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BLADE RUNNER 2049: NOT WORTH THE WAIT

II’ve taken more heat for my negative review of 1982’s Blade Runner than almost anything else I’ve written. I gave the film three shots as director Ridley Scott revised it over the years but it never spoke to me, beyond its obvious visual achievement. Now comes an eagerly awaited sequel, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Incendies, Arrival) and penned by the original movie’s screenwriter, Hampton Fancher, in collaboration with Michael Green. Given the collective pedigree of its creators, I hoped I would feel differently about this production and went to see it with an open mind.

The setting is an even bleaker and grimier Los Angeles, thirty years following  the initial story. Ryan Gosling is an LAPD officer, known as a Blade Runner, who spends most of his time sniffing out the remaining replicants (or androids) from an earlier time. They have been supplanted by new, “improved” models manufactured by a creepy entrepreneur (Jared Leto).

Meanwhile, Gosling struggles with questions about his own identity, wondering if the things he remembers are genuine memories or artificial incidents planted in his brain. Even his beautiful girlfriend (Ana de Armas) is a sophisticated hologram. His curiosity leads him onto dangerous pathways where he incurs the wrath of his boss (Robin Wright), Leto’s cold-blooded lieutenant (Sylvia Hoeks ), and ultimately his predecessor, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).

All of this is intriguing and well executed, a promising piece of science-fiction—at first. But Blade Runner 2049 goes on and on and on. Dennis Gassner’s elaborate production design, photographed by the great Roger Deakins, offers eye-filling sights but can’t compensate for sluggish storytelling. I almost never look at my watch during a movie but I was sorely tempted as tedium set in.

Gosling is excellent in the leading role, delivering a subtly expressive performance as a man who is never at peace with himself. Relative newcomers Hoeks and de Armas fill the key female roles quite well, and Wright does solid work as the chief of police. Naturally, it’s great to see Harrison Ford, inhabiting a signature part for the second time. But by the time he turns up the film is nearing the two-hour mark and still has a ways to go.

I admire the hard work that went into this film by a team of people who are devotees of the original and strove to do it justice. Fans and admirers will weigh in en masse, I’m sure…but I found Blade Runner 2049 long and boring.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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