o we have time for a quick confession? Here it is: I've never been as in love with "Blade Runner" as I wanted to be. Don't get me wrong, the film is groundbreaking in its design, cinematography and ambiguity, but I never could find a connection to Harrison Ford's jaded replicant hunter Rick Deckard.
Ford tamped down all the charm and charisma he brought with Indiana Jones and Han Solo, but instead of coming off as more hard-nosed and introspective, Deckard is dull and monotone. He also doesn't have much of an arc in the film, and most of his detective work is done through luck or coincidence.
Here's the hard truth: Roy Batty, the renegade replicant played by Rutger Hauer, should have been the central character. Hauer is a brilliant actor and gave Batty so much depth that he was always fascinating to watch and his storyline was the tragic highlight of the film. One could argue that Deckard being so one-note could have been foreshadowing for the ambiguous reveal that he's a replicant, but that plot thread is only in one of the four different versions of the film.
Everything that didn't work about the original "Blade Runner" is completely fixed for "Blade Runner 2049." Ryan Gosling's central character, K, is a replicant assigned as a Blade Runner to hunt down and "retire" older models that didn't follow their programming. Right off the bat we have a powerful central conceit that raises a ton of interesting moral, ethical and philosophical questions.
's arc throughout the film (of which I won't spoil because the twists and turns of the story are genuinely surprising) is so fraught with physical danger and bleak thematic imperatives that we're instantly more involved in his tale than Deckard's. This, added to the visual feast of a vast and staggering future courtesy of Dennis Gassner's flawless production design and Roger Deakins' game-changing cinematography, makes "Blade Runner 2049" the "Godfather Part II" of sci-fi sequels.
When science fiction crosses the bridge into speculative fiction, we can see our own society reflected in how the future rhymes with our present. "Blade Runner 2049" takes all of those popular futuristic concepts like massive holographic ads, flying cars, cybernetic body modifications and self-aware robots and places our current worries on top of them like translucent paper.
Of course, humanity would create artificial intelligence and then grow to resent and despise it, while worrying about its own place in the pecking order. It's a well-worn sci-fi trope, but in the hands of Denis Villeneuve (who's in the top 1 percent of current filmmakers), the simplicity of themes such as identity, self-exploration and tribalism almost feel new beneath his gaze.
"Blade Runner 2049" will give a patient audience many riches to sort through. Aside from the performance of the always-fairly terrible Jared Leto, the film is an almost flawless high water mark of modern science fiction. Considering the last high water mark was Villeneuve's "Arrival," it's a good time to be a fan of genre entertainment. Now lets give Villeneuve "Dune" and let the spice flow!!
Blade Runner 2049
Dir. Denis Villeneuve
Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX, Sisters Movie House, Redmond Cinemas