|A silver fox and burning-hot younger protagonist share this elegant poster for Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049|
Blade Runner 2049 is the sequel to Ridley Scott's great Blade Runner (1982), both based on Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968). It is written by Hampton Fancher (Blade Runner) and Michael Green (Logan (2017)) and directed by Canadian master filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Arrival (2016)).
In Los Angeles in 2049, a modern blade runner is retiring old replicants. But his latest job makes him remember what he expects is a false, imprinted childhood memory and discover a secret that indicates that the borders between robotic and biological life are not carved in stone.
The new Blade Runner comes highly anticipated, mostly because Villeneuve proved himself as a sci-fi filmmaker to reckon with last year with Arrival. The film stays true to the cold, disturbing urban environment from the first film; the look is recreated and furthered with the latest technology very artfully, while the persistent rain, gloom and neon lights are kept.
Exciting concepts about life, identity, technology, sexuality and borders between humans and artificial intelligence are brought to vivid life. Ryan Gosling (Drive (2011)) is the blade runner hero here, and he is worshiped in countless long shots, not unlike in Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive and masterpiece Only God Forgive (2013), but somehow he is less compelling here as a very feeling machine. The film for a long while is good science-fiction with a nostalgic feel to it for those long familiar with the first film. Ana de Armas (Faraday (2013)) and Mackenzie Davis (Freaks of Nature (2015)) are good as Gosling's girlfriend, who is, in fact, a highly sophisticated program, and a prostitute, who enables their lovemaking scene, probably the film's most interesting, (although it finishes before the real action starts.)
Blade Runner 2049 is very long, and only in the last, very long act does Harrison Ford (Witness (1985)) show up. Apparently he has been holed up in an abandoned Las Vegas hotel with a possibly fake dog for some of the many years since we last saw him in this universe. The ambitious and complex story begins to crumble for me at this juncture. SPOILER There is a subtext which is that Ford may be Gosling's father, but the two seem to investigate this by beating each other up to a hologram Elvis performance that is quite unpleasant, if you are sentimental about the King. This development also brings to mind Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015), (also about Ford's troubled, absent fatherhood of a powerful male), and it seems too much in some way. I exited the movie world here and began looking at it from the outside, questioning whether it was really a good idea at all to go back to the Blade Runner universe, and also whether or not reenlisting Ford so many years after was really necessary.
SPOILER Sylvia Hoeks (The Girl and Death (2012)) is Terminator-like as a mysterious replicant power woman, who seems to like Gosling for much of the film, but who in the end wants him dead. I find the third act confusing overall, and didn't much enjoy Gosling's graphic drowning of Hoeks either.
Jared Leto (Suicide Squad (2016)) is Niander Wallace, a disturbing replicant-producing industrialist, (think nightmarish Jeff Bezos of the future), who personifies the religious aspects of Blade Runner 2049, which are uniformly negative and fixed upon humanity itself.
Blade Runner 2049 is carefully and impressively made, as cold as the first film but far from as original, good or compelling. It puts its audience in a permanent speculative position that is fascinating to some degree but didn't quite make the cut for me. A great part of it is its ethereal, diverse score by Benjamin Wallfisch (Air Bound (2015)) and Hans Zimmer (Rango (2011)).
Blade Runner (1982) - R. Scott's visual extravaganza, great SF
Denis Villeneuve: 2016 in films - according to Film Excess
Arrival (2016) - Villeneuve, Heisserer and Adams head sensational sci-fi wonder
Incendies (2010) - Villeneuve's dreary and depressing, wildly overrated drama
Watch a trailer for the film here
Cost: 150 mil. $
Box office: 159.8 mil. $ and counting
= Too early to say
[Blade Runner 2049 premiered 3 October (Los Angeles) and runs 163 minutes. One development began in 1999. Ridley and brother Tony Scott started working on one in 2007, seeking Christopher Nolan to direct. Shooting took place from July - November 2016 in Hungary, including Budapest, Spain, Iceland, Mexico and in Nevada. The film opened #1 to a disappointing 32.7 mil. $ first weekend in North America, where it fell to #2 in its second week. The film is opening in Japan and China on 27 October, and it will need very solid runs there and continued audiences globally to break even. - It is likely to become a flop theatrically, just like the first Blade Runner was. Blade Runner 2049 is certified fresh at 88 % with an 8.2 critical average at Rotten Tomatoes.]
What do you think of Blade Runner 2049?