Blade Runner 2049 Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks. Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Rated R. Opens Friday citywide.
It took quite a while for Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner to attain timeless status, and the long-in-the-works sequel could have an equally bumpy ride reaching a large audience, at least initially. Directed by master stylist Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival), Blade Runner 2049 is moody, systematic and careful, with spectacular visuals, strong efficiencies and a sci-fi story that’s more ponderous than thrilling. Anybody searching for an action-packed sci-fi blockbuster will rather find a sluggish rumination on exactly what it means to be human– simply as audiences did back in 1982.
Set Thirty Years after the occasions of the initial movie, 2049 stars Ryan Gosling as an LAPD investigator called K, a so-called blade runner whose job is to locate and eliminate renegade replicants (human-looking androids). K himself is a replicant, too, but a loyal one (at least in the beginning) who follows guidelines set down by his stern however caring employer (Robin Wright). K’s newest case eventually puts him on the path of previous blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), but the movie script by Hampton Fancher (one of the co-writers of the original film) and Michael Green takes a very long time arriving (or getting anywhere, really).
Ford’s greatly hyped function is similar to his turn as Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a small supporting part (he doesn’t show up until more than 90 minutes into the film) that serves to bridge the gap between generations. Primarily, the story here has to do with K, and particularly about how his fascination with Deckard’s case fuels his desire to be something more than a cog in a device, whether by getting in touch with his holographic girlfriend (Ana de Armas) or by exploring memories of his own past (which might or might not be real). Gosling makes K into a well-rounded, sensitive figure whose emotions are easy to have compassion with, even if they’re synthetic.
Ford passes the baton efficiently enough as Deckard, and Jared Leto gets in a few creepy moments as the power-hungry designer of the most recent replicants, however it’s the ladies who actually stick out in the supporting cast: Wright as the tired police, de Armas as the computer program who can never touch her lover, and particularly Dutch starlet Sylvia Hoeks in a breakout performance as K’s main replicant foe. The uncomplicated story is extended pretty thin over the extreme 163-minute running time, but it’s framed by such elegant visuals (including a check out to an eerie, deserted post-apocalyptic Las Vegas) that it’s never less than awesome to watch. The initial motion picture’s style sense, world-building and atmosphere were all more interesting than its story, which’s the case here once again. If 2049 takes a while to construct a following, every bit of it will be made.