As covered in the recent group chat, I’m not much of a fan of the original Blade Runner. It’s got some nice symbolism, created some distopian sci-fi tropes, and asks a lot of big questions the likes of which good sci-fi always should. I just can’t get into the movie itself.
But, I loved Arrival and director Denis Villeneuve was behind the camera for this long-delayed, long-hoped-for sequel, Blade Runner 2049.
That’s a good thing. Right now, I’m fairly confident that Villeneuve is a better director than Ridley Scott.
As it is, this movie goes a different route, getting out of the eternally dark and wet Los Angeles and looking into other dark and miserable locations while continually circling back to the big city. Our main character is another Blade Runner, K (Ryan Gosling). Is K a replicant? Actually, there’s no questions or ambiguity this time around. He most certainly is. He’s fairly abused by normal humans on and off the job, lives with a holographic wife named Joi (Ana de Armas), and generally gets on with his life, such as it is. What does he want out of life? It’s hard to say.
Then one day a long cold case involving long-missing replicant Rachel (Sean Young’s character from the original) leads K to question his own identity while avoiding suspicion from his superior in the LAPD (Robin Wright) and the creepy, blind CEO of the current replicant manufacturer (Jared Leto). He’s looking over an obscured path that may lead to Deckard (Harrison Ford), but it could also lead to something much, much bigger.
As sequels go, the movie does a few call-backs, but Deckard actually sits out most of the movie as it is. This is K’s story. Gosling is onscreen for most of the movie, and he seems to be gradually coming into his own. Aware of his own artificial nature, he knows he has childhood memories, but that they aren’t real. He’s a man without a soul, or so he’s told. If he does have a soul, it’s as world-weary as a good noir lead character’s should be. Villeneuve has constructed a world where it’s less about continuing Deckard’s story (though he does) but exploring what it means to be someone else in this world, thirty years later, when the world seems even darker and damper. The themes in Scott’s original are being explored a bit more, and arguably a bit better. I dug this one. Heck, it’s probably even possible to enjoy most of it without watching the original. Maybe. Nine and a half questions on whether or not the dog is real.