Bladerunner 2049 is a lackluster ‘replicant’ of the original film


Illustrated by Sarah Kim // Concept by Megan Tsang

Kavin Kumaravel and Anika Garg

Celebrated director Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049” paints a stunning visual masterpiece, but lacks the thematic mastery of its predecessor.

The film opens in a gloomy future, where waste and toxicity have contaminated all land south of LA. The dystopia is set 35 years after the original film, when bio-engineered humans called replicants finally somewhat assimilate into society. Older models of replicants that do not obey their human masters are hunted down by blade runners and “retired.”

Central protagonist K, played by Ryan Gosling, is a blade runner and one of the new models of replicants, engineered by tech-genius Niander Wallace. K is tasked with investigating the case of a particularly old replicant model, through which he discovers the existence of a secret that could break the world. K’s boss, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) forces him to find and destroy what is uncovered before information about it spreads. However, K soon realizes that things are not how they seem, wondering “Is what I’m doing right?”

This question is answered throughout the convoluted plot of the rest of the movie. In typical Villeneuve fashion, the answer only poses more questions to keep the viewer thinking. Had the film been executed well, maybe the questions would encourage a further exploration into the significance of memory in our lives, and what it means to have a soul. In this case, however, all one is  left wondering is, “Why did I waste my evening on this movie?”

Its greatest flaw stems from its inability to forge an emotional connection to the characters. Ridley Scott’s 1982 film inspired an instant attachment with every character on a spiritual level, but the new adaptation fails to deliver the same impact on its viewers. Gosling’s subpar acting makes his minimal character development come off as forced and awkward, and his few moments of companionship are through his holographic wife, Joi. She is one of the only “deaths” in the movie, but the execution of this scene was comedic, rather than disheartening. The villain is immensely underdeveloped. Perhaps the worst thing the villain does is kill a replicant, but there is no reasoning provided as to why the replicant was of importance. If one blinks during this scene, there is no way to distinguish between the protagonist and the antagonist. Because the viewer has no emotional investment, they simply do not care about what happens in the film as it plays more like a Ken Burns documentary than the blockbuster it was intended to be.

Of course, the film would not be complete without a cameo from Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) himself, who is the supposed father of this replicant. His relationship with K is confusingly portrayed amidst a fight scene that somehow incorporates Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and other prominent figures in history. After a downright bizarre five minutes, their relationship is immediately remedied over drinks at the bar, reminiscent of a Bollywood movie.

Villeneuve also toys with too many ideas at once and none are explored from start to finish. For example, the film attempts to discuss the importance of touch and connection between humans, with several scenes emphasizing K’s hands, but then immediately switches to a fight scene.

Due to its $185 million budget, the latest installment in the beloved sci-fi franchise is able to satisfy viewers visually, with vivid scenery and outstanding graphic quality. In one scene, K travels through the desert as the sky changes from hues of dark blue to bright orange in a truly encapsulating manner. However, some of these technological feats were downright unnecessary for the film, including the larger-than-life holographic woman whose sole purpose is to give the movie an R rating.

“Bladerunner 2049” is dependent entirely on its predecessor in terms of hype and plot, but even then fails to do it any justice. As a standalone film, it is nonsensical and hard to follow. The acting (or lack thereof) is either underwhelming or over the top. And in its far too long runtime of nearly three hours, the greatest emotion it can elicit from its audiences is a yawn.