I was underwhelmed by Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, mainly because of its dreary look and my own intellectual limitations. Thankfully, Blade Runner 2049 is visually dazzling with a plot that is intricate but not byzantine. Ryan Gosling is a Blade Runner (i.e., a hunter of older model replicants – think Westworld – who have a tendency to go haywire). Unlike Harrison Ford in the original film, Gosling is unequivocally a replicant himself, but in the process of putting down a replicant fugitive, he becomes ensnared in a larger, metaphysical mystery that melds corporate malfeasance, potential civil war, and Genesis. It could have been ridiculously heavy, but Gosling manages a wry yet naïve countenance and the bloviations of the corporate would-be god (Jared Leto) are both few and leavened by Gosling’s running battle with a particularly fierce replicant (Sylvia Hoeks).
The film’s look is stunning and the real star is Gosling’s navigation of the eye-popping world around him. Other than Robin Wright being horribly miscast as Gosling’s supervisor (her insistence on being ballsy is over the top, and her Sam Spade delivery is clunky) and the picture running a little long, this was well worth the time.