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Long-Awaited ‘Blade Runner’ Sequel Finally Arrives

Blade Runner 2049’ is a mesmerizing follow up to Ridley Scott’s film

Photo credit: Warner Brothers

Former blade runner Deckard (Harrison Ford) is confronted by new blade runner K (Ryan Gosling) in "Blade Runner 2049."

It has been more than three decades since Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” opened in theaters and defined a new kind of sci-fi film. “Blade Runner 2049” arrives as one of the most eagerly anticipated sequels of all time.

Companion viewing

"Blade Runner" (1982)

"Only God Forgives" (2013)

"Arrival" (2016)

It has been more than three decades since Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” opened in theaters and defined a new kind of sci-fi film. “Blade Runner 2049” arrives as one of the most eagerly anticipated sequels of all time.

You know how Facebook has that relationship status that says, “It’s complicated”? That’s how I feel about my relationship with “Blade Runner 2049.” It’s complicated!

Original 'Blade Runner'

Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” is one of my all-time favorites, and Scott has made me revisit that film multiple times (I think the Blu-ray has five versions of the films) with his various director cuts of the film. So while I fell in love with the original version of the film, which had a film noir-like voiceover narration by Harrison Ford’s Deckard, I had to eventually come to terms with the fact that the later version with no narration was far superior. It was also far bleaker.

So my relationship with the original film was complicated. When news of the sequel was announced I waited for its arrival with a sense of both hope and trepidation. Going into the press screening, I was very much aware of trying to manage expectations. I wanted to be fair to the film by not reading or watching anything about it in advance (no easy task) and by trying to take it completely on its own terms and not expect it to be “Blade Runner Revisited.” But I confess, I wanted the sequel to be a match for the original, the way “The Godfather, Part II” and “Empire Strikes Back” were.

Basically, I wanted to fall in love with “Blade Runner 2049,” and I did ... in parts.

Photo credit: Warner Brothers

Ryan Gosling stars as a blade runner named "K" who is trying to track down Deckard to answer questions about a case he is working on in "Blade Runner 2049."

'Blade Runner 2049' no spoilers

“Blade Runner 2049” follows up on "Blade Runner," which was based on Philip K. Dick's book, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"

The sequel is a sprawling sci-fi detective tale in which the mystery revolves around what makes us human. The story picks up decades after the original film. The first film ended Deckard (Harrison Ford), our original blade runner who was sent out to hunt down and terminate replicants, and Rachel (Sean Young), a high-end replicant model, escaping together to some unknown and uncertain future.

"2049" picks up decades later. Deckard and Rachel seem long gone and out of the picture. The Tyrell Company, that made all those replicants that went bad, is also gone. But a new corporate tycoon/inventor (Jared Leto) has his own ideas about creating more obedient robots.

I don’t want to give away too much so all I will add about the plot is that Ryan Gosling is a new blade runner, “K,” who hopes that meeting Harrison Ford’s Deckard will provide some answers to a case he is working on. But it’s a long (the film is nearly three hours) journey to find that elusive blade runner veteran.

After seeing what Scott has done to the “Alien” franchise, I have to admit I was quite relieved to see that he would not be helming this sequel but rather handing over the reins to a talented, younger director Denis Villeneuve.

In his previous films (“Arrival,” “Sicario,” “Prisoners”), Villeneuve displayed a gift for non-linear stories that engaged you on a visceral or emotional level rather than with plot. In “Blade Runner 2049” he puts that gift to work as well. On a certain level, he proves more interested in K’s search than in any concrete answers he might uncover.

Photo credit: Warner Brothers

Ryan Gosling stars as a blade runner trying to solve a case in "Blade Runner 2049."

Humanity is messy

One character notes that you can distinguish real human memories from fake ones by their messiness. “Blade Runner 2049” is at it’s best in its messy, unclear moments of humanity and less interesting when dutifully trying to be a good sequel or when laying out elements of its plot. Most of the scenes with Leto fell flat and seemed to be trying too hard to lay out the machinations of the plot. The times when Villeneuve seems to be playing most directly off of the first film are the weakest. It's the moments when Villeneuve pursues what seems to be his own style and interests is when "2049" takes flight.

Despite its scope and scale, it’s a film filled with isolated people, aching loneliness and a quiet, dogged commitment to defining who or what we are. Those were all themes and elements found in the first film.

I feel like we are so besieged with mediocrity and blandness in our entertainment that anything that rises above that is too easily deemed great or groundbreaking. I don’t think “Blade Runner 2049” is a masterpiece or will prove as influential as its predecessor, but I also feel like there is enough to ponder in the sequel that I want to watch it again, knowing what it is, to see if I find anything new on a second viewing.

“Blade Runner 2049” (rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language) is a film to savor and mull over. And I appreciate how the new film respects the sense of ambiguity that the first film maintained in its contemplation of replicants and humans. I like films that don't tell you everything but rather leave something to the viewer to ponder.

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