This Blade Runner cuts deep.
Hollywood has been in the business of making money off of old properties for quite some time. Hollywood has also been in the business of attempting to create franchises by making sequels to popular properties, a trend that has no foreseeable end in sight. Combine these two trends together, and most of the time it yields disastrous results. That's why when it was announced a sequel to the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner was getting a sequel 35 years after its original release, many were apprehensive to the idea. A sequel to one of the most groundbreaking genre films of all-time? And old man Harrison Ford was returning as the original Blade Runner, Rick Deckard? It seemed like all was lost, but is there a chance Blade Runner 2049 is the rare exception that comes along every now and then?
Blade Runner 2049 sees bioengineered humans called replicants integrated in society, including LAPD "blade runner" K (Ryan Gosling). K finds himself embroiled in a case revolving around a secret regarding the human nature of replicants, something his superior officer, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) believes to be dangerous. Lt. Joshi tasks K to get rid of all traces regarding this potentially revolution sparking secret, which leads to K encountering former "blade runner" Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), whilst on the run from the head of replicant manufacturer Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and his deadly assistant Luv (Sylvia Hoeks).
While I understand the cinematic significance of the original Blade Runner and the influence it has had on the sci-fi genre, I personally can't hop on the bandwagon of saying its a masterpiece. It was visually stunning an presented may thought provoking ideas, but its narrative just wasn't cohesive enough. Blade Runner 2049 is the rare sequel that improves upon the faults of its predecessor, and is much better than the 1982 original.
While the film runs at an epic 163 minutes and still retains some of the clumsy narrative that made the original a divisive film at the time of its release, it uses its length to tell more clear, simple story with a thought provoking premise. Fans of the original Blade Runner and its many cuts will no doubt love the narrative provided by visionary director Denis Villeneuve, as it functions perfectly as a continuation of the last film. And fear not those who are not fans of the 1982 film, Blade Runner 2049 spoon feeds you just enough so that you too can follow along this thinking man's neo-noir science fiction film as well.
Blade Runner 2049 retains its striking visuals that made the original such an influential film in the genre as well. It wastes no time in integrating the audience into this futuristic society with overcrowded cities, larger than life advertisements, and barren wastelands, making the world seem not as far fetched as some may believe it to be. In that regard, Blade Runner 2049 is nothing short of a visual masterpiece.
Blade Runner 2049 also features stellar performances from its talented ensemble cast. Ryan Gosling continues to showcase he's one of the top leading men in Hollywood as officer K, and gives an emotionally engrossing performance. Robin Wright also gives the film a jolt of energy when needed, proving she can still deliver emotionally charged performance. Sylvia Hoeks is chilling and frightening as a cold blooded killing replicant, and functions perfectly as the film's main threat. Jared Leto isn't in the film much, but is delightfully creepy as a replicant manufacturer similar to Joe Turkel's Dr. Eldon Tyrell in the first film. And while Harrison Ford remains as grouchy as ever and doesn't appear until the last act of the film, his reinsertion into the Blade Runner universe as an older Rick Deckard works, and questions linger in regards to whether or not he too is a replicant.
In regards to the stunning Ana de Armas, she proves she can give a solid performance in the film, but her character as K's holographic companion Joi doesn't quite work. It's an interesting idea and a thoughtful commentary on how our society is moving closer and closer to developing more meaningful relationships with machines rather than humans, but since K too is some type of replicant, it makes this aspect of the film feel somewhat out of place, and could have possibly trimmed or cut out entirely to shorten the film's already lengthy run time.
Despite the initial backlash and the one aspect of the film that doesn't quite work, Blade Runner 2049 is a definite improvement over its already highly regarded precursor. The rare sequel that is not only better than the original, but takes the original's themes and furthers them to comment on today's society and dares to ask prominent questions we have regarding our own existences. Blade Runner 2049 undoubtedly cuts deep, and leaves audiences and fans of the original begging for more, even after 163 minutes.
Rating: 3.5/4 Stars. Pay Full Price.
Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Mackenzie Davis, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, David Dastmalchian, Carla Juri, Wood Harris, Barkhad Abdi, and Hiam Abbas. It is in theaters October 6th.