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'Blade Runner 2049' a massive follow-up to the original classic

| Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, 5:51 p.m.

Hailed as beautiful, worth the wait and a little too long, "Blade Runner 2049" opens in wide release Oct. 6.

Thirty years after the events of the first film, the corporation that once manufactured the replicants has been bought out by an agribusiness empire owned by one Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), who wants to create replicant-workers on a scale sufficient for his imperial plans. Ryan Gosling plays LAPD officer K, a limited-lifespan replicant whose task is to track down and destroy those first-gen models who can live as long as humans, and are still illegally hiding out.

K unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what's left of society into chaos. K's discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (star of 1982's "Blade Runner" Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

Both his LAPD boss Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) and Wallace himself are very interested in what he might discover.

Harrison Ford



A wondrous spectacle

Kate Walsh, Tribune News Service

★★★1⁄2 out of 4

Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve has taken on the herculean task of directing the sequel to Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic "Blade Runner," a feat that seems nearly impossible to pull off, considering the reverence with which fans hold the original, one of the most unique and influential pieces of sci-fi cinema. Villeneuve's film, "Blade Runner 2049," is a remarkable achievement, a film that feels distinctly auteurist, yet also cut from the very same cloth as Scott's film.

This epic riff on the styles, themes and characters of "Blade Runner" expand the scope and story of this world. Written by original screenwriter Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, "2049" is a meditative and moving film, sumptuously photographed by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins in the finest and most astonishing work of his career. He paints with light and shadow, creating a wonderfully tactile sense of space and texture, using a palette of slate, cerulean and marigold. The aesthetic is subdued, yet thrilling. The score by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer, sounding like rumbling engines and blaring sirens, simultaneously lulls and agitates.

To belabor story details is to miss the bigger picture of "Blade Runner 2049." The style is rich, the themes are complex, but the story is a simple, classically cinematic tale. A man is faced with an existential quandary through which he reckons with his own soul and identity in the face of incredible dehumanization.

Ryan Gosling and Ana de Armas


A stylish, brooding upgrade

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

★★★ out of 4

In 1982, when replicants hadn't yet become a Hollywood business model, "Blade Runner" failed to do what Warner Brothers hoped it would: make a pile of money.

It succeeded, however, in acquiring the reputation of a modern science fiction classic. Director Ridley Scott's 2019-set story (based on Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?") entered our popular culture sideways, influencing two generations of filmmakers with its menacing dystopian perspective.

Now comes the sequel. The studio is banking on the original's cachet, if not its cash, to justify a $150 million production budget. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. But there's a real movie to talk about - flawed, yes, flabby, yes, a little wobbly and synthetic on story. And often spellbinding.

Under stone-ground-mustard-colored skies (the air quality's 30 years worse for wear, according to the narrative timeline), presenting an array of meticulously realized visions of LA, "Blade Runner 2049" is poised to divide audiences just as the original did. Director Denis Villeneuve's brooding, methodical sequel takes its cue from the tone, as well as the look, of the '82 film, and while it's a different movie, it offers a similarly ruminative pace. The sequel is 164 minutes, roughly 45 minutes more generous (or forbidding) than the first one.

Gorgeous '2049' breaks the 'Blade Runner' spell

Jake Coyle, Associated Press

★★1⁄2 out of 4

"We're all just looking out for something real," says Robin Wright's police captain in "Blade Runner 2049."

Wright, an icy, steely actress seemingly born for the world of "Blade Runner," is speaking to her replicant detective whose name is his serial number: KDC-3-7 — or "K," for short (Ryan Gosling). But it's a line that resonates beyond the robotic reality of "Blade Runner." What contemporary moviegoer won't nod with understanding?

Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi neo-noir original extracted the frightful premise of Philip K. Dick's novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" — the horror of not knowing if you're real or not — and overlaid it across an eerie and mesmerizing sci-fi void. Its slick surfaces and the radically atmospheric synthesizer score by Vangelis — not to mention Daryl Hannah's hair and some serious shoulder pads — made "Blade Runner" an electric portrait of '80s soullessness. Its futuristic grandeur came with a cynical shrug.

Denis Villeneuve's impressively crafted and deeply respectful sequel, set 30 years later, has — more than most of its rebooting ilk — carefully preserved much of the original's DNA. The photography, by Roger Deakins, is resolutely gorgeous, filled with stark perpendicular lines, glowing orange hazes and yellow pools of reflected light. Gosling, a worthy heir to Harrison Ford, shares his predecessor's inclination for both restraint and a smirk.

But while "Blade Runner 2049" is always something to look at, an overly elaborate script and some other bad habits common to today's sequel machinery — such as glaring product placement — have broken the "Blade Runner" spell.

It may be too harsh to grade "2049" against the original, especially when so many copycats have since diluted its dystopian wonder. Yet while "2049" still stands out from the pack, it lacks the mystery of the original. (Or at least the director's cut. The 1982 film was itself a replicant with too many versions to keep straight.) This latest updated model, less punk-rock in attitude, wants to connect the dots and illuminate backgrounds that stayed dark the first time around.

Shrewdly calculated sequel

★★★★ out of 5

The original "Blade Runner" was set in the future of 2019. Today, 35 years after that now-classic movie appeared, its world hardly seems strange at all. Androids have popped up on screen everywhere, from Steven Spielberg's underrated "AI: Artificial Intelligence" to "Westworld." Video phones are common. The constant rain in the film seems like a forecast of the climate change that has deluged the globe with tragically strong hurricanes. How can a futuristic film outrun 2017's reality?

Denis Villeneuve's shrewdly calculated sequel, "Blade Runner 2049," tries hard to evade that tricky problem, with a busy, distracting surface that cloaks an enduring theme about humanity.

The action is set in a sci-fi dystopia. Instead of focusing on the technology that led to that mess — a backstory seeps in, involving famine and a catastrophic data-destroying blackout — the film takes an issue planted in the original movie and makes it the sequel's central, resonant mystery. Do memories make us human? If not, what does?

There is a more overt mystery, of course. The sequel wisely borrows the original's detective-in-dystopia premise, and even more wisely cast Ryan Gosling as Detective K. The all-but-human androids known as replicants, outlawed in the first film, have been replaced with spiffy new legal models. Like Harrison Ford's Richard Deckard in the original, K is a Blade Runner charged with tracking down and eliminating out-of-date replicants.

At two hours and 43 minutes, Blade Runner 2049 plays as if it were three installments of a franchise. Much of it is cautiously efficient, too protective of its legacy to invent something audaciously new. The first section builds the film's fictional world. K leaves a more decrepit version of the old Blade Runner's Los Angeles, tracking down a possible replicant.

But through the first two hours there is a nagging sense of something missing. Finally, K's search leads him to Richard Deckard, the original Blade Runner, and Harrison Ford jolts the final 45 minutes or so, making the last stretch exceptional....

Ford also energizes Gosling's performance. First tangling verbally, then with their fists, and eventually swerving into the film's huge revelations, they call on every bit of their movie-star charisma, not in a tacky Oscar-baiting way but as actors who know how to hold a screen. It helps that Deckard lives in the film's one witty location, an old casino where holograms of Elvis and Sinatra intermittently appear on the abandoned stage. The film's most ingenious stroke also involves Ford. It's possible to leave Blade Runner 2049 assuming you know whether Deckard is a replicant, only to look back and second-guess yourself.

Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford


Philosophical and challenging

★★★1/2 out of 4

Over 163 stylish minutes, "Blade Runner 2049" wrestles with nothing less than what it means to be human, serving as a beautiful thematic companion to Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner," a film that redefined a genre.

It's too soon to tell if the follow-up will have the influence and staying power of the groundbreaking original but it's clear from the beginning that this no mere piece of nostalgic fan service. Unlike a lot of reboots or long-delayed sequels that merely remix the themes and characters of the beloved original to give viewers the hollow comfort of familiarity, Denis Villeneuve and his team are remarkably ambitious, using the topics raised by "Blade Runner" to continue the conversation instead of just repeating it to make a buck.

To that end, they have made one of the most deeply philosophical and challenging sci-fi films of all time, a movie that never holds your hand as it spirals the viewer through its gorgeous funhouse of the human soul.

It would have been incredibly easy to reboot "Blade Runner" directly, merely continuing Deckard and Rachel's story from the first movie or even (gasp) remaking it. And yet while hundreds of writers and filmmakers were inspired by "Blade Runner," it's hard to believe any of them could have found a way to expand its legacy as completely as Villenueve does here with a movie that doesn't feel at all repetitive. He's in no way seeking to improve or replace—the films now work together, enriching each other instead of mimicking. They ask timeless questions and, like all great films, refuse to give you all the answers, allowing viewers to debate and discuss their meaning instead of merely being passive recipients of mindless entertainment. In that sense, "Blade Runner 2049" answers one of its own questions about what it means to be human—to have free thought—and how vital it is to appreciate art so clearly designed to enrich the soul.

Ryan Gosling


One of 2017's best

★★★★★ out of 5

As bold as the original "Blade Runner" and even more beautiful (especially if you see it in IMAX). Visually immaculate, swirling with themes as heart-rending as they are mind-twisting, "2049" is, without doubt, a good year. And one of 2017's best.

Ana de Armas


Stunning enlargement and improvement

★★★★ out of 5

With this visually staggering film, director Denis Villeneuve brings us to a kind of Ozymandias moment. It just has to be experienced on the biggest screen possible. "Blade Runner 2049" is a narcotic spectacle of eerie and pitiless vastness, by turns satirical, tragic and romantic.

This is the sequel to the 1982 sci-fi classic, directed by Ridley Scott and based on Philip K Dick's novel "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?," starring Harrison Ford as a "blade runner," a futureworld cop whose job is to track down and kill disobedient almost-human androids known as replicants. The 2017 follow-up simply couldn't be any more of a triumph: a stunning enlargement and improvement.

Its mind-boggling, cortex-wobbling, craniofacial-splintering images are there to trigger awe or even a kind of ecstatic despair at the idea of a post-human future, and what it means to imagine the wreck of our current form of homo sapiens. Evolution has not finished yet, any more than it was finished 100,000 years ago. As so often in literature and cinema, we are reminded that science fiction is there to tackle big ideas, and makes realist genres look flimsy and parochial. This film delivers pure hallucinatory craziness that leaves you hyperventilating. ...

The production design by Dennis Gasner and cinematography by Roger Deakins are both delectable, and the largely electronic musical score by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer provides a kind of aural neon: gaunt, harsh, angular, like the noise of machinery. It's an incredible lucid dream. Weirdly, I had forgotten about one of the little-discussed pleasures of the big screen: the simple effect of dialogue, echoing in a movie theatre. This film's scale is extraordinary. It places the acid tab of cinema-pleasure on your tongue.

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