As with all Denis Villeneuve directed films, this is a sci-fi world of ideas and philosophies as towering as the skyscrapers within the futuristic Los Angeles. He doesn’t waste our time and he doesn’t hold our hand. Villeneuve is a strong enough director to stand back and let Blade Runner’s style and philosophy wash over us.
There’s a challenge with this review. Before the screening began, we were presented with a statement from director Denis Villeneuve to not spoil much of the movie. After the film, we were given specifics on what we were not allowed to spoil, including the very premise of the characters. The long list inspired some laughter out of the press for the spoiler laundry list and how restricting it was. But I respect Villeneuve as a director and will comply with his wishes to keep this review free of the major reveals.
So what can I talk about if I can’t describe much of the plot? Plenty.
The world of Blade Runner appears larger and more developed than before without drastically redefining the wheel. There are now holograms, including giant depictions of prostitute holograms that stroll around buildings and single out potential customers for companionship. Holograms have advanced to the point of being artificial intelligence that can be used as living companions. Ethical questions are raised with such a concept, but there can’t be too much ethics left if brothels can advertise active sex from store windows of frosted glass.
The building interiors cover a wide range of styles, from the grimy look of urban apartments to the tranquil beauty of designer industrial offices. One of my favorite sets from the original was Tyrell’s meeting room of light reflecting off of water against the evening sun. That same aesthetic is present again, but in much different styles this time that make the film more inspired than repetitive. Other amazing and original locations include a junkyard region with child labor and a radiated city where statues of vice stand tall, broken and dusty.
Replicants are still present in 2049, this time developed by the evil industrialist Wallace (Jared Leto). He has taken over where Doctor Elden Tyrell left off, still breeding the synthetic beings to be perfect creations to serve man. As seen in the promotional short film, Wallace has promised he’ll do the Replicants right this time, ensuring there will be no problems with rogue thoughts and better believability. He’s made great strides for his Replicant producing company that seems to occupy even larger towers than Tyrell’s, but still isn’t satisfied until he’s made those last few stepping stones to godhood.
Not much can be said about Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford or the rest of the cast without revealing some major spoilers, some of which occur within the first few minutes of the film. What can be said is that Gosling does a stellar job playing the detective that slowly pulls back the clues and finds himself bitterly frustrated when confronted with what he finds. Ford brings his usual grit to the table as an aged man good with his fists, still capable of as much bite as his bark. He reprises the role of Deckard as a man more intelligent and uneasy and rendered vulnerable by the past.