One can feel the screenplay for Blade Runner 2049 straining to connect to the narrative of its predecessor. This only means that the film is less of a sequel to 1982's Blade Runner than its admirers might be anticipating. Transplanting the ideas from Ridley Scott's film thirty years into the future, this semi-sequel/sort-of-spin-off is also very much of its time in 2017, as ideas of artificial intelligence have grown beyond simple paranoia and settled into a more complex kind. Technology has improved and, with them, the tools that could be used to move society closer to the reality of artificial intelligence. Here is a future far past that reality.
Here, we have a hologram that can feel the range of human emotion. Appearing in the image of an attractive human female when activated by our hero-of-sorts, it can also synchronize human movement, and being only pixels, it can give the illusion of passing through solid materials and structures. The effect is, to put it mildly, pretty neat, as are the various visual effects that recreate the world we knew as even more futuristic than we remember. The year is 2049, as the title suggests, and the setting could really be anywhere on earth. Director Denis Villeneuve, with the exceptional aid of cinematographer Roger Deakins, has created a vision of the future of Earth that seems entirely alien.
Harsh oranges dominate the landscape outside the steely-grey interiors. It's a stunning picaresque of desolate wastelands and minimalist structural design, and it grounds a fairly standard detective story in a world that tangibly seems to exist. The detective story begins with "K" (Ryan Gosling), a blade runner and a replicant. This might seem like an existence premised on an oxymoron, which is a fact that "K" himself wrestles with in his own, limited way. "I've never had to kill anything that's been born before," he muses - if, of course, a being that has been specifically engineered to follow orders can, in fact, muse. Hired to hunt down and "retire" an older replicant, as blade runners are contracted to do, he finds a revelation buried in a shallow grave outside the house of his quarry.
This sends "K" on a mission of discovery, both in terms of the unveiling of the plot and in the secrets held within his past. Not much of this should be revealed in a review, particularly to the spoiler-phobic, but the broad strokes involve a road trip of sorts for "K," accompanied by the hologram mentioned above, called Joi (Ana de Armas), that leads him into the ruthless path of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), a blind entrepreneur who found a way to craft replicants to be more obedient, and eventually into the seclusion of Deckard (Harrison Ford), the old blade runner.
Much of the plot, as told above, has been hidden between the lines. It is a little frustrating how screenwriters Hampton Fancher and Michael Green craft that narrative to be reliant on the puzzle-box nature of the mystery. Still, it's appealingly weird enough to carry the audience through some of the earlier wheel-spinning, and the pay-off involves a genuinely thrilling climax that rightfully puts the bodies of its players in desperate motion. Blade Runner 2049 certainly doesn't match the original for its ideas or its exploration of them, but it makes for a well-oiled machine in any case.
Ryan Gosling ("K"), Ana de Armas (Joi), Robin Wright (Lt. Joshi), Jared Leto (Niander Wallace), Sylvia Hoeks (Luv), Harrison Ford (Rick Deckard), Mackenzie Davis (Mariette), Carla Juri (Dr. Ana Stelline), Dave Bautista (Sapper Morton), Hiam Abbass (Freysa), David Dastmalchian (Coco), Wood Harris (Nandez), Barkhad Abdi (Doc Badger).
Directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green.
Rated R (violence, sexuality, nudity, language).
Released on October 6, 2017.