It's moody and long and rewarding.
Blade Runner 2049
Director: Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
Screenplay: Hampton Fancher (Blade Runner), Michael Green (Logan), based on Philip Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Cast: Ryan Gosling (La La Land), Harrison Ford (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
Runtime: 2 hr 43 min
by John DeSando
“I did your job once. I was good at it.” Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) to K (Ryan Gosling)
My review will be short today given the printed request handed to each critic before the preview of Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to the Ridley Scott sci-fi classic. Denis Villeneuve, also director of Arrival, asked us to refrain from revealing major plot points and to approach the review as the audience would without knowing what would happen.
I’m all for minimalism about plotting in reviews, so this request is a no-brainer for me. However, I wonder if the director has looked at the trailers to see how much plot has been spilled so far. Oh, well, he has a sturdy science fiction sequel to the iconic Blade Runner, and it co-stars Harrison Ford, who adds grit to his youthful turn in 1982. Based on the Philip Dick novel Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep? this sequel is moodier, headier, and darker than the first. All good.
Stone-faced K, an LAPD cop 30 years after the 2019 original setting, is a taciturn blade runner whose job is to track down old replicants (near-human androids) in order to eliminate their danger. The oldest and wisest is Rick (Ford), a master evader for 30 years. K’s pursuit of Rick would please Dr. Freud. That’s it folks for plot, though I wouldn’t mind a call from the director so I could tell him how much I enjoyed his Arrival and Prisoners, both artworks with philosophy and humanity .
Blade Runner 2049 is a brilliant, challenging sci-fi with more intellectual content than action. I’m usually negative about the abundance of action in contemporary American films, but here, under the influence of a more reflective producer, Ridley Scott (the original director), the filmmakers seem concerned with magnifying the plot, to hell with action. Besides, the basic sci-fi theme of droids seeking to be human is preserved here, albeit multiple other themes preside as well.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins makes sure to provide the surreal, dark, and gloomy ambience that guarantees a brooding story. Signs along the highway are in multiple languages such as Japanese and Hindi while references to Her, AI, and Dark Knight are carefully placed. Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer provide the cacophony of the junkyard future. It all works despite the wretched state of the future California.
The incomparable CGI challenges James Cameron’s realistic, surrealistic worlds. Villeneuve’s success with Sicario promised this dark world, and he delivers. At 2h 43 min you still won't doze; you just may not be able to figure it all out in that one screening.
“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.” Ozymandias by Shelley
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com