Is the sequel better than the original?
According to critics who’ve seen Blade Runner 2049, explaining what happens in the first five minutes would be considered an unseemly spoiler. But what many can divulge is that Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) was able to replicate the retro world of Ridley Scott’s 1982 original in astounding ways.
The film picks up 30 years after the original Blade Runner with Ryan Gosling in the role of LAPD officer/Blade Runner K, who learns of a disturbing secret with ramifications that could dismantle what’s left of civilization. Aside from the presence of Harrison Ford (returning as Rick Deckard), Jared Leto (the nefarious Niander Wallace), Dave Bautista (as replicant-on-the-run Sapper), and a host of main players — including Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, David Dastmalchian, and Mackenzie Davis — mostly everything would be too much for spoiler-phobes to handle.
As EW’s Leah Greenblatt writes, “the director’s torch” has been successfully passed to Villeneuve, “who faithfully retains Scott’s dusky golds and grays and retro ’80s pastiche (K’s official police vehicle is a steel-colored DeLorean straight out of Doc Brown’s garage; the LAPD computers look like standard-issue Eastern-bloc IBMs, with a few necessary upgrades).”
We also can’t forget about veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose stunning work proved to be the true star of all those trailers. After 13 Oscar nominations, critics are vying for this year to be his year.
Read more Blade Runner 2049 reviews below.
Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly)
“Villeneuve, one of the few filmmakers working today for whom the word auteurdoesn’t sound like an unearned affectation, may have fallen a little too in love with his own creation; at two hours and 40 minutes, aesthetic shock and awe eventually outpace the narrative. But how could he not, when nearly every impeccably composed shot — a surreal six-handed love scene; a shimmering hologram of Elvis, hip-swiveling into eternity; a ‘newborn’ replicant, slick with amniotic goo — feels like such a ravishing visual feast? Even when its emotions risk running as cool as its palette, 2049 reaches for, and finds, something remarkable: the elevation of mainstream moviemaking to high art.”
Peter Debruge (Variety)
“Sure as it is to delight Blade Runner fans, this stunningly elegant follow-up doesn’t depend on having seen the original — and like 2010’s Tron: Legacy, may actually play better to those who aren’t wedded to the franchise’s muddled off-screen mythology. As it happens, in both tone and style, the new film owes more to slow-cinema maestro Andrei Tarkovsky than it does to Scott’s revolutionary cyberpunk sensibility. In fact, at 2 hours and 44 minutes, Blade Runner 2049 clocks in at three minutes longer than the austere Russian auteur’s Stalker. But Villeneuve earns every second of that running time, delivering a visually breathtaking, long-fuse action movie whose unconventional thrills could be described as many things — from tantalizing to tedious — but never ‘artificially intelligent.'”
Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)
“Everyone involved in this imposing enterprise has clearly dug deep to be both true to the original and come up with sharp ideas to create something more than a retread. Although the action scenes here are often brutal and Hoeks supplies her vicious character with some unexpected emotional shading, no replicant warriors in Blade Runner 2049 can measure up to those played by Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah in the first one. Leto achieves the desired weirdness level as the corporate genius behind the upgraded replicants, while Wright is all business as a top cop.”
Mike Ryan (UPROXX)
“Blade Runner 2049 is gorgeous. Cinematographer Roger Deakins has shot what is one of the most beautiful movies ever made, and yet somehow he still won’t win an Oscar this year because life is cruel. It’s a brighter movie than the original. The dingy police headquarters of the first film – that sometimes felt like it might be more appropriate for a movie like Cobra than something set in 2019 – have been replaced with something more sterile. It’s always overcast, but a lot more of the film takes plays during the day – and not always in Los Angeles – which opens up this world in a way we didn’t see in the first movie. And Hans Zimmer’s score just beats you into submission in a way I don’t now how to make sound positive. But it’s the score you probably think you remember from the first film that isn’t always the case. “
Alonso Duralde (The Wrap)
“While the performances are dialed-down, they’re uniformly excellent. The role of K calls on Gosling to squelch some of his natural charisma, but he’s always engaging, always questioning, even if his light is at least partially under a bushel. Ana de Armas (War Dogs), as the woman in K’s life, exudes warmth and poignancy, and she’s balanced out by Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks as a Wallace employee whose benign efficiency barely hides utter ruthlessness. Mackenzie Davis (the ‘San Junipero’ episode of Black Mirror) steals a few scenes as a sex worker — her makeup is far more subdued than the extreme looks favored by Daryl Hannah and Joanna Cassidy in the original — and Ford, of course, brings his gruff gravitas as he revives yet another of his iconic roles of yore.”
Eric Kohn (IndieWire)
Outside Star Wars, no sci-fi universe has been etched into cinematic consciousness more thoroughly than Blade Runner. Ridley Scott’s definitive 1982 neo-noir offered an immersive dystopia of rain-soaked windows and shadowy buildings adorned with animated neon billboards, where flying cars hum through the endless night. That cyberpunk vision remains just as alluring 35 years later, and Blade Runner 2049 could have merely roamed those streets with the same chiaroscuro imagery and delivered a satisfying taste of the same familiar drug. Instead, director Denis Villeneuve goes beyond the call of duty, with a lush, often mind-blowing refurbishing of the original sci-fi aesthetic that delves into its complex epistemological themes just as much as it resurrects an enduring spectacle.”
Brian Truitt (USA Today)
“The new Blade Runner amazes because every aspect is top notch: Hampton Fancher’s story is surprisingly emotional, Benjamin Wallfisch and Han Zimmer’s pounding soundtrack is just as integral as Vangelis’ ethereal original score, and cinematographer Roger Deakins will get his first Oscar if there’s any justice. The sequel takes the futuristic action out of L.A., into the literal dump that is San Diego and Las Vegas’ radioactive wasteland, and the stunning visuals add to the enjoyably visceral experience.”
Matt Singer (ScreenCrush)
“My God, what a beautiful movie this is. Blade Runner 2049 looks like someone dared director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins to make the most visually spectacular science-fiction film of the century — and then they actually did it. You could watch this movie with no sound (something I don’t advocate you do, because the dialogue, music, and sound design are all incredible too) and still enjoy each of the film’s 163 minutes. Every frame here tells a story.”
Josh Dickey (Mashable)
“Blade Runner 2049 is a sci-fi symphony. Everything works together, thoughtfully, intricately and beautifully. Story, script, score, characters, ideas, sound design, visuals — oh my stars, those visuals — all in perfect complement, sparking off showers of greatness to blind the sum of these parts. Denis Villeneuve has allowed himself a luxurious 2 hours, 44 minutes to revisit the Ridley Scott cult classic, but not a frame or beat is extraneous or out of place. Even Villeneuve’s constant interface with the 1982 original Blade Runner is harmonious, heartbreaking and additive. My god, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Blade Runner 2049 makes Blade Runner a better movie.”
Scott Mendelson (Forbes)
“If you thought Ridley Scott’s original was a genre masterpiece, you’ll find much to appreciate here. But if you’re like me (and Roger Ebert, for what it’s worth) and think the first film offers a barebones story and paper-thin characters, you’ll be disappointed that the extra money and extra running time merely means a more drawn-out mystery with little urgency or momentum. The picture, produced by Ridley Scott and directed by Denis Villeneuve, doesn’t so much expand the world as merely tell a story that happens to take place 30-years later. The screenplay, courtesy of Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, sets up some intriguing ideas about memory that get overpowered by some admittedly jaw-dropping production design and cinematography.”
Blade Runner 2049 hits theaters on Oct. 6.