Thinking about this film it's quite clear to me that the euphoria we had with JJ Abrams a few years back, is what we're now getting with Denis Villeneuve.
That's not to say the man isn't a brilliant director. He's currently one of the best around. However his sequel of one of the greatest Sci-fi movies of all time, really isn't that great at all.
But no-one will let you believe it.
The problem with this sequel isn't that it tries to surpass the original. That would be a foolish move. And Villeneuve doesn't fall into that trap. The problem is with the story itself. It's riddled with inconsistency. And the ending (I'll get to in greater detail later), really let's down everything that preceded it. Whilst the man himself didn't write it, he clearly signed off on it, and that for me is a major disappointment.
The premise itself is sound. We have a new Blade Runner in the form of Ryan Gosling, who makes a major discovery whilst 'retiring' an older model replicant. Gosling puts in a good performance, matching for me that of Ford in the original. Whilst the Ford, "is he/isn't he" argument rolls on, there's no such ambiguity here. We learn from the outset that Gosling is a replicant, and that certainly helps to propel the film away from getting too bogged down with mystery.
Alongside Gosling we have Robin Wright as his 'madam', and the stunningly beautiful Ana de Armas as Gosling's AI mate. Whilst she has little to do other than show her affection, she does provide an outlet whereby we get to explore Gosling's 'humanity', which in turn leads to the underlying theme of the movie, the "soul".
The antagonist of the film is Jared Leto, who plays 'Niander Wallace' the man who took over the Tyrrell corporation from the 1982 original, and is now producing his own version of replicants. However he is looking for something, a key that will unlock the potential of all replicants, but which has so far alluded him. And yes you guessed it, it's Gosling's 'K' who stumbles across the key. Alongside Wallace is Sylvia Hoeks' "Luv", a loyal replicant who serves Wallace's needs. I really enjoyed this Bond villain partnership, as that's undoubtedly how they came across. A Goldfinger/Oddjob pairing, for the 2049 age.
So the setup and characters are sound, and the story begins to move along nicely. So what's the problem?
For me it is simply that the plot really tails off toward the end, and we're left with a deeply unsatisfying and somewhat baffling conclusion. One that troubles me so, that I cannot rate the movie as highly as most. Without giving anything away, we're meant to believe that one of the cleverest men alive is unable to unravel a lifelong mystery, that our hero K puts together in the space of a few hours. We're also meant to believe that in an age of technological mastery, a death (I shan't say whose) can be so easily covered up; made even worse by the fact that the person whose death it is, decides to then visit what is likely to be one of the most surveilled places in the city. I don't want to elaborate too much further as I always try to remain spoiler free, but personally I cannot get past this, and for me it really diminishes the film as a whole. The original ended so perfectly and so brilliantly, I was convinced that Villeneuve would deliver the same.
However, there is still plenty to enjoy in the movie, don't get me wrong. It's presentation is flawless, and the effects second to none. And the Blade Runner world is captured spectacularly. It's just a shame I didn't like how it all concluded. But I will certainly re-watch it again in the future, and likely as a double bill with the first.
I'm certain that in the years to come, this too will be considered a cult classic. It just won't quite be one of mine.