October 14, 2017 -- The original Blade Runner (1982) is considered a classic, depicting a dystopian high-tech future where androids dream of a longer life. Now, it seems more prophetic than ever, not about the androids, flying cars or space travel, that stuff is so far off in the future it may never happen. However, Blade Runner's grimy pollution, climate change and wide gulf between rich and poor, that dystopian future is already here.
Nevertheless, I did not go overboard on the original film, which is certainly a good science fiction film, but not what I would call a genre classic. The sequel, however, is a bit better, one of the best films I've seen this year. The screenplay is co-written by Hampton Fancher, who also wrote the original Blade Runner screenplay, so the story does have some continuity with the original film. The director this time around is Denis Villeneuve, who directed another respected sci-fi film, “Arrival.”
Although Harrison Ford does return in this film as the former Blade Runner Deckard, and there are some appearances by others from the original film, like the origami-folding Gaff (Edward James Olmos) this is really Ryan Gosling's movie. Gosling (“Drive”) plays “K,” a Blade Runner who becomes obsessed with finding Deckard (who is off the grid) when he begins to suspect that Deckard may be his father.
Even more so than the original film, “Blade Runner 2049” is a meditation on what it means to be human. It also explores the nature of memories and how memories make us what we are. To me, this human aspect of the story is more effective than the same kind of plot element in the original Blade Runner film, even though Gosling plays the part in a very minimalist way. He shows enough emotion at the right times to make you want to follow his emotional journey.
While the basic plot of the original Blade Runner was essentially a man hunt by Deckard, the sequel is more of a mystery, with K following a series of clues which seem to be conveniently planted to lead him to a specific place. K's secret mission is to destroy evidence which could upset the order of society, but he comes up with his own personal mission. Others are very eager to uncover the evidence that K is supposed to destroy. It turns out that K's mission isn't very secret at all. He is being followed and manipulated.
K's formidable opponent is the android Luv (Sylvia Hoeks of “The Best Offer”) who is tasked with capturing Deckard and learning his secrets. She is a ruthless killer, who is determined to prove that she is superior to K. Police Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright of “Everest”) is K's boss. She is equally ruthless. Another party interested in Deckard is also ruthless. There are several heartless murders in this film. There are also a couple of nice warm characters in the film who don't kill anyone, K's very human-like hologram Joi (Ana de Armas of “War Dogs”) and memory expert Dr. Ana Stelline (Carla Juri of “Wetlands”).
Sequels or remakes are seldom as good as the original film (like this year's “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” and “Going in Style”) but this is an exception. It takes the most intriguing elements of the original film and expands on them. Also, the acting is better in this film. It doesn't quite maintain its momentum to the end, but still, this is an exceptional film. It rates a B+.
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