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Blade Runner 2049 (A Movie Review)

Updated: 4 days ago

Blade Runner 2049

BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)

Starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, David Dastmalchian, Jared Leto, Mackenzie Davis, Barkhad Abdi, Carla Juri, Sylvia Hoeks, Lennie James and Sean Young.

Screenplay by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve.

Distributed by Warner Bros. 163 minutes. Rated R.

35 years on from the original, we return to the world of Ridley Scott’s cult sci-fi classic Blade Runner. Based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, the sci-fi film noir was originally considered something of a disappointment, both critically and in the box office.

The film was director Scott’s follow-up to his breakthrough hit Alien. It starred an actor (Harrison Ford) who was one of the biggest box office draws – if not THE biggest – at the time. The special effects were mind-blowing at the time, but the tone was morose, the story was inscrutable, and audiences pretty much stayed away. The film was considered a box-office disappointment, though over the years the film’s bold visual style captured the imagination of a big cult audience through cable and video viewing.

Still, has anyone been waiting 35 years for a follow-up? Perhaps.

If you liked the original Blade Runner, chances are you will find the new one spectacular. (Ridley Scott stays on as a producer, but turned the directorial reins over to Denis Villeneuve of Prisoners and Arrival fame.) Personally, I was an odd mix of impressed by the filmmaking and unmoved by the story, which if anything is even more – much more – inscrutable than the original. Yet, it is an always-interesting film with some very intriguing ideas and a real visual style.

Interestingly, although obviously the special effects have greatly improved in the 35 years since Blade Runner’s release, the world of the original film was much more evocative. The new film’s palette is much darker, bleaker, sandier and muted. The rare occasions that you see the bright neon-hued bustle and majesty of the original are always overwhelmed by the grimy, mud-colored surroundings.

Like the original, the new film also has a muted, druggy, slow-moving pace. And at almost three hours long, this can be a bit of a problem. However, for the most part the look of the film and some of the action sequences make it worth the time.

Word is that director Villeneuve is particularly worried about spoilers in reviews, he wants the experience to unfold upon his audiences without any previous knowledge or expectations. I’ll respect his wishes and only give the very slightest thumbnail sketch of the storyline.

The film takes place 30 years after the action of the original film. Ryan Gosling plays K, a “blade runner” (the same job as Harrison Ford’s Deckart had in the original), basically a cop whose job is to hunt down and kill rogue “replicants” (which are androids). Like Deckart was in the original, K is also in love with a replicant, Joi, (Ana de Armas), who is yet another level of technology – not an android, but a walking, talking 3D hologram.

K’s boss (Robin Wright) sets him on a mission to find out if it is true that 30 years ago a replicant performed an act that only a human should be able to do. (How’s that for keeping the description vague?) This sets K on a journey across the destroyed Southern California landscape, where he eventually meets the older Deckart, who has become something of a hermit.

Believe me, that little thumbnail sketch barely even starts to describe all the plot lines, side paths, moral questions, action sequences, turnarounds, double crosses, offbeat cutaways and stylistic quirks that populate Blade Runner 2049. The film – co-written by original Blade Runner screenwriter Hampton Fancher – has enough going on for two or three films.

Much like the original film, Blade Runner 2049 is more likely to be a cult favorite than a huge box office draw, though the film seems to be banking on a hip cast and the original film’s artistic cachet to stoke excitement. Fans of the original will show up in droves, but I’m not sure that the dark, philosophical nihilism of Blade Runner 2049 will convert many casual viewers. It is a spectacular looking film, and it has a quirky, offbeat style, but in the long run it is just a bit too confounding for its own good.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: October 6, 2017.


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