vivid neon cityscapes and more. Each setting in every scene has its own unique palette that has echoes of the original film, but feels fresh. It’s a movie that visually doesn’t slavishly adhere to Scott’s vision but grows organically out of it.
Thematically it harkens back while creating a new story. Like the original it is still about discovering what is real, and what it means to be human but it expands on the search for self and the coming to grips with what you find, touching on real life issues like false memories and fear of progress.
Keeping it grounded are reverberations from our lives. A hologram that keeps K company is simply the logical extension of Siri, a comforting voice that tells you what you want to hear. Our brave new world of self-driving cars and machines that replace human interaction is simply the analogue “Blade Runner,” a prototype of the world we see on screen. Virtually everything we see is futuristic but not outside of the realm of possibility. These touchstones from our present lives and the primal search for self ensure the humanity of the story doesn’t get lost amid the technology.
Fans of the original will find much to like in “Blade Runner 2049.” It’s a skilfully made movie that works as a companion piece to Scott’s film and as a detective mystery. What it isn’t is easy. It’s a ponderous two-and-a-half hours long, grappling with ideas rather than simply allowing characters to physically grapple with one another. There is the odd combat scene but the real action here happens internally.