Long-awaited sequels are always a tricky proposition, as the film that fans finally get can fall short of the massive expectations they've built up over so much time. With a cult-classic sci-fi film like Blade Runner, it seemed almost impossible for the sequel to ever measure up to the original; however, with Blade Runner 2049, director Denis Villeneuve found a way to not only recapture the Blade Runner world and spirit, but push it into a bold new chapter.
The story revolves around a top-notch "Blade Runner" (Ryan Gosling), whose mission is to hunt down old model replicants that need "retiring." After one particularly trying assignment turns up some intriguing clues, the Blade Runner finds himself locked into a case that will not only change his entire world, but possibly the entire world, as well.
That's all you should know about Blade Runner 2049's storyline going in. Denis Villeneuve has crafted a truly immersive cinematic experience that's more about the journey than the destination, and part of the delight of viewing the film is getting to experience all of the twists and surprises of the story from a fresh, unspoiled perspective.
What should be known is that with Blade Runner 2049, Villeneuve has outdone himself on a visual scale. The Sicario and Arrival director is known for his prowess as a cinematic storyteller, and he certainly rises to the challenge with his first major studio blockbuster. Villeneuve brilliantly uses visual effects to enhance the cinematic stature of the film, rather than indulging in special effects for novelty's sake. Blade Runner 2049 tells an entire visual storyline that's full of subtlety and subtext, easily requiring multiple viewings in order to pick out the details in every carefully constructed and executed shot. Adding the necessary polish are the Oscar-worthy tones of cinematographer Roger Deakins, and a fittingly retro-meets-new mix of sounds from Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer.
The script by original Blade Runner writer Hampton Fancher and Logan/American Gods writer Michael Green certainly builds organically (no pun) upon the framework of the first film, with a timely and layered metaphor about prejudice and identity - but it certainly takes it time doing so. Blade Runner 2049 puts the "slow" in slow-burn at almost three-hours long, and has a methodical and meditative pacing, with a lot of still moments and stripped-down scenes that are mainly interactions and conversations between two actors (rarely more than that). It's very much in the vein of classic detective Noir cinema, but won't likely satisfy those expecting more of a run-and-gun sci-fi action film. This is high-art cinema dressed in genre, which has become the Villeneuve trademark.
Ryan Gosling's leading man charisma is able to carry the film, which is fortunate, as most of the movie revolves around tight shots of his facial expressions, and all the emotional subtext that comes with it. Harrison Ford hasn't lost his own roguish charm, playing a grizzled older version of Deckard who is a nice foil to Gosling's younger Blade Runner. Sylvia Hoeks is a scene-stealing villain; Ana de Armas is charming as Joi, the love interest of Gosling's character; while big names like Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), Robin Wright (House of Cards), and Jared Leto (Suicide Squad) have small but important bit roles, which they certainly make the most of.
In the end, Blade Runner 2049 honors the legacy of its predecessor while also opening the franchise up to much wider possibilities for the future. It's definitely the type of event film that deserves big screen theatrical viewing, as the visual splendor alone will be good return on your investment in a ticket.
Blade Runner 2049 will be in theaters on October 6th. It is 2 hours and 43 minutes long, and is Rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language.
Review Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️