Grade: B+/B
2017, 164 min., Color
Sci-Fi drama
Warner Bros.
Rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Featured audio: Dolby Atmos TrueHD
Bonus features: A-/B+
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
Trailer
Amazon link

Blade Runner 2049 is rated R, but if you have older teens (15+) they’re probably begging you to let them see it, so I’m reviewing it here.

More homage than sequel or remake, Blade Runner 2049 picks up 30 years after the action of the groundbreaking 1982 sci-fi film from director Ridley Scott, who probably would have directed this one if he wasn’t already working on a project. For fans, Blade Runner 2049 offers the same bonus attraction as Star Wars: The Force Awakens—the return of Harrison Ford to an iconic role. For a new generation, the appeal is current Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling, who plays a 2049 version of Ford’s LAPD replicant-hunting cop. The twist this time? By 2049, replicants (bioengineered synthetic humans) are so common and integrated into society that they even work as Blade Runners—those cops who track down and “retire” the old versions that are no longer functioning as they were programmed to do.

After K (Gosling) catches up with and eliminates an old replicant in the opening sequence, he discovers a box buried near a tree that, though dead, is still a rarity in this post-apocalyptic world. Rarer still are the small flowers he finds on the ground next to it. As it turns out, they were marking a grave, for inside the box are bones that have a number on it. A female replicant who, forensics explain, had died in childbirth. To them it’s a frightening discovery, for if replicants are capable of reproducing in the traditional way, it means they may also have feelings that the corporation that engineered them hadn’t programmed. That raises all sorts of questions. If they can reproduce, can they also harbor grudges? Can they mount a unified rebellion? Can they produce and store memories of their own, rather than being limited to those that are programmed into them?

K’s superior (Robin Wright) orders him to locate and take care of the replicant child in order to keep the truth from coming out and spreading panic—though this post-nuclear holocaust landscape is so bleak you wonder if anyone—replicant or human—is capable of extreme feelings. If that sounds like a slam, it’s not. The production design of Blade Runner 2049 is one of the film’s great strengths. It’s exquisite, if a bombed-out wasteland can be called that. The landscape and rubble and building remnants are as stylish as they are eerily believable. Is this where we’re headed? You can’t help but wonder, the terrain created by Dennis Gassner (Skyfall, Spectre, Road to Perdition) is so powerfully convincing—especially with a sound design and Hans Zimmer soundtrack that pulses like a futuristic heartbeat on life support.

The original Blade Runner wasn’t exactly a sprint to the end credits, but by comparison Blade Runner 2049 seems slow-paced—at least through the first act and the start of the second. Dennis Villeneuve (Arrival) embraces a pace so deliberate in the beginning that it gives the film a brooding quality. Blade Runner fans will love every minute of this homage and its richly imagined futuristic world, but younger viewers who are more into Gosling than they are sci-fi will find the beginning slow-going enough to wish that Villeneuve would have cut this 164-minute film by another 20 minutes.

If those same younger viewers were hoping to see Gosling shirtless, get ready for another disappointment. Blade Runner 2049 derives its R rating from violence, some sensuality, language, and female nudity—some of it quite gratuitous. So, #Timesnotexactlyup, basically the film reinforces that sexism and the objectification of the female body are alive and well in the even creepier corporate-controlled future.

Since Jared Leto has a relatively small part as the slightly insane CEO and Ford doesn’t come into play until the third act, this is really Gosling’s show, and fans will find him incredibly understated as K. This is L.A. in the future, not La La Land. But as a futurescape it’s a thing of beauty, and the main plot, though different, is faithful to the tone, message, and emotional core of the original 1982 film. Just be warned: though a woman

Yes there’s a female killing machine and there are perilous situations, but Blade Runner 2049 is not so much a sci-fi adventure, sci-fi action film, or sci-fi thriller as it is a serious sci-fi drama. It did quite well abroad but disappointed at the U.S. box office, and executive producer Ridley Scott told Yahoo! Entertainment he thought the reason why was because it’s “slow” and “too long. I would have taken out half an hour,” he said.

So would my 15-year-old daughter—the minimum age for this film, I would think—who spent much of the time on her phone.

Language: A handful of f-bombs plus a few lesser swearwords
Sex: Hologram nudes, female frontal nudity, naked replicants in glass cases
Violence: Occasional but significant, with people’s stomachs slashed, people shot point-blank in the head, an underwater strangling, and a bludgeoning that turns bloody
Adult situations: Some alcohol use and smoking, and prostitutes presumably engaged in their trade (but nothing graphic shown)
Takeaway: Good movie, but it would have been interesting to see what Ridley Scott’s version would have looked like

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