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.