Fans of Ridley Scott’s landmark 1982 dystopian noir drama “Blade Runner” will be thrilled to find that director Denis Villeneuve has soaked his follow-up, “Blade Runner 2049,” in as much grime-and-neon atmosphere as the original.
But, as Broadway producers like to say, you can’t hum the scenery. Mercifully Villeneuve and his writers — Hampton Fancher, who co-wrote the original, and Michael Green, who co-wrote “Logan” and “Alien: Covenant” — have devised a deeply layered and emotional story that builds on what we know about this world.
As the title tells us, it’s 2049, 30 years after the events of the first movie. Opening title cards tell us that replicants — the artificially created humans who went rogue in 2019 — were outlawed, and the Tyrell Corp. that made them went bankrupt. However, the billionaire agribusiness visionary Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) took over Tyrell’s operations, and makes next-generation replicants for off-world labor. The old replicants are hunted down by cops still known as “blade runners.”
One of those cops is Officer K (Ryan Gosling), and we first meet him as he’s pursuing one of these old-model replicants, under the orders of his supervisor, LAPD Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright). What K finds, and where it leads, makes up the meat of the movie — and Warner Bros. would be very upset if I mention much more than that. (Seriously, the list the studio sent to critics covers nearly everything between the opening logos and the closing credits.)
Two things can be said, since they’re in the movie’s trailer. One is that K isn’t the only one on this trail of clues; so is Wallace’s relentless assistant, Luv (played by Dutch star Sylvia Hoeks). The other is that K eventually crosses paths with Rick Deckard, the jaded “blade runner” from the first movie, and that means we get grizzled Harrison Ford in the picture at some point.
I can also say that K has a love interest, of sorts, named Joi, tenderly played by Cuban actor Ana de Armas. She’s one of a string of strong female actors in this international cast, along with Canadian-born Mackenzie Davis (“Halt and Catch Fire”), Israeli Arab Haim Abbass (“The Visitor,” “Lemon Tree”) and Swiss-born Carla Juri (“Morris From America”).
Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Prisoners”) steeps the L.A. futurescape with sly references to Scott’s original — from the high-tech billboards for Coca-Cola and Atari to the hints of Vangelis’ synthesizer score in the butt-rattling soundtrack by Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer — and the bleak imagery of cinematographer Roger Deakins. Scott, who’s an executive producer here, should be flattered.
Gosling proves himself a fit choice as next-generation replicant hunter, capturing a hint of Ford’s jaded composure and world-weariness from years of killing, or “retiring,” creatures who are practically indistinguishable from humans. When Gosling and Ford finally share the screen — and the dawdling to get to that moment is one of the movie’s few faults — the connection is electrifying, and it adds heart to the stunning world Villeneuve has built.
* * * 1/2
’Blade Runner 2049’
Director Denis Villeneuve re-creates the dark, foreboding future of the 1982 science-fiction classic, and tells a compelling story within it.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens Friday, Oct. 6.
Rating • R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language.
Running time • 163 minutes.