Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

Ryan Gosling meets Harrison Ford in one of the movies' most famous dystopias.


Warner Bros.

Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049 isn't so much a sequel to Ridley Scott's original film, released in 1982; it's more of a hazy memory. Gone are the neo-1940s noir stylings and the drifting melancholy of that great Vangelis score. In their place we have a more dialed-down costume design: fleece-collar coats and simple straight skirts, t-shirts and dusty boots. (There's also a subtle nod to Joanna Cassidy's runaway stripper in the original Blade Runner when we meet a woman in a see-through vinyl raincoat.) As for the wild electro score, by Benjamin Wallfisch (It) and Hans Zimmer (every movie now being made), it's a new impetus for the phrase "Jesus Christ that's loud!"

In other words, Villeneuve (Arrival) has made a Blade Runner that's very much his own. The music radically alters the mood of this film, naturally; and most of the dressing effort has been applied to the spectacular sets, captured with customary artistry by the many-times-Oscar-robbed cinematographer Roger Deakins.

In fact, since the main character here—a new Blade Runner played by Ryan Gosling, stepping into the old Harrison Ford narrative slot—is an emotionally vacant Replicant himself, the most thrilling thing in the picture is Dennis Gassner's production design, from the gleaming lair of screw-loose mogul Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) to the polluted wastes of bombed-out San Diego and the baked flats of a lifeless Las Vegas (now filled, for reasons best-known to Villeneuve, with giant erotic statuary).

There's also more of a plot this time out—a relatively straight detective story, and a good one. Warner Bros. would prefer that you know very little about it before actually seeing the movie, and I agree that's best. However, a broad outline can be attempted.

By now, everyone must know that Replicants are synthetic beings created to serve as slave labor on Earth's off-world colonies. Whenever these manufactured creatures start getting out of line—sneaking back to the home planet, for example—specialized detectives called Blade Runners are dispatched to hunt them down and terminate them. This movie is once again set in a future Los Angeles, 30 years after the first film, and its action is launched when the Replicant Blade Runner K (Gosling) is presented with a box of mysterious bones, the existence of which—for reasons that will have to remain mysterious, I'm afraid—must not get out to the public.

Assigned by his LAPD boss (Robin Wright) to investigate, K soon makes his way to the industrial lair of Replicant manufacturer Wallace (successor to the first film's Dr. Eldon Tyrell, last seen having his eyeballs crushed by the late Replicant Roy Batty). Wallace has a nefarious plan, naturally, and we can see that it bears heavily on K's investigation. But the loopy mogul isn't a lot of help, really, nor is his snarling assistant, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), who is frankly hostile (and, as it turns out, very dangerous).

K is approached by a devious hooker (Mackenzie Davis, of Halt and Catch Fire), but proceeds back to his apartment, where he's attended by his live-in hologram Joi (Ana de Armas), who longs to be real, and would be altogether lovable if she were. Joi also plays K an album by Frank Sinatra, and makes a point of explaining that it was originally released on Reprise Records. This is very cute: the Reprise catalogue is owned by Warner Bros. Records, which explains why Sinatra, too, is able to make a holographic appearance; and when we hear Elvis Presley later on, and see an Elvis impersonator, we might note that rights to his music are now owned by Sony, Warner's co-distributor of this film. Even far in the future, as you may have feared, there's still product placement.

Back out on the road K comes upon an abandoned casino, in which he encounters—whoa!—long-missing Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), the original Blade Runner of the first movie. There's a big burst of action here (but then there's quite a lot of action throughout the film). Then comes an even bigger burst of action—very elaborate, and quite exciting—and then, finally, we get a solution to the mystery (which I regret to say is a bit of a letdown).

Apart from the ending, there's not a lot to complain about in this movie. The script, by Michael Green and original Blade Runner co-writer Hampton Fancher, is cleanly wrought (although when Leto uttered the line "You do not know what pain is yet," I wondered if it had been re-purposed from Hellraiser). Villeneuve proves himself a true master of strange atmospheres, and he also brings off the most fantastical sci-fi sex scene…probably ever.

But the movie is two hours and 43 minutes long; it feels slow (possibly by design: in a promo video for the film, Villeneuve recalls telling Gosling to "walk slower"), and toward the end, it begins to drag. It's a dazzling piece of work, but as the minutes and then hours click by you may feel as if you're trapped at a dinner party with a brilliant polymath who's exhausting you with his non-stop genius. Why won't he shut up while we're still impressed?

NEXT: 'Blatantly Irrational' Ban on Selling Home-Baked Goods in Wisconsin Must Stop

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  1. I go see maybe 2 movies a year because it costs so damn much money for what you get and it’s just not worth it, but I’m going to see this one this afternoon.

    1. We go to the movies maybe thirty times a year. I’m also fortunate to live close to an IMAX theater, which also happens to be showing this film. Provided things work out this weekend time wise, I plan on seeing this film there.

      1. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

        This is what I do…

        1. That’s nice, but how many movies do you see a year?

          1. Making seven grand a month? You don’t. You pay the actors to come to your home and reenact the movie in your living room.

    2. The Big Screen and acid were a good mix when Androids Dreamt of Electric Sheep. Prohibition is killing Hollywood, probably in retaliation for 1932 pre-Code movies (featuring Ayn Rand’s husband and friends) killing Prohibition!

  2. There haven’t been this many unnecessary remakes since that time they cloned Hitler.

    1. How long have you been saving that one for?

    2. There haven’t been this many unnecessary remakes since that time they cloned Hitler.

      Leave the Clone Wars out of the discussion, Buddy.

  3. “he say you bwade wunner”

    And yes, I will see this movie with reckless abandon.

  4. I can’t wait until this comes out an Amazon Prime!

  5. “”””made a Blade Runner that’s very much his own.””‘

    If he wanted to make something very much his own then why not come up with an original story?

    1. Because then he’d never get a studio to greenlight a 3 hour long movie with artsy scenes with no dialog, philosophical discussions, and maybe two explosions max.

  6. Weird, I must be the only person that thought the original Blade Runner was a jumble of terrible writing and badly thought out plotlines masked by special effects and moody lighting.

    Oh well, I’ll probably see it…when it comes out on Netflix. I’m just tired of reboot movie sequels. I’m looking forward to another season of Stranger Things more than this.

    1. So many director’s cuts to the original I’m beginning to suspect Ridley Scott must have multiple personalities.

      “I did a director’s cut but they still wouldn’t let me do it the way I wanted. So I did another but they didn’t let me released what needed to be released. Then I did another. Finally THIS is the one you should see. Because the evil studio was asleep and I snuck this one out under their noses. All others cuts are personally insulting to me. Until next year when I do yet another directors cut.”

  7. I have been seeing some overwrought reviews recently of the original Blade Runner saying that its dystopia is pretty much the times we live in and our siciety is built in the backs of slaves.

    I think I strained a muscle eye rolling.

  8. I never thought the original Blade Runner was as good as it’s reputation. It’s just not that great of a movie IMO.

    This looks like it might be good, will see.

  9. Ewww. I saw the original and found it memorable, but never wanted to watch it again. There are so many subjects more worthy than dystopias.

    1. Sounds good. Thanks for posting.

  10. Like tears in rain, baby.

    1. The best moment in the entire original film. Probably the only thing that saves it from being quite a shitty movie in my eyes. Great premise but quite a shallow exploration of the overarching questions.

      The new one is roughly the same. Amazing visuals, better plot line, but quite shallow in many ways.

      Also as a side discussion, anyone think that, by modern standards, Harrison Ford practically rapes that replicant in the original film?

      1. The original film is completely overwrought and hard to watch….except when Rutger Hauer is on the screen. He’s absolutely the best thing about it and without his fantastic performance and ad-libbed dialogue, it’s boring and forgettable.

      2. I’ve heard complaints that the original is sexist, but they mostly focus on the fact that all the attractive women are fake (replicants) while the real women are all ugly.

        The same could be said about the male characters of course, but I guess those complaining either didn’t realize Deckard was a replicant or had the hots for scrawny Edward James Olmos.

  11. I’ve never seen the original (any of them), but this one has my attention. I have this feeling I won’t like it, but I’m willing to take a chance.

    1. There very best movies I’ve seen don’t have their force of impact upon their initial showing, but tend to stick with you even decades after release (beyond nostalgia).

      This has the possibility of being one the greats. It is very understated, almost meditative at points, but with enough style to command your attention, much like the original.

    2. After you see it, then you owe the original a chance.

      I’m guessing you’ll think you should have skipped this one.

  12. The dystopia in the original movie was supposed to be an accurate, sci fi representation of Los Angeles – from above you would see towering skyscrapers and impressive technology, but underneath there’s moral decay, ghettos and dingy ethnic zones with neon signs in foreign languages and funny looking immigrants.

    I get the sense that the director of the sequel didn’t really get that. The reviews praise the visuals but there’s no mention of other details from the first movie that made it so distinct. I’m assuming he went for that “avant garde” look with Hollywood money.

  13. Also the movie’s major premise does not make sense. Surely the creators of the replicants knew whether or not they wanted them to be able to reproduce. If they did not want them to, how hard would it have been to make them sterile? And why would replicants only been able to reproduce if they had sex with a human? And why would a replicant child be a threat? Once it was clear that a replicant could reproduce, the damage was done. Louder is right. The ending was weak — unless it was meant to be a set-up for a sequel.

    1. Not cool

  14. You know what I’d like to see?

    Science fiction shows and movies that were written by some of the greats. Heinlein, Asimov, Wiiliamson, Niven, Pournelle, Silverberg, Varley instead of endless Dick or people aping Dick.

  15. I probably won’t spend a buck for it on Redbox. Sounds like a bore.

    Oh, and theres’ “more plot” this time.

    Who knew the original was just an action piece? I sure didn’t.

  16. I liked the movie, except for Jared Leto and his character. He was Dr. Evil from Austin Powers. Seriously. He even had a big pool of water around a concrete island in his Evil Lair. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had sharks with freakin’ lasers on their heads in that water.

    The character’s motive was he wanted to take over the galaxy. Seriously. That’s it. He couldn’t build replicants fast enough so he wants them to breed so he can take over more than nine off worlds. Really weak. And he’s blind and has silly floating cameras so he can see, and we have to wait while he picks out which ones he wants and puts them on. A total waste of time that made his character a parody, and didn’t forward the STORY.

    His character has pointless sadistic aspects too. Again, that scene did not forward the STORY at all. Just a bunch of blood and “Look, our villain is really evil and insane!” Uh huh. Yawn.

    The only thing worse than the character was Jared Leto’s performance. He was annoying and way over-the-top. Not believable at all. I’m wondering if he is a bad actor who was blessed with a great director to coach him in Dallas Buyer’s Club. Come to think of it, that character was a bit over-the-top too. Poor casting choice there.

    Ryan was great.

    Harrison Ford did his thing. His character really is inconsequential to the story. Pretty much there to bring more people in the theaters.

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