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Blade Runner 2049 - How Does This Sci-Fi Sequel Measure Up?

Blade Runner 2049 is directed by Denis Villeneuve, and stars Ryan Gosling. The film features supporting performances from Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, and Dave Bautista. This is the sequel to the 1982 film, Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott.

30 years have passed since the first Blade Runner film. Following the events of that movie, the Tyrell Corporation, responsible for the creation of Replicants, went out of business, but was later acquired by another company that produced more advanced Replicants. K is a Blade Runner cop who works to retire (kill) renegade Replicants, but comes to question his position and his own place in life when he discovers Replicant remains, implying that Replicants are capable of giving birth. He finds himself investigating these mysteries, and caught in the middle of corporate types wanting to keep this secret, and Replicants that want nothing more than to rise up and take their place in society.

I will be the first to say that Blade Runner did not need a sequel; the original 1982 film ended on an ambiguous note that suited the nature of the material well (if one ignores the superimposed happy ending from older theatrical cuts of the movie). Blade Runner 2049 has ambition and elaborate production values, but suffers from an overabundance of characters and subplots, and fails to capture the mood and the atmosphere that made the original such a high water mark of science fiction cinema. In fact, the end result feels like a generic “dystopian future” movie. Did I mention that it is damn near three hours long, too?

 

 

Let’s get the worst fault of this film out of the way first; Harrison Ford simply is not in it enough. He doesn’t make his debut until the third act of the film, despite being featured heavily in marketing material. Ryan Gosling’s character simply is not interesting enough to hold our attention; when you have a bland lead, you have already doomed your movie to fail. When Ford does show up, he gets some interesting scenes, including some story material that does tie into the original film. Ford’s performance is worthy of his role in the original movie; it is just a shame we have to sit through roughly two hours of movie before we get to it. The Gosling character feels like the generic “identity crisis” protagonist we have seen a million times before at the movies.

Failing to capture the tone and the atmosphere of the original film works to the movie’s detriment as well. It’s tough to put this one into words; Ridley Scott’s 1982 original had a certain look and feel about it that has been often imitated but never duplicated. The new film makes the critical error of having scenes set in BROAD DAYLIGHT, something that the original movie never did (unless one counts the studio superimposed happy ending). Despite beautiful setpieces and effects, none of the performances in the movie ever quite rival those of the characters in the original; Jared Leto’s behind-the-scenes villain never comes off as interesting, and looks more like a long-lost member of Spinal Tap than an evil genius. Put simply, watching the original Blade Runner and then watching this film is like watching the original Superman movie with Christopher Reeve, and then Superman Returns. The newer installment in either series clearly had a bigger budget, but they are just dull and lifeless, so it does not matter how much money was thrown into the production. It does not help that the film runs nearly three hours in length, pandering on at a snail’s pace, with too many overreaching plot threads and unfinished storylines. The movie is as soulless as people in the film think Replicants are.

 

 

There are moments in the film that had serious potential, but as a whole, so much of it feels like it would not have been out of place in any other film set in the generic dystopian setting. If you have seen any other movie set in an unfavorable future, you have seen the setting of this movie. There are some great setpieces, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is nothing we haven’t seen before.

I have a feeling Blade Runner 2049 is a film that is going to continue to divide audiences; there are certainly plot elements that are going to have people thinking, but we have already seen reviews critically acclaiming and praising the film, and ones calling it boring and uninteresting despite its budget and premise. I lean more towards the latter camp, despite having been a die-hard fan of the original. I cannot recommend Blade Runner 2049, and would recommend prospective viewers wait for the home release.

 

All images in this review are the copyright of Sony Pictures, Warner Bros. Entertainment, and all other associated rights holders.

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