‘Blade Runner 2049’ Review

“Blade Runner” didn’t need a sequel. But it got one. And it’s spectacular.

“Blade Runner 2049” isn’t just the continuation of a classic. It stands on its own as a modern masterpiece of sci-fi storytelling.

When its predecessor premiered in 1982, the Harrison Ford-led adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel was a box-office bust. Ten years later, director Ridley Scott revisited his film, cutting Ford’s awkward narration as the replicant-hunting Deckard and, more controversially, added scenes questioning the Blade Runner’s origin and future.

The result is what many consider to be one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time.

They’re right.

“Blade Runner” is an immersive experience, from Vangelis’ score and the Asian-influenced aesthetics to the hunter’s and hunted’s search for life and love. “Blade Runner” is about the morals behind being one’s maker. “Blade Runner 2049” is about the miracles.

Some call the original “Blade Runner” slow. Maybe it is. But the more time we can spend in Scott’s dystopian Los Angeles, circa 2019, the better.

“Blade Runner 2049” is all that and more—literally, with a runtime almost an hour longer than its forerunner. And director Denis Villeneuve makes the most of every minute. The French-Canadian filmmaker is known for his methodical movies that have made him one of the top directors working today. In “2049,” he has forged an unforgettable film, when many said it wasn’t possible—or needed.

Villeneuve is supported by a story that is satisfyingly simple, yet ambitious and immensely rewarding. With Scott’s original effort, even the cast of “Blade Runner” reportedly didn’t understand what they saw during their first screening. Its sequel’s story arc is far more traditional.

Its cinematography is not. It’s stunning. Absolutely stunning. If Oscar-less cinematographer Roger Deakins doesn’t get the Oscar for “2049”—just IMDB Deakins for his impressive, and unrewarded, past pictures—then the Academy is truly out of touch. The colors captured—from the honey-hued desert to the neon nightscape—are things of beauty that should be framed and placed on a mantle next to a certain gold statuette.

Those sweeping, awe-inducing shots are only amplified by composers Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. Their score is not as memorable as Vangelis’s from the 1982 entry, but Zimmer and Wallfisch wisely resisted replicating the Greek composer’s more avant-garde approach and instead made their own symphonic, synthesizer sounds as substantial in scope as the magnificent sets and practical effects in “2049.”

Both make IMAX viewing a must. “Blade Runner 2049” is one of those all-too-rare films that has to be seen on the biggest of screens. It’s mainstream movie making meets arthouse austere—with particularly poignant performances.

In Blade Runner K, Ryan Gosling’s emotional approach is less human than Ford’s and more dutifully direct as he seeks to uncover a mystery that could break the societal-shaping wall separating man and non-metal machine.

The cornerstone—both literally and Biblically—is Ford’s Deckard. Though he’s less Christ and more Joseph, his inclusion brings some closure to the question around his “Director’s Cut” creation. And at 75, Ford still is a presence on screen, bringing unexpected, nuanced spirit to his Blade Runner’s return.

Less subtle are the supporting roles: K’s Joi is virtually “Her,” a welcome addition and a very welcome home in actress Ana de Armas. She’s a sweet, sultry surprise. K’s other controller, LAPD Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), is no M. Emmet Walsh, but who is? Her police-chief persona is much more pronounced, and it has to be: The wall she’s to uphold is far higher than Walsh’s. Its keeper: Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), the Tyrell Corporation’s less-benevolent buyer, a sinister, soft-spoken corporate tyrant that knows only Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), who’s anything but.

With their film, however, there is much to love. It’s patient in pace, edited to a T for unwavering tension, packed full of heart (mostly from non-humans, mind you), and quintessential sci-fi.

“Blade Runner 2049” isn’t just a faithful sequel that was well worth the 35-year wait. It’s better than “Blade Runner.” And, this time, no director’s cut is needed. Denis did it. His “Blade Runner 2049” is the movie of the year and one of the best of all time. Run to it.

5 out of 5

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