Blade Runner 2049

Worth the 35-year wait

Sequels come in all shapes, sizes…and motivations. Most these days are mandated by studio accounting divisions because a certain movie hit a certain profitability level, and little thought is given to such pesky concepts as plot, characterization or originality. Just get it to the multiplexes; the suckers will pay to see it.

Given the iconic nature of 1982’s Blade Runner, well, that kind of thinking just wouldn’t do. The pressure must have been intense on French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve to come up with something that wasn’t a mere cash-grab.

Happy to report that this long-anticipated sequel is every bit as visually arresting, existential and hallucinatory as (executive producer) Ridley Scott’s cyberpunk-pioneering original. It delves into intriguing questions of the soul and tells a clever and compelling story about life and perceived reality that’s all its own.

This thoughtful and sensuous noir/police procedural/sci-fi chiller runs nearly three hours, and is often given over to moody introspection that makes you think, but neither does it stint on the moments of explosive action.

Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) superbly balances the old with the new, and is aided immeasurably by Roger Deakins’s stark cinematography and a deliciously grim script by Hampton Fancher (the original Blade Runner) and Michael Green (Logan).

I’ll leave the story for you to discover. Ryan Gosling’s cool detachment perfectly fits his character, a title hunter of renegade cyborgs, and he’s backed up by Ana de Armas, Jared Leto, Robin Wright and Sylvia Hoeks. It’s no spoiler to tell you that Harrison Ford reprises his 1982 character, and puts in some of the best acting of his career.

Better than the original? I’ll let you decide. But at least as good. (164 min)