Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Release Date: October 6th, 2017 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Denis Villeneuve Actors: Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, Harrison Ford
fter numerous disastrous incidents caused by Tyrell Corporation’s later generation Nexus series of biorobotic android “replicants,” the company collapses. Decades pass and the remnants are acquired by new bioengineer magnate Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), who furthers the technology by mass producing replicants that never rebel. But “Blade Runners” – law enforcement officials who track escaped Nexus units that have gone into hiding – still exist. KD6-3.7 (Ryan Gosling) is one such officer, and his latest assignment finds him narrowing in on Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), a former medical specialist involved in a violent uprising many years back. But when “K” confronts the android, he stumbles upon a long-buried secret that catapults him into a treacherous quest for answers that will shatter the tenuous line between man and machine.
A new line of replicants have taken over where the Nexus 08 left off, with a new rebellion that forces police-employed assassins to pursue them for extermination. K is one of the new Blade Runners, though his unwitting involvement in a new case will find him becoming the hunted. With all of these “new” situations going on, it’s ironic that the basic setup and premise borrow so very much from before. In many ways, “Blade Runner 2049” makes the same mistakes as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”; in exhaustively trying to recreate the feel of the original, it essentially remakes it instead.
With its colossal running time, this latest chapter (of what is sure to be an ongoing franchise) extends beyond the locations from before, upping the visual wonders of the previous decaying metropolis. Audiences are still treated to an overstuffed, bustling Los Angeles, but K goes beyond this epicenter into the desolate wastelands of outlying farms and abandoned cities, covered in dust or ash or Martian-like radiation-scorched haze. The pollution is so extreme, even the neon lights so iconic of the 1982 contemporary classic are barely able to penetrate the smog. Gloom and grime are everywhere, with isolation and alienation even severer, denoting that the years have been terribly unkind to Earth. Yet this degeneration is astounding to look at, with the general ugliness harboring fascinating details and breathtaking horizons. The film’s length might stop many viewers from revisiting this long-awaited update, but the heavy focus on visuals (and certainly not the colorful, vivacious visuals of something like “Avatar” or “The Fifth Element”) are worth a second peek. It’s a beautiful nightmare of props, set decorations, costuming, makeup, and more.
Unfortunately, in its efforts to craft an atmosphere that perfectly continues what was designed by Ridley Scott’s seminal precursor, “Blade Runner 2049” forgets to tell much of a story. It’s ultimately K’s tale, though he merely passes through a much bigger picture – one full of unexplored possibilities and all sorts of character tangents that will inevitably find closure in the next few sequels. In fact, his motives, influences, revelations, and even actions have little significance to the major themes carrying on in the background – such as the separation between humanity and artificial intelligence, creation or playing god, identification with a specific faction of cyborg, and the blurring of the boundaries between reality and fantasy.
“Something in his eyes…” Numerous references to the original make this follow-up a suitable, simultaneous remake-in-spirit. The architecture and lighting are quite familiar, along with company names exhibited in advertisements, the repeating of voiceover quotes (to maintain the noir vibe), eerily booming music, sudden violence, the manipulation of memories, cameos (of the unnecessary sort), the Peugeot flying car hybrid, and an unnerving preoccupation with eyeballs. It’s also once again a mystery, with every scene something of a miniature investigation, as an overload of information becomes available in each subsequent location or character introduction (of which there are plenty). Slow-burn thrillers don’t always work, particularly when fused with science-fiction and brief action, but here the finale is a welcome redemption. It possesses a certain reinvigorating power that momentarily bamboozles audiences into forgetting just how long they waited for something momentous to occur – even if it’s not grand enough to completely offset the lumbering pacing at the start.
– The Massie Twins