We shouldn’t be talking about a Blade Runner sequel—not now, not then, not ever. The film generated well-known and long-lived animosity between Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott. It was a box office disappointment, barely making its own budget back. The legions of fans it has acquired over the years tend to be rabid fanboys and demanding purists—the sorts who are legendarily and chronically unhappy with sequels.
Yet here we are. Blade Runner 2049 landed October 6.
The 1982 film is in my all-time top five. I’ve seen it perhaps 20 times. As intrigued as I’ve been for more than a year by the idea of a sequel, I’ve also been steadily budgeting a little disappointment. It would have to be made meticulously, checking 99 of 100 boxes, and the Matrix sequels are excellent circumstantial evidence that such doesn’t happen.
If you’re reading this review, you probably don’t need a lengthy description of the world of these films. However, just in case we do have a true newbie or two along for the ride, I will share that in the near future, there are synthetic people called replicants who are very difficult to distinguish from genuine human beings. Plot points revolve around detecting and pursuing them when they stubbornly refuse to do exactly what we tell them to, as well as properly purposing them in society. The law enforcement officers who specialize in pursuing and “retiring” them are called blade runners.
I said no spoilers, and I’m not going to get into plot points at all. I went in not knowing anything about the film except what I’d seen in the trailers. Coupled with the open-ended conclusion of Blade Runner, there was a lot of ripe story territory. That was enough for me. And I won’t spoil your story except to say that Blade Runner 2049 delivers, weaving multiple narratives skillfully and succinctly.
Casting is excellent. The return of Rick Deckard is satisfying and genuine. Ryan Gosling does a wonderful job with range of emotion as the protagonist. His antagonists are pleasingly ambiguous and sinister. No missteps here.
Where I expected to be disappointed was in the production design. There are a thousand tiny little bits that make up the Blade Runner world, and I know them all by heart. All Blade Runner fans do. This seemed the most likely place to ruin the film—or at least damage it. And it is neither ruined nor damaged. On the contrary, the Blade Runner 2049 production design is a true tour de force. This is as immersive a world as has ever been depicted, demonstrating both meticulous attention to and tremendous love for the world of the first film. There are convincing evolutions. There are affectionate nods. Look for details. You will be richly rewarded.
For me, the score was another character in the 1982 film. Again, I was very satisfied with the follow-up in the sequel. Important motifs are carried through—sometimes intact, sometimes evolved—and there is plenty of original, yet thematically harmonious, new material too. I caught myself listening pregnantly during some moments for what I thought should be there, and was rewarded more than once.
The film is sixteen minutes short of three hours long, and if you know anything about how I review films, you know that I rail against overly self-indulgent run times. If it needs to be there, I’m fine with a film being five hours long. But bloated run times are all too often masturbatory, and should be called out when they are so. Blade Runner 2049 is not too long at 2:44. Nothing is wasted.
I join the chorus of several similarly difficult-to-please friends in saying this film is not only worthy, but really doesn’t fall down anywhere. It is scary good, delivering perhaps 125% of what would have passed all of even a strict fanboy’s filters. We’ll wait a few months to see where it ultimately slots in, but I’m confident today in calling Blade Runner 2049 one of my all-time favorite films.