It’s many, many years into the future and for some reason, the old Replicants of yesteryear aren’t being used anymore. Now though, there’s some new and improved ones out there that are working for the LAPD, hunting down the old ones, to ensure that no more problems can come of them. One such blade runner is Officer K (Ryan Gosling) who isn’t quite happy about his existence. Mostly, he spends his time hunting and eliminating old Replicants, then, coming home to Joi (Ana de Armas), a hologram that he has as a companion, despite the two actually never being able to touch one another. On one mission, K unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos, which eventually leads him to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who’s been missing for 30 years and may hold all of the answers that K’s looking for. But he may also offer the same hope and ambition that K himself wants, but doesn’t quite know it just yet.
Was the original Blade Runner all that great of a movie to garner as much of a following as it has? For me, I’m still not sure. It’s a bold, ambitious and creatively original movie, even for 1982, but it also feels like it deals with a lot of ideas and doesn’t have the opportunity to flesh them out completely and/or fully. Some of that probably had to do with Ridley Scott trying his best to combat with a budget, or some of it may have to do with the fact that the studios just didn’t know what to do with this truly dark and complex material. That said, here we are, many, many years later, and now we have a sequel. Did we really need one?
Actually, it turns out, yes.
What’s perhaps most interesting about Blade Runner 2049 and what, ultimately, turns out to work in its favor, is that it didn’t call for Scott to come back and sit directly behind the camera again. Nope, this time, it’s Denis Villeneuve who is much more of an auteur and has proved himself more than worthy of a big-budgeted, blockbuster in the past and gets the chance to really let loose here. But what’s most interesting about Villeneuve’s direction is that he doesn’t seem to be in any kind of a rush; with most of these kinds of sequels, especially the ones financed by a huge studio, there’s a want for there to be constant action, constant story, and constant stuff just happening.
In Blade Runner 2049, things are a lot slower and more languid than ever before and it does work for the movie. Villeneuve is clearly having a ball working with this huge-budget, with all of the toys and crafts at his disposal, and it allows us to join in on the fun, too. Even at 164 minutes (including credits), the movie doesn’t feel like it’s all that long-winding because there’s so much beauty on-display, from the cinematography, to the clothes, to the dystopian-details, and to the whole universe etched out, it’s hard not to find something to be compelled, or entertained by. After all, it’s a huge blockbuster and it’s meant to make us entertained, even if it doesn’t always have explosions at every single second.
That said, could it afford to lose at least 20 minutes? Yeah, probably.
But really, it actually goes by pretty smoothly. The story itself is a tad conventional and feels like it could have been way more deep than it actually is, but still, Villeneuve is using this as a way to show the major-studios that they can entrust him in a franchise, no matter how much money is being invested. He knows how to keep the story interesting, even if we’re never truly sure just what’s going on, and when it comes to the action, the movie is quick and exhilarating with it all. There’s a lot of floating, driving, and wandering around this barren-wasteland, but it all feels deserved and welcomed in a universe that’s not all that forgiving – Villeneuve doesn’t let us forget that and it’s hard not to want to stay in this universe for as long as we get the opportunity to.
And with this ensemble, can we be blamed? Ryan Gosling fits perfectly into this role as K, because although he has to play all stern, serious and a little dull, there are these small and shining moments of heart and humanity that show through and have us hope for a little something more. Gosling is such a charismatic actor, that even when he’s supposed to be a bore, he can’t help but light-up the screen. Same goes for Harrison Ford who, after many years of not playing Deckard, fits back into the role like a glove that never came off, while also showing a great deal of age and wisdom, giving us fond memories of the character he once was, and all of the tragedy and horror that he must have seen in the years since we left him.
That said, my praise for this movie ends here and especially with these two.
For one, it’s really hard to dig in deep into this movie without saying more than I would like to, but also, most of my issues with this movie comes from the possible spoilers I could offer. To put it as simple as I humanly can: The movie suffers from problems of, I don’t know, leaving way too much open in the air.
Wait. Did I say too much?
Let me explain a bit further. The one problem with Blade Runner 2049 is that it does feel the need to give us a bunch of characters, subplots, ideas, themes, and possible conflicts, yet, when all is said and done, not really explore them any further. A part of me feels like this is the movie trying to tell us to stick around and wait for me Blade Runner movies, but another part of me feels like this was something that could have been easily avoided, had the writing and direction been leaner, meaner and most of all, tighter.
Don’t get me wrong, all that’s brought to the table, in terms of the main-plot, is pretty great. Everyone in the ensemble, including a lovely and delightful Ana de Armas, put in great work and even the conflicts brought to our attention, have all sorts of promise. But then, they just sit there. The movie ends and we’re left wondering, “Uh, wait. What? That’s it.”
Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe I’ve said too much. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll just shut up now.
Okay, no. I definitely will. Just see it so I don’t have to type anymore.
Consensus: Big, bloated, bold, beautiful, and ridiculously compelling, Blade Runner 2049 is the rare many-years-later sequel that does a solid job expanding on its universe and ideas, but doesn’t quite know how to wrap things up in a tiny little bow that it possibly deserved.
8 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: aceshowbiz