In Blade Runner 2049, set three decades after Ridley Scott's original, Denis Villeneuve has to re-create and expand Blade Runner, convincingly imagining how it might have changed over the years and envisioning the rest of its dying world. On those counts, he succeeds beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Blade Runner 2049 is filled with mind-blowing images, with cinematographer Roger Deakins and production designer Dennis Gassner giving us impossible, forbidding beauty. So I'm kind of flabbergasted that I didn't love this movie.
2049 follows KB36-3.7, also known as K (Ryan Gosling), who (much like Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard in the original) is a blade runner who hunts down and kills, or "retires," rogue androids, or "replicants," despite the fact that he's one himself. On one job, K discovers a mysterious crate filled with the bones of a woman replicant who died during childbirth some decades ago -- a shock, since synthetic humans supposedly can't get pregnant. "This breaks the world," says Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright). To preserve order, she tasks K with wiping out any trace; that means finding the child, if it's still alive, and killing it.
For better and for worse, Blade Runner 2049 is a movie made for these indulgent, 280-character cinematic times, when plot points have to be spelled out, themes stated over and over again, and little room left for ambiguity. Villeneuve broods and luxuriates, whereas the original Blade Runner had a fractured poetry to it, born probably of Scott's own indifference to typical story mechanics. Part of the magic of Blade Runner was what was missing: It felt strangely incomplete. Careful, dutiful Blade Runner 2049 cannot achieve the sublime slipperiness of Scott's masterpiece.