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All spectacle and no substance describes Denis Villeneuve’s predictably overwrought yet lightweight sci-fi snoozefest. Even Ryan Gosling comes across as phoning in his performance as K, a smug replicant blade runner who finds the remains of a female replicant that was at one time pregnant with a capital P. Robots aren't supposed to get pregnant. K’s assignment is to track down the offspring and destroy her.
Robin Wright’s presence is squandered as K’s LAPD boss Lieutenant Joshi. Equally wasted are Jared Leto’s efforts as Niander Wallace, the head of a replicant manufacturing company. Nothing connects in Villeneuve’s dirge tempo of unmotivated storytelling. There isn’t enough storyline to follow, much less any sense of immediacy given to the thin narrative at hand. You don’t care about any of the characters, much less the overall story.
Absent is the vital social context of Ridley Scott’s original 1982 film, which initially suffered from a theatrical release version larded with ridiculous voice-over narration. It was years later that Scott’s director’s cut corrected the mistake, exposing “Blade Runner” for the great film that was buried beneath a layer of narrative static.
“Blade Runner 2049” is all visual noise lacking in subtextual depth thanks to co-screenwriters Hampton Fancher (“Blade Runner”) and Michael Green (“Alien: Covenant”). The film doesn’t have enough satirical meat on its bones to be a proper “sci-fi” story, or a “neo-noir” that the filmmakers wish it could be. Gone is the anti-corporate political stance of the the original. Philip K. Dick is rolling over in his grave. The movie makes a limp gesture toward the backlash of slavery against slave owners, but you’ll have a hard time staying awake enough catch it when such undertones waft across the screen.
At two hours and 43 minutes, “Blade Runner 2049” is a chore. Film editor Joe Walker (“12 Years a Slave”) could have excised 45 minutes and this movie would still be too long for its sketch of a storyline. If you suffered through Walker’s other recent films (“Arrival” and “Sicario”), you know you are not in able hands.
The movie almost shifts into gear when Harrison Ford finally makes his reliable appearance as Deckard in the film’s last half-hour. The only other compelling element is Ana de Armas’s comically named Joi (see porn slang “jerk off instruction”), K’s virtual-reality girlfriend. Even here the filmmakers drop the ball during a sci-fi threesome wherein Joi inhabits the body of a prostitute for an act of lovemaking with K that goes missing from the movie.
Just as with “Dunkirk,” here is a lackluster big-budget movie with no social points of relevance to modern global reality. You’ve heard of “fake news,” well these are phony movies doted over by phony critics who don’t know good from bad. But don’t take my word for it, go see “Blade Runner 2019; it might provide you with some of the best sleep you’ve had all year.
Rated R. 163 mins.