By Eleanor Ringel Cater
“Blade Runner 2049” is admirable and occasionally astonishing. But there is nothing in its entire 163 minutes that matches the gut-wrenching power of Rutger Hauer’s final speech in the original movie.
Ridley Scott’s sci-fi cult classic, “Blade Runner” was originally released in 1982 (since then, there have been one or two revised versions). It was set in the future (2019) in a rain-drenched world of neon and noise. And human-like androids called replicants.
Replicants had an expiration date of four years. But sometimes, a replicant wouldn’t, well, go with the program. So cops called blade runners were dispatched to track down and destroy the occasional rogue. As a blade runner named Deckard (Harrison Ford) soon learns, it isn’t as simple as that.
By 2049, replicants have been replaced by new improved models (also called replicants) that are more obedient, more willing to play by the rules. However, the world still needs blade runners to “retire” the earlier versions, many of which have gone into hiding.
Sent on a seemingly routine mission by his boss (Robin Wright), Officer K (Ryan Gosling) runs into a hulking Old School replicant (Dave Bautista) who’s been up to something more than raising grubs on his protein farm. Just what that something is — and what it means — takes up the rest of the movie.
Along the way we meet mad genius Wallace Neander (a preening Jared Leto, wearing be-fogged contact lenses), who created said new improved models; his killer right-hand woman, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks); and K’s personally-programmed digital companion, Joi (Ana de Armis), who can shape-shift in an instant from adoring ‘50s housewife with dinner on the table to adoring sex kitten with, um, something else on the table.
Ultimately, the trail leads to Deckard (still Ford, still amazing), who’s been holed up in the remains of a Vegas nightclub with on-demand holograms of showgirls, Elvis and Sinatra (What? No Cirque de Soleil?).
Denis Villeneuve takes his movie-making seriously. His pictures — “Arrival,” “Prisoners,” among others —aren’t always successful. But they are always works of considerable interest. In other words, he is the furthest thing possible from a hack, and he hasn’t taken on “Blade Runner 20149” as a way to enhance his name recognition (as others might’ve). He’s given this his all…and then some.
The film is visually stunning (thank you, genius cinematographer Roger Deakins). And it constantly asks questions, ranging from the metaphysical to the spiritual to the just plain silly (if you’re a regular person, you have no idea how the blog boys have been obsessing over “Blade Runner” and its long-promised sequel.)
Ultimately, you may find “Blade Runner 2049” something of a replicant itself. It looks right. It sounds right. It may even have some vestige of a soul.