(out of 5)
Thirty-odd years after the events of the first film, and about as long since the original Ridley Scott classic was released, the world is still one where replicants infiltrate human existence, though the Wallace corporation, headed by an inexplicably shady Jared Leto, has created a new brand of android that is much more reliable (i.e. submissive) than the Tyrell creations that Deckard was hunting down the last time around. So dependable are these new creations that some of them even work as law enforcement, including Ryan Gosling as a serial-numbered LAPD officer who is charged by his human boss (Robin Wright) to seek out older models and retire them. Gosling begins this film on a routine mission to take care of a replicant living off-world as a protein farmer but, after completing the job, he stumbles upon a mystery that could have devastating consequences for the world as it currently exists. The pursuit of answers draws danger from Leto’s minions while each new place that our hero travels exposes a new clue that inspires him to investigate his own consciousness and, much the same as Scott’s film did, ask questions about the possibility of actually having a soul. Denis Villeneuve plays it far too safe in providing a sequel to Scott’s game-changing 1982 original, a film so innovative that it couldn’t actually be made when it was filmed (the version we all know and love didn’t exist until the late nineties); the director is so terrified of an outburst of rabid fans on Twitter that he sticks to unimaginative characterizations (there are way too many relatable people in this one) and only indulges in visual magnificence when it involves calling back to the original (though it’s nice to know that Atari and Pan Am are still in business). For all that is intelligent and worked out about the plot, it’s a mystery that is not in the least bit mysterious, including a few too many tangents (if Gosling is already looking for the meaning of life we don’t also need him to have a thought-provoking relationship with a hologram) and a far longer running time, at almost three hours, than could possibly be required. Atmosphere is at a pleasurable high point but once we reach the poorly directed final third, in which Harrison Ford ruins everything with his star power and what look like contractual demands for more screen time than he needs, the operation falls apart and just feels like a fluff project for diehard fans. It’s not a bad movie but, by throwing the odd bone to the mainstream audience (high-tech fight, dialogue meant solely as exposition), it feels like Villeneuve is trying to make Solaris and studio executives keep stepping in to force him to make Star Wars.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Cinematography by Roger Deakins
Production Design by Dennis Gassner
Costume Design by Renee April
Film Editing by Joe Walker
Academy Awards: 2017