You look like a nice Joe.
I've seen the first Blade Runner movie maybe 3 or 4 times, and while I couldn't tell you exactly which cut of the movie it was, as it was years ago since I last saw it, I only vaguely remember it. However, I do recall the atmosphere, the set design, and just how visually impressive it was for the time. Blade Runner 2049, some 35 years later, still maintains the overall look and appeal of the original and is a superb neo-noir sci-fi detective story, even if the pacing can, at times, be a bit slow for my tastes.
Right out of the gate, 2049 is well filmed and features some incredible set design. My main issues with a lot of sci-fi movies or television shows for that matter, are just how new and almost too-polished their worlds can look, but here, the world feels actually lived in. There are so many moments in the film where my eyes would dart from one detail to the next; the smudges on the door frame in Lieutenant Joshi's office, to the filthy floors in a data vault that no one has been inside of for years. There is a painstaking amount of detail here and it will require multiple viewings for me to take it all in. This movie is a visual feast for the eyes and I can't recall one single blemish that stands out in any significant way.
Much like the original film, and the more recent live action Ghost in the Shell, the world they have created here, a neon rain-soaked Los Angeles is stunning in every sense of the word. The holographic advertisements, the shops, even the patrons that fill the environments, all of them add to one of the most incredible cities I've seen on film and some of the best costume designs I've seen in the genre.
I love when science fiction movies have their characters use futuristic tech in their own natural ways, that they don't spend time needing to explain it because it is just part of their daily lives. Often, in situations like this, there is always a fish out of water moment where they feel the need to over explain what is happening on the screen, but director Denis Villeneuve and writers Hampton Fancher and Michael Green simply allow the world to exist as it is and feel we, as an audience, are smart enough to figure out what is going on.
I also am fascinated that while the movie is set in the far future that much of the technology still comes across as fairly archaic to what we have now, yet still conceived as futuristic, considering this is a sequel to a movie that was based on a book from the late 60's. To add even more to the noir style of its storytelling and world-building, there isn't some world wide web or cellular network, making characters forced to do the actual legwork to solve their cases instead of just loading up google or social media outlets and solving it from their desks. Sure, there are communication transmissions and other similar systems, but these are normally not usable while characters are out and about.
The movie follows K (Ryan Gosling) as the movie's titular Blade Runner, as he is tracking down expired Replicant's from years past. Upon completion of his current mission, he discovers a startling long-buried secret that could change the very world and one that will lead him to track down Deckard, the original Blade Runner, played once again by Harrison Ford.
The movie weaves in a few subplots that all mesh nicely together with even a few of them actually working their way back into the story near the middle to the end of the film. The moments with Joi, K's female hologram companion are some of the more touching moments in the film, as Ana de Armas, who has this Felicity Jones-look to her, is one of the best characters in the film and one you genuinely get attached to, largely impart to her stellar performance. I'll also point out Mackenzie David as Mariette, who, while she shares a very interesting scene with both Armas and Gosling, was a role I didn't think was going to be as big as it was and does a great job here.
I've never been a big fan of Ryan Gosling, as I can't think of a single movie where I felt he was good in it, however; I'll point out that I've only seen him in maybe 6 or 7 films. That being said, I really did like him here and while it could be the direction he's given or the script, he is really worth watching in the film. He deals with a lot of information regarding this long-buried secret and one that starts to affect him personally and he does a great job of conveying that pain within himself.
I also enjoyed the inclusion of Robin Wright, who I absolutely adored in the recent Wonder Woman film. She plays Lieutenant Joshi, K's superior. She doesn't have too many scenes in the movie but she has a nice presence here and one hell of a scene later on in the film. Everyone else is pretty good without me ever feeling as though another actor could have done the part better. I found it rather interesting that Jared Leto actually wore custom contacts to actually blind himself for the role of Niander Wallace, a man who is, blind.
Blade Runner 2049 is a slow moving film, but that is very much intentional and I could see why some people may not enjoy it. The original became a cult classic overtime and frankly, I can see this one joining that rank eventually. What the film does right, and boy does it ever, is creating a fully realized world that feels very real and very natural. The characters are really entertaining and the return of certain characters from the original is a nice touch and one that truly adds to the film. It is definitely a slow ride, but one truly worth taking.