This review is spoiler free. As much as I would love to talk about the plot, it will speak for itself.
I would like to think I’m one of many who stopped and thought, “Wait, what?” when Warner Brothers announced they were making a “Blade Runner” sequel. Even in a Hollywood drowning in sequels and remakes, who could possibly be ballsy enough to think they were going to follow up that ending?
The promotional campaign slightly assuaged my fears (Ryan Gosling didn’t hurt either), but there was also this strange, orange setting and I was just plain worried.
To address my biggest concerns right off the cuff: “Blade Runner 2049” is absolutely a Ridley Scott film. In its look, its pacing and its tone, it falls perfectly in step with the 1982 original. I would dare to say it even surpasses the first movie in tone, by taking on a significantly larger-scale vision and succeeding, but the assist of modern visual effects can’t be overlooked. Either way, the film is visually breathtaking.
Equally reassuring is the fact that “2049” is not a backhanded remake. It declares itself a unique sequel in minutes, without breaking a sweat. Because the world building is so thorough and immersive, story writer Hampton Francher merely plucks at another narrative thread in this universe and “2049” springs to life.
In this way, “2049” is able to function on its own; viewers who are unfamiliar with the first “Blade Runner” will still relish its sequel, and plenty of subtle thematic nods to the original will please fans.
It was a piano, sitting neatly against a bare wall, panned over in the first five minutes of the film, that set me at ease. In a way that becomes typical of the film — because not a single second, shot or set piece is wasted — this piano later returns as a plot point.
Harrison Ford returns as Rick Deckard, in a performance that is as shockingly good as it was marketable. Director Denis Villeneuve fulfills the legacy he set for himself in “Arrival” by cultivating a powerful relationship between Deckard and his younger counterpart, Gosling’s Agent K, despite the film’s sparse dialogue.
As Agent K, Gosling bears the emotional responsibilities of this movie almost entirely on his own. He has Ford’s same stony, jaded look and definitely rocks the signature blade runner duster, but he also brings a level of intensity and depth to his role that elevates the franchise to new artistic levels.
Because that’s what this movie is; it’s art. It’s blockbuster filmmaking at its best, and I sincerely hope it sets a conscious new standard because of the way it respects the traditions of its genre and the sensibilities of its audience.
If you are even remotely considering seeing “Blade Runner 2049,” go see it in the theater and go as soon as you can. Worst case scenario, you get to look at Ryan Gosling for three hours. And in the best case you may, as I did, have one of the best cinematic experiences of your life.