Movie review: 'Blade Runner 2049'

Brad Keefe

“Blade Runner 2049” was not a necessary sequel by any stretch, but what could have been just the latest example of Hollywood running through its endless remake/sequel cycle turns out to be something more.

Far from being a cash grab — as evidenced by an opening weekend box-office take that the industry deems disappointing — this sequel is so in the spirit of its 1982 original that it seems destined for the same status. The original may have been underappreciated by the masses in its time, but the cult lives on some 35 years later.

For starters, yes, it will obviously help to have seen the original, although I don't think it's a prerequisite for enjoying “2049.” Much of what audiences variably loved and hated about the original is here, and some questions are again left tantalizingly unanswered.

Set 30 years after the original, we're introduced to a new “blade runner,” an LAPD cop named K (Ryan Gosling) who specializes in tracking and “retiring” genetically manufactured humanoids called replicants.

K is himself a next-gen replicant, so we don't have the ambiguity of Harrison Ford's Deckard from the original, but there's a larger mystery playing out as K seeks to uncover a secret that could impact all of society.

“Blade Runner 2049” shares a lineage with the original in co-screenwriter Hampton Fancher, as well as original director Ridley Scott overseeing things as executive producer.

But there's an inspired change behind the director's chair in Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Sicario”). He manages to match both the look and feel of “Blade Runner,” as well as its unique pacing.

That pacing could be a stumbling block for some, and I definitely balked at seeing a running time that nears three hours. That is until I saw the movie. While “2049” isn't a pulse-pounding traditional action blockbuster, it rarely feels like it's wasting time. It's nearly three hours well spent.

Another seemingly perfect update is Gosling brooding his way in the shadow of Ford's Deckard … until the two characters come together. There's great support from the likes of Jared Leto and Robin Wright, as well as potential next “It Girl” Ana De Armas, who plays a character I'd describe as a manic pixie dream hologram.

As in the original, we delve into deep questions about what it means to be human, the limits of AI and more. And it's all wrapped up in a technical marvel full of magnificent sets and some of the best sound design I've ever heard.

If you need another reason to see it, famed cinematographer Roger Deakins does what is likely his best work ever. He's got to be the Oscar frontrunner.

So not only is “Blade Runner 2049” a worthy sequel, you could make the case that it's better than the original.

“Blade Runner 2049”

Now playing

5 stars out of 5