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Not Your Daddy’s Blade Runner

Spoiler Alert! This movie kicks ass.
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Apart from a few visual cues and references, the first half of Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 seems tonally unrelated to the classic from 1982 – and that’s a good thing. Any sequel worth its salt better push its own envelopes.

Sure it would be easier to “Force Awakens” the material and appeal to a lower common denominator, but that would disrespect the ingenuity of the original, and alienate that key demographic of obsessed middle aged fanboys in the process. Villeneuve’s vision may owe something to original director Ridley Scott, but he brings a very specific set of skills to the table that are entirely his own.

So… all of the trailers thus far have avoided key details from the film, and some have blamed the spoiler-free ad campaign for poor box office – if 196 million dollars internationally in a few weeks can be considered poor box office. Me? I’m gonna spoil some things for sure, so if that’s not your speed, stop reading now.

Still reading? Good. So, first things first; Ryan Gosling plays K, a Blade Runner whose job is to “retire” older model replicants not programmed to blindly obey. Those older models, like in the original film, tend to get a little stabby. We learn in the first frickin’ scene that K is himself a replicant, and he knows it, unlike, say, Rachel in the original, who had no idea she wasn’t human.

Speaking of Rachel, K finds her interred remains which reveal she died during an emergency c-section. That’s right, Rachel was preggers – a total game changer.  If replicants can have children, then maybe they should be masters of their own destiny, instead of forced labor and sex slaves. And from a manufacturing perspective, replicants that can reproduce would sure make it easier for the Wallace Corporation to pump out more replicants.

And so the search for Rachel’s offspring begins. The Blade Runners want that child retired to keep the status quo. The Wallace Corporation wants to reverse engineer this pregnancy phenomenon. The child is about thirty years old by now, the same age as, oh, Ryan Gosling’s K – programmed to obey but suspiciously conflicted about killing something born instead of built.

Any sequel worth its salt better push its own envelopes.

But it’s not as simple as all that, and I’m not going to divulge more. Suffice to say that K’s detective work leads him to the child’s father, former Blade Runner Deckard (Harrison Ford reprising his role) who has been hiding in radioactive Las Vegas for thirty years. The story truly picks up once Deckard is introduced, and the confrontation between he and K in an abandoned casino – in front of a glitchy Elvis Presley hologram – is exactly what a Blade Runner sequel could hope to be. Add an amazing CGI rendered clone of Rachel, and some truly tense action scenes, and any fan of the original will certainly have their pleasure centers caressed.

Edward James Olmos reprises his role as Gaff, albeit briefly, and Ana de Armas plays Joi, the hottest virtual reality assistant/lover you could feast your eyes upon – due in no small part to the best cinematographer in the world, Roger Deakins.

From a musical perspective, Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch ensure the score is appropriately reminiscent of the Vangelis original, It will give you goosebumps, I promise.

Rumor has it they may rush Blade Runner 2049 to home video sooner than usual, but if you can see it on the big screen, you really should. And while you’re at it, check out these three shorts released online to bridge the gap between the two films.

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