I still don’t love “Blade Runner.”
It’s not like I haven’t tried—I must have watched Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic eight or nine times by now. I’ve seen the various “definitive” director’s cuts and reviewed them, I’ve taught the movie in college classes, I’ve used clips from it to lecture about its amazing design.
It’s a movie with lots of ideas, and its influence on other film (and especially on advertising) is unquestioned.
I still don’t love “Blade Runner.” My minority report is that there’s something empty and arty at the film’s center, despite the many remarkable things about it.
So I approached the sequel, “Blade Runner 2049,” with something less than hushed reverence. And that might be the way to go, as this new film has some significant problems — but is also crammed with dazzling moments.
We expect a visual feast, and director Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”) and cinematographer Roger Deakins do not disappoint. While less flamboyant than Ridley Scott’s original, “2049” boasts its share of awe-inspiring landscapes.
What disappoints, right away, is the frankly hokey story hook. In 2049, 30 years after the events of the first film, K (Ryan Gosling) — he’s both blade runner (bounty hunter) and replicant (humanoid robot) — is given a throwback assignment. Somehow, all those years ago, the blade runner Deckard (Harrison Ford) conceived a child with the replicant Rachel (Sean Young).
If replicants can reproduce (and one would very much like to know how this could be possible), it’s game over for humans. So K’s boss (Robin Wright) orders him to find the offspring and eliminate the problem.
The script, by Hampton Fancher (a writer on the original) and Michael Green, finds an intriguing way around the most obvious plot possibility here. There will be twists.
One of the film’s distinguishing characteristics is Villeneuve’s funereal pace. Depending on your investment in the material, this will be either spellbinding or patience-testing. I confess I tended toward the latter response.
Gosling’s character is an issue, too. He can’t express too many emotions, because his replicant status won’t allow it; but that means the actor is rather blank throughout.
It’s a relief when Ford arrives after 90 minutes or so. Some of his line readings — even a narrowing of the eyes — remind you of what a movie star can do with thin material. And he’s an important part of the film’s genuinely moving final sequence.
We’ve also got a blah Jared Leto as an evil tycoon, Mike Bautista as an old-model replicant, Ana de Armas as K’s touchingly soulful home-bot and Carla Juri as a dreamy creator of replicant memories.
“Blade Runner 2049,” with its ponderous style and frequent literary references (everything from “Treasure Island” to “Pinocchio”), reaches high. Occasionally that reach is breathtaking, even if the overall result is stubbornly earthbound.
“Blade Runner 2049” (3 stars)
A sequel to the sci-fi classic, with a blade runner (Ryan Gosling) searching for his predecessor (Harrison Ford) and the possibility of a replicant birth. Director Denis Villeneuve creates some dazzling images — we expect that — and the ending is genuinely moving, but the film is awfully ponderous under its own importance.
Rating: R, for violence, nudity
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Sundance Cinemas Seattle, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Blue Fox Drive-in, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor Plaza