New York Post
IT’S A MAN’S WORLD
New ‘Blade Runner’ is the surreal deal, but women have no place in its dystopian future
BLADE RUNNER 2049 Robo so-so. Running time: 164 minutes. Rated R (violence, profanity, nudity). Now playing.★★
IF you have two X chromosomes, or know and like someone who does, “Blade Runner 2049” may not be the movie for you. Female characters get the short end of the stick in this long-awaited dystopian sequel. They are drowned, knifed in the stomach, shot point-blank in the head and, in one instance, simply winked out of existence with the stomp of a boot. All happening, it must be said, with artful cinematic relish.
Director Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival”) is entirely faithful to the original, in which one of the most gorgeous and terrible scenes is of a stripper replicant (the film’s term for humanoid robots) being cut down in a hail of bullets as she crashes dramatically through multiple plate-glass windows. The first film’s shrieking, stomach-shredding death of Daryl Hannah’s “standard pleasure model” bot, Pris, runs a close second.
I’d like to think this follow-up to Ridley Scott’s 1982 “Blade Runner,” whose rainy, noir aesthetic informed just about every sci-fi flick that came afterward, is a
cautionary tale about a society that views women as disposable and/or as outright slaves. But seeing as it’s mostly about Ryan Gosling’s Officer K, a “blade runner” tasked with executing oldermodel replicants, pondering his own existence, I think that I’d be wrong.
Like the 20-foot-tall ballerina holograms pirouetting through its decrepit Los Angeles streets, “Blade Runner 2049” is hauntingly beautiful, technologically stunning and low on substance. Its central query — what does it mean to be human? — is hardly groundbreaking; it’s been posed by countless artificialintelligence films, many with more feeling. It faithfully upholds the architecture of Scott’s futuristic world but fails to conjure its wonderful strangeness: Recall Rutger Hauer’s replicant, Roy Batty, howling like a wolf as he chases Harrison Ford’s detective Rick Deckard, or the humble genetic designer (William Sanderson) who lives in an apartment full of misfit animatronic toys.
Anyhoo, there’s little else I can tell you about “Blade Runner 2049,” whose studio has, rather astoundingly, forbidden critics from revealing central details about main characters, anything about the plot and a couple of important cameos (although one has already been spoiled by a TV spot).
Is it satisfying to see the return of Ford as the hardboiled Deckard? Absolutely. Is Gosling appropriately soulful as the new hit man who’s increasingly uncomfortable with his job? Hell, yes. In one of the few scenes I can mention — and certainly one of the best — the duo brawls in the dusty remains of a Las Vegas casino, throwing punches while a singing Elvis Presley hologram flickers on and off. It’s the kind of visual feast you’d expect from Villeneuve, whose “Arrival” was an alien-visitors masterpiece.
Jared Leto, Hollywood’s go-to guy for creepy, is perfect as Niander Wallace, founder of the replicant-manufacturing company that’s picked up where the last film’s Tyrell Corporation left off. He fondles his cyborg creations with reptilian menace, a God complex emanating from his sightless eyes. Robin Wright, as Gosling’s steely boss in the behemoth LAPD tower, continues her reign as one of film’s best badasses. Mackenzie Davis (“Halt and Catch Fire”) is underused as Mariette, a street urchin whose look is a throwback to Daryl Hannah’s. Ana de Armas, as K’s girlfriend, is a sci-fi fanboy’s wet dream named Joi, while Wallace’s squeeze (Sylvia Hoeks) is named Luv. (Yuck.)
The soundtrack nods sparingly at 1982’s synthy Vangelis soundtrack, thank goodness; Villeneuve’s version is more visceral and bass-heavy, a score that melds perfectly with the ominous developments I can’t tell you about. As a whole, it’s a perfectly serviceable upgrade — but lacks the spark of the original.