BLADE RUNNER 2049 Review: 8 out of 10 (Blinded with Science and Style)
BLADE RUNNER 2049 is a 35 year old sequel to the Ridley Scott original directed by Denis Villeneuve. The film stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista and Jared Leto. This latest film works to deepen the world and extend the mythos that the first film initiated. However, the bare bones story set in a running time of over 2 and 1/2 hours creates an overly long journey, albeit a beautiful one.
In 2049, things have changed, yet things remain the same. Though replicants have become more a part of the futuristic society, they are still discriminated against. "K" (Gosling) is one that, like before, is tasked to seek out and retire older models that have survived. After one mission, he uncovers a link to the past that leads to several questions about the viability of replicants themselves. When K's police supervisor Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright) sends him to further investigate and track down answers, it sends him on a journey that could potentially affect the human and replicant population forever. That mission includes finding the long lost Deckard, who has key information that could help K. Jared Leto plays Niander Wallace--the leader of Wallace Corporation who creates replicants in 2049. Wallace Corp. also took over all that remained of the former Tyrell corporation that had created the replicants in the original film. Wallace himself seeks the same answers that K does, and tasks his henchwoman Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) to retrieve whatever information K might discover.
The delivery of a fairly straightforward story is a noir classic. There is the tough gumshoe cop, the femme fatale, and even a girl next door, here in the form of a holographic companion. And Villeneuve understands both the aural and visual artistry of the original film. But if Scott's original was bathed in style, this film is rubbed, marinated, braised, topped, and served with a side of it. The film seems so self aware of its own beauty that it sort of begs to be admired. And that isn't without warrant--the film is breathtaking. However, this film feels like a road trip that wants to stop every few minutes to see the sights. It isn't that there isn't something beautiful to see, but eventually you want to get where you are going. But for those who don't mind a slower (sometimes plodding) journey through futuristic architecture, elaborate sets, and more than a few reflective stares into the distance, BLADE RUNNER 2049 delivers a drug--allowing eye candy addicts a chance to seek another high from scene to scene. It is high art, even if the story isn't all that original.
And it isn't. It is a fairly simple plot that attempts to complicate itself with a couple of twists and one big and completely unnecessary macguffin that makes the final reveals of the film seem perfunctory at best, and inattentive at worst. Harrison Ford's Deckard doesn't really appear until the final act of the film, so those expecting a buddy movie here might be disappointed. The real discovery here is Sylvia Hoeks and her portrayal of the beautiful, heartless, and dastardly Luv. Sitting here as the opposite of K and his search for the truth, justice, and doing the right thing, Luv is a villain truly content to watch the world burn. Any one, human or otherwise, who can slaughter dozens while having their nails done is a new kind of evil baddie that I can get behind. But this is a story that could have been (easily) told in half the time, despite some of the complexity if offers in continuing to do some world building. There are a few contrivances and at least a couple of head scratching plot points that you consider after the fact, but not enough to completely ruin the story itself. The film certainly revisits some of the themes and questions of the original like: Can machines have emotions? What makes us human? and... is that CGI or not? For fans of dazzling effects and the world they are built within, BLADE RUNNER 2049 is a vivid, sometimes dour, experience. But newcomers and moviegoers who might be impatient, it is a flawed piece of art-- like a photo that has been expanded to try and fit an overly large frame.