Observing a sequel to “Blade Runner,” at least for a certain technology of lovers, is something comparable to watching a sequel to “Citizen Kane” or “2001: AN AREA Odyssey.” A lot is at stake.
So to state that “Blade Runner 2049” is very, very good, without quite being a masterpiece, is not faint reward.
It certainly may have been a masterpiece, from the Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, whose “Enemy” has a right to be a cult basic, and whose “Sicario” and “Arrival” were among the most effective movies of the previous few years.
He is remarkably skilled at establishing uneasy or alien spaces and discovering his characters therein. However in “Blade Runner 2049,” the main character, blade runner “K” (Ryan Gosling) very often appears to be in front of the majestic space rather than occupying it.
It’s as if Villeneuve — along with writers Hampton Fancher (who co-wrote the original) and Michael Green (“Logan”) and composers Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer — are jammed trying to re-establish those areas and looks and rhythms and emotions of the 1982 original and all together trying to go ahead.
Even though sequel explores similar designs (what it means to be alive, what this means to have a heart, etc.), it contains nothing quite as moving as Rutger Hauer’s “lost with time. … like tears in rainfall” conversation. The looking in this sequel isn’t quite as strong.
To further nitpick, it is much too long (flagging after the second hour) and it teeters awfully near dumb Wachowski-esque place (looking for “the chosen one” while “a revolution is coming”).
In addition, Jared Leto, in a two-scene Tyrell-like role, overacts in a wince-inducing way.
Yet much is completely spellbinding, specially the visuals and audio. Many scenes are hauntingly, eerily still, even though movie does have its talk about of battles and explosions.
Villeneuve takes on with styles of real wood and water and womanhood that are, if not totally amazing, then at least constantly interesting.
Harrison Ford, time for Rick Deckard after 35 years, slips back to the role such as a pro, providing it the same kind of weight that Sylvester Stallone brought to Rocky in “Creed.”
Quite a lot rides on Gosling, whose figure plays everything close to the chest, yet you can observe how he’s pulled in different directions. He’s the right choice for this. Other popular actors simply can’t play stoic without shutting down and going cold.
Many recent films, like the live-action “Ghost in the Shell,” have toyed with the same themes and the same frustrating, dystopian, cityscape backdrop. The majority are immersive, but not especially thoughtful. “Blade Runner 2049” puts the thought again in.
Blade Runner 2049
Three and a half stars
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Sylvia Hoeks
Written by: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Running time: 2 hours, 43 minutes