In 2022, two years after the Tyrell Corporation released their upgraded Nexus 8 replicants, an electromagnetic pulse unleashes widespread havoc. Many blame replicants for the attack. Years later the Wallace Corporation takes over Tyrell, producing a subservient biorobotic series, then the Nexus 9. As part of a newly reformed blade runner unit tasked with 'retiring' older models, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling) uncovers something so explosive, it leads him on a search for a man missing for thirty years, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) in "Blade Runner 2049."
Before a press screening, a publicist was tasked with reading a letter from director Denis Villeneuve ("Arrival") asking that the plot of the film not be revealed so as not to ruin the experience for audiences. Well Villeneuve may have an ulterior motive here as he's managed to do something remarkable - make a 264 minute film that doesn't feel that long while handing us a big bag of nothing (those who haven't seen the groundbreaking original may find more here - or may just be confused, Deckard's story integral to this one). Credit cinematographer Roger Deakins ("No Country for Old Men," "Prisoners") and an FX team who provide poetic imagery and delightful little baubles like a replicant's hi tech manicure to divert our attention from recognizing the empty cash grabbing franchise reboot unspooling before us. There are no new ideas here, poignancy achieved by rehashing moments of the original film with dollops applied from Spielberg's "A.I." and Spike Jonze's "Her."
Production design has maintained elements of Executive Producer Ridley Scott's Pan Asian L.A., giant billboards now towering holographs (a giant ballerina twirls in a pink tutu, a 'product of the CCCP'), but that is not our introduction to this world thirty years later. The opening scene reveals K flying his Peugot over scorched earth dotted with synthetic farms. Later we'll learn San Diego has been turned into L.A.'s municipal dump. Deakins employs grays and golds for this colorless world blanketed in rain and snow.
That opening scene holds promise as K goes to rub out Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista, "Guardians of the Galaxy"), an isolated Nexus 8 maintaining a protein farm. K enters his drab home where a large black pot boils menacingly. Morton enters in a biohazard suit like a deep sea diver's. Their engineered strength busts through walls, but Sapper, the older model, is more intellectually evolved, his sadness as heavy as his suit as he asks K how he feels about killing his own, exulting in the fact that he's witnessed 'a miracle.' Before departing, K spots a small yellow wildflower lying at the base of a dead tree, the date '6-10-21' carved into one of its roots.
But the mystery behind it all is anti climactic, screenwriters Hampton Fancher ("Blade Runner") and Michael Green ("Alien: Covenant") serving up an old trope designed to fuel future installments. The film's female stars fare a lot better than their male counterparts, Gosling interpreting his artificiality by turning on brooding autopilot, Ford more reminiscent of Han Solo than his own Deckard. Robin Wright has grit as K's human supervisor Lieutenant Joshi, but she's hampered by an underwritten character. Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks ("The Better Offer") is deadly, elegant steel as Wallace's (Jared Leto, dull) right hand replicant (looking, but not acting, like "Blade Runner's" Rachel, who haunts this sequel) while Ana de Armas ("War Dogs," "Hands of Stone") offers wide-eyed innocent playfulness as K's holographic companion Joi.
Robin gives "Blade Runner 2049" a C+.
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