A classic gets rebranded

Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling (left) and Harrison Ford.
Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling (left) and Harrison Ford.PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

Blade Runner 2049 may have been the movie that Ridley Scott, the director of the original, wanted to release



164 minutes/Now showing/4 stars

The story: Three decades after the events of Blade Runner (1982), replicants - or bio-engineered humans - now number in the millions and are the slave class. K (Ryan Gosling) is a blade runner, an agent who hunts and kills runaway replicants, in spite of being a replicant himself. While pursuing a case, K learns a fact that could destroy the delicate human-replicant power balance.

At the risk of giving too much away, this movie, as they say, is deja vu. Just as Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) was a refurbishment of the original 1977 movie, this sequel to Ridley Scott's 1982 science-fiction classic is likewise more like a rebranding than a new product.

But for all that, this is still top-notch entertainment. You could say this is the movie that Scott wanted to release if the studio had not stepped in and taken out the shades of grey and tacked on a happy ending.

Here, the heroes, villains, themes and even the cyberpunk noir aesthetic feel familiar, but what this lacks in story originality, director Denis Villeneuve makes up in style.

As he did in Arrival (2016) and, to some extent, in Sicario (2015), Villeneuve shrouds his scenes in mystery. Everyone says less than they know, and mistrust and ambiguity infect every relationship. The only truly happy and truthful relationship in the movie is the one between a replicant and his virtual girlfriend Joi, played by Ana de Armas.

Harrison Ford returns from the first movie in a role that feels more like sentimental fan service, but he does a fine job doing what he does best these days: being old and grumpy.

Gosling, meanwhile, takes his lack of facial expression to Mount Rushmore levels. In this context, however, it works.

If there is a weakness, it is in the character of the villain, Wallace, an Elon Musk of the future, played by Jared Leto in the manner of a sleepy Marvel baddie who cannot be bothered to get theatrical.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2017, with the headline 'A classic gets rebranded'. Print Edition | Subscribe