Del reviews ‘Blade Runner 2049’

Image courtesy of Warner Brothers.

“Blade Runner 2049” Starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright and Sylvia Hoeks. Directed by Dennis Villeneuve. 2 hours, 44 minutes. Rated R.

Del’s take

As I purchased my ticket for “Blade Runner 2049” the ticket taker said, “It’s entirely possible you will be the only person in the theater.”

He was almost right.

Initially I was the only person in the theater. I frantically texted my movie-going crony, Dusty. “Please hurry. I am the only one in the theater. It’s creepy.”

By the time the movie started there were 13 other individuals with us, not an auspicious showing for a much-ballyhooed sequel to a movie legend.

The original “Blade Runner” didn’t do much at the box office, pulling in a little over $32 million domestically over its lifetime. “2049” seems headed to a similar fate. The film has so far grossed $60 million and may never earn back its $155-plus million expenses.

That’s too bad because it’s a worthy successor to the original Ridley Scott classic, despite the fact that audiences don’t seem to care.

I suspect “2049’s” major problem is that contemporary moviegoers are too lazy to enjoy a movie that builds its tension slowly and requires audiences to think. Why should audiences think when they can coast along in a state of lobotomy-like bliss, voting for Donald Trump and watching crap like the upcoming “Geo Storm”?

 In “2049” Ryan Gosling is Officer K, a replicant hunter who belongs to a new generation of the genetically engineered lifeforms himself, compliant slaves who do what they are told. When he is ordered to investigate a possible older-generation replicant hiding in the environmental wasteland that Southern California has become, he tumbles onto a larger mystery that promises to “break the world,” as Lieutenant Joshi (Wright) puts it.

What follows is a journey across the hellscape of Los Angeles and beyond in search of the truth, which eventually leads K to Deckard (Ford) and a confrontation with agents of the Wallace Corporation, manufacturer of the new, compliant replicants. Wallace is headed by the cool-handed Neander Wallace (Leto), who is looking for a way to make replicants faster. Does K hold the solution to that problem?

“2049” is a replicant itself, duplicating the mood and pacing of the original “Blade Runner.” The score evokes the original Tangerine Dream soundtrack yet diverges in strange and interesting ways. The noir ingredients are still there – endless rain, sometimes interrupted by snow. Neon signs with gigantic holograms confronting pedestrians about their shopping choices. Retro technology and clothing styles. At any moment I expected to see Daryl Hannah back-handspringing into the fray.

Gosling measures up to Ford’s original performance, offering the same world-weary yet hopeful emotional resonance to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there is more to his manufactured life than even his makers were aware of. His exchanges with his holographic lover Joi (Anna de Armas) are simultaneously touching and heartbreaking. To know that these two artificial entities – one grown in a vat, the other digital – constitute all that is good about this world damns the future with sadness and futility.

The movie is long, almost three hours, and therein lies its flaw. The pacing is glacial – not the post global warming “glacial” of  retreat, but the inch-a-year growth of ice before mankind dumped his pollution and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. At times director Villeneuve seems to love his creation so madly he dwells on unimportant details, unwilling to slay his darlings as it were. It feels every bit as much as a three-hour movie.

Still, it’s three hours of arresting visuals, soaring music, and tantalizing questions: Who else might be a replicant? Will these new replicants throw off their designed constraints and launch a revolution? How will mankind survive without its slave labor force?

Fans of the original should catch “2049” in a movie theater to enjoy its visuals in their native habitat. Newcomers should probably watch the 1982 original before venturing to the theater.

Watch it now, because if “2049” doesn’t start making money soon, it may be another 35 years before we see Part 3.

Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.