Following the success of last year's Arrival, one of 2016's critical and commercial triumphs, director Denis Villeneuve has taken the helm of Blade Runner 2049, a sequel to the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner and ultimately a long, slow, beautiful film with little substance behind its attractive exterior.
As K, the titular Blade Runner, Ryan Gosling broods his way through the entire length of the film, while Harrison Ford's return as Rick Deckard again showcases how the man seems to get better at his craft the older he gets-his voice may have lost the droll affectation he once possessed, but the spirit is still there, giving one hope that he still has at least one more round as Indiana Jones left in him. Supporting roles are handled aptly by Dave Bautista, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Mackenzie Davis and Carla Juri, while Jared Leto, essentially inhabiting yet another glorified bad guy cameo, spouts off perplexing quotes in a vain attempt to sound sinister, but rather comes off as strange. At least Barkhad Abdi, best known as the main villain from 2013's Captain Phillips, shows up for a moment, and I'm sincerely glad to see him still getting work.
The original Blade Runner theme, composed by Vangelis, makes a return in this follow-up, however core soundtrack duties are handled by Benjamin Willfisch and Hans Zimmer, taking over from Villeneuve collaborator Johann Johannsson but still rich with many of the
characteristics heard in Arrival. It's absolutely an integral part of the film, loaded with Moog sweeps, percussive blasts, and off-putting instrumental shrieks. It's spooky and, in keeping with the rest of the film, atmospheric, though it is overly loud at points and unnecessarily placed in certain scenes, with Villeneuve trying to provide tension to moments that would otherwise have none. For a slightly headache-inducing experience, see this in IMAX, as every pounding noise or pummeling piece of music is just that much more aggressive on the senses.
However, the visual effects and stunning cinematography courtesy of Roger Deakins take center stage-every shot is rich in detail, ranging from gritty city streets to radiation-washed wastelands and cathedral-like buildings that seem extracted right out of Stargate. The somewhat desolate future of 2049 is also reflected in the choice of weather-never do we see a gorgeous, sunny day, but rather grimy clouds and even snow that couldn't look less like a Robert Frost poem if it tried. Though set on Earth, the planet has never looked quite as alien as it does here.
Much like its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049's slow pace and near-three hour runtime make for a bit of a slog at points, one which no amounts of incredible FX or bombastic score can save. Even the care Ford gives his character is but a small brownie point on a chart that lacks many. In many ways, comparisons can be made to 2010's Tron: Legacy, another similarly great-looking film with a fantastic electronic soundtrack that's ultimately devoid of a truly compelling story. At its heart, it's just another movie, and an overrated one at that.
The only running that took place was by me once the movie ended. I really had to use the restroom.