“We’re all just looking out for something real,” says Robin Wright’s character in “Blade Runner 2049.”
Wright, a steely actress seemingly born for the world of “Blade Runner,” is speaking to her replicant detective, K (Ryan Gosling). But it’s a line that resonates beyond the robotic reality of “Blade Runner.” What moviegoer won’t nod with understanding?
Ridley Scott’s 1982 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 on a mesmerizing sci-fi void. Its slick surfaces and the atmospheric synthesizer score by Vangelis, not to mention Daryl Hannah’s hair and some serious shoulder pads, made “Blade Runner” an electric portrait of 1980s soullessness.
Denis Villeneuve’s respectful sequel, set 30 years later, has preserved much of the original’s DNA. The photography is r gorgeous, and Gosling, a worthy heir to Harrison Ford, shares his predecessor’s inclination for both restraint and a smirk.
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But while “Blade Runner 2049” is always something to look at, the overly elaborate script and glaring product placement break the “Blade Runner” spell.
K is a blade runner seeking out-modeled replicants to “retire” when he stumbles upon the remains of a replicant woman who apparently died in child birth.
As Wright’s character puts it, replicant reproduction would “break the world.” Humans would no longer hold dominion over their disposable work force; a rebellion would spark. If “Blade Runner” was the nightmare of being soulless, “2049” is the dream of being real.
K’s lone companion is a digital woman named Joi (Ana de Armas), a holographic product advertised to be “whatever is your fancy.” He comes to believe in their relationship, only to look crestfallen at a billboard advertising Joi. K is reminded again and again that any feeling of uniqueness is imaginary, or a marketing gimmick. “Blade Runner 2049” quietly ponders its own existence amid today’s blockbusters: Can a replicant movie be real?
There is much to like, but “2049” feels too enraptured with its own headiness. Even Nabokov’s “Pale Fire” makes a cameo. Maybe “Blade Runner” wore its complexities on its sleeve, too. But it’s hard not to agree with the old blade runner who turns up late in the film and tells K: “I had your job once. It was simpler then.”
‘Blade Runner 2049’
Rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language. 2:43. AMC Classic, Fayette, Frankfort, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Paris drive-in, Richmond, Winchester.