Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

Ryan Gosling stars in “Blade Runner 2049.”

“Blade Runner 2049” has some of the makings of a great film, but fails to capture the excitement and wonder of the original Ridley Scott classic. The neo-noir elements are back, but they are unveiled in a slow, methodical fashion I found to be most unappealing. Where is the “gee whiz, that was cool” factor that captured the imaginations of science fiction fans more than three decades ago? The updating in the sequel is unquestionably more cerebral, but, at the same time, lethargic and low-key. Director Denis Villeneuve is obviously more thoughtful in his approach, but the film drags on for 164 minutes with only modest paybacks.

What’s missing from “Blade Runner 2049” is a sufficient updating of the given circumstances. What happened to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) rightly remains a mystery until the sequel’s third act. No problem there. What’s troubling is the lack of fill-in on what’s happened to Los Angeles and the western United States over the 30 years since the events of the original film took place. The details come painfully slow over the nearly three-hour runtime.

It’s interesting to note that three short films describing those missing years were made separately from this big-budget sequel. But, many would argue that the sequel should be a standalone product. The producers should have found a cinematic shorthand to better bring the audience up to speed.

The basic plot of “Blade Runner 2049” is not the problem. The story is sound. It’s just prolonged and needed a good revving. Without revealing too many details, I will tell you the story concerns a blade runner for the LAPD named “K”, short for KD6-3.7, and played by Ryan Gosling. He’s assigned to track down and eliminate a rogue replicant, Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista). The LAPD wants to hush-up evidence that female replicants are capable of giving birth to new replicants, which makes them a perceived threat to the human race. It’s obvious that Deckard, the blade runner who went missing all those years ago, has something to do with the mystery. I found myself impatient waiting for “K” to finally catch up with Ford’s character. It’s a long wait.

The special effects are surprisingly dull. The giant holographic advertisements in downtown Los Angeles are overkill, appearing way too often. Do consumers in 2049 really need 20-story high holographic sexpots hawking this or that? They would get on the last nerve of anyone unlucky enough to call themselves a postapocalyptic Angelino. These overblown optics were even more obnoxious than those holographic clerks in “Minority Report.” Another example of where less-is-more.

On the positive side, the soundtrack for “Blade Runner 2049” by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch was a fitting tribute to the original film. It had a decidedly delicate touch that reminded me of the original and unforgettable “Blade Runner” score by Vangelis.

“Blade Runner 2049” is a critic-proof movie. Anyone who loves the first film is not going to miss the sequel. I may watch chapter 2 again many times, and perhaps come to appreciate the long-winded storytelling. My immediate wish was for a shorter, more exciting film. Grade: C

Ryan Gosling is a replicant hitman in “Blade Runner 2049.”