"Blade Runner 2049" is the sequel to the 1982 sci-fi classic "Blade Runner" and it's directed by Denis Villeneuve. This movie stays set within a future of bio-engineered humans known as "replicants", but now this time they've been integrated into society with some older models still being hunted down by blade runners, one of these blade runners being played by Ryan Gosling who goes on his own investigative journey about the replicants which involves tracking down former blade runner, Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford.
The first "Blade Runner" film is one that I first saw back when I was around 12 or 13 years old. At the time, I didn't care much for the movie mainly because I just thought it was boring and had a lot of talking. In other words, I was a dumbass preteen who only cared about big explosions and fight scenes in movies. But I've recently seen the final cut of "Blade Runner" (the one that director Ridley Scott had intended to be seen) and I now appreciate that movie a lot more. I don't think it's a science-fiction masterpiece like a lot of other film buffs, but it's still a well made, intelligent sci-fi movie that was well ahead of its time with its themes and ideas. And now we have its official sequel being directed by Denis Villeneuve, one of the very best directors working right now, so there's plenty of reasons to be optimistic for this movie.
Ryan Gosling does a good job in this movie of playing a blade runner who's on his own personal mission to uncover secrets that lie behind the idea of replicants. The more you learn about Gosling's character of K, the more you start to notice subtle little moments in Gosling's performance and it actually makes for some solid replay value as well as adding layers to his character.
But to talk about the performances in this movie without addressing Harrison Ford returning as Deckard would be just bad on my part. The thing I liked most about Ford's performance is that he actually gives a shit and you feel like you're watching a much more hardened and evolved version of Deckard. It was just like in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" where you feel like you're watching a developed Han Solo, as opposed to "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" where Ford is just in it for the paycheck and you don't really feel like you're watching Indiana Jones. The point is that Ford is great in this role and if he can keep up with the solid performances that require him to reprise roles from thirty years ago, then let's see more of him while we can.
The one performance in this movie that I thought stuck out in a really odd way was that of Jared Leto. I understand his character and why he acts the way he does, but this just felt like a performance that was trying too hard to stand out and draw attention that it ultimately came off as overacting. He talks in a very monotone voice and he's constantly taking weird pauses between his sentences. But hey, that's Jared Leto for you, always having to be the weirdest person in the room because I guess he thinks it makes him look cool.
From a technical point of view, this movie looks amazing. I know we can talk all about Roger Deakins' cinematography and how he has yet to win an Oscar despite multiple nominations, but what we should really focus on is this movie itself and how great it looks. This movie truly emits a classic sci-fi noir film with its look and it feels old school despite being in such an advanced day and age. Virtually every shot has some type of unique futuristic visual to offer and it's framed and shot to perfection. At this point, Deakins doesn't need an Oscar to validate his work. We all know that he's one of the best directors of photography alive and his consistency should prove that much.
From a story perspective, this movie really does what a sequel should do and that would be expanding the universe and actually telling a story that feels necessary based off of what happened in the predecessor. Not to spoil anything obviously, but the events and revelations in this movie really do at a lot to this universe. The first movie worked great in setting up the world and telling its own story, but now we have a proper sequel that adds to the world, tells a new story that's relevant and connects to the first movie, and it even sets up the possibility for even more stuff to happen in this universe. That's not to say that this movie is constantly setting up for a sequel, but it does certain things to where if another movie were made, I could absolutely see the potential that lies within. This is a universe that's full of possibilities and Villeneuve takes full advantage of that.
Ultimately, the one gripe I have with this film is basically the same gripe I have with the first movie: the pacing. Both of these movies suffer from a fairly slow start that does its job in setting up the story, but it's undeniable that it could be trimmed down by a considerable amount of time. This movie clocks in at two hours and forty-three minutes and I personally feel that roughly twenty of those minutes could've been taken out of the film. This movie is a slow burn in the beginning just like its predecessor, though I can also understand why some people will think that the movie as a whole is slow in pace.
Overall, "Blade Runner 2049" is a sequel that did a great job in expanding the "Blade Runner" universe and telling a new story. It's technically gorgeous to look at, the performances are great, and there's a genuinely interesting story to boot, one that really makes you think about ideas presented in the first movie, as well as ideas about humanity and freedom in general. You can tell that Villeneuve made this movie because he's a passionate fan of the first film and it's just a breath of fresh air to see a director be passionate about telling a new story for a new generation of moviegoers.
Rating: Full Price!