Does ‘Blade Runner 2049’ live up to the original? The critics weigh in

Don't look so skeptical, Ryan. Your new movie's great!
Image: Warner Bros.

Believe the buzz: Blade Runner 2049 really is that good.

Mashable‘s own Josh Dickey was over the moon about it, gushing that it’s “as good as sci-fi gets in this world.” 

And he wasn’t the only one bowled over by the Denis Villeneuve-directed sci-fi sequel. Often, early hype for a movie turns out not to be much more than that – hype. But in the case of Blade Runner 2049, critics can’t seem to stop falling all over themselves to sing its praises. Well, most of them, anyway.

No one’s serving up spoilers

Brian Raftery, Wired

Before a recent press screening of Blade Runner 2049, a representative from Warner Bros. read a note from Denis Villeneuve, in which the director politely asked those assembled to preserve the film’s many secrets. It’s a reasonable request, but a difficult one, as any discussion of 2049 is bound to involve spoiler-spilling queries, many of them existential. 

Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly:

Three-plus decades later, its sequel arrives in a cone of secrecy so fiercely guarded that unwise reviewers could meet a bottle of chloroform in a dark alley just for disclosing what happens in the first five minutes.

Matt Singer, ScreenCrush:

… I’m not supposed to talk about the film’s actual story yet. My screening of Blade Runner 2049 began with a publicist reading a statement from Villeneuve imploring the critics in attendance to “preserve the magic” of the film by not spoiling any of its twists. I’m going to do my best to honor his request, mostly because Blade Runner 2049’s plot does have a little magic in it, and it is fun to discover things at the same time as its hero, an LAPD detective named K, played by Ryan Gosling.

Look at how pretty that is.

Image: Warner Bros.

It’s bloody beautiful

Matt Singer, ScreenCrush:

My God, what a beautiful movie this is. Blade Runner 2049 looks like someone dared director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins to make the most visually spectacular science-fiction film of the century — and then they actually did it. 

Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly:

… nearly every impeccably composed shot — a surreal six-handed love scene; a shimmering hologram of Elvis, hip-swiveling into eternity; a “newborn” replicant, slick with amniotic goo — feels like such a ravishing visual feast

Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist:

One should give venerable cinematographer Roger Deakins all the awards, as his work supports the existential anxiety seething through the film. His atmospheric gaze is breathtaking, and in fairness to his competitors, the category of best DP at the Oscars might as well be closed.

Harrison Ford, though 👌

Matt Singer, ScreenCrush:

The reason for Deckard’s disappearance gives him some meaty, emotional scenes to play in 2049’s third act, and he nails all of them. Whether Deckard is a replicant or not (and I’m sure as hell not telling you how the sequel addresses that lingering question), Ford brings a tremendous amount of humanity to this movie.

Brian Raftery, Wired:

Ford, in his public life, is a man of few words, and in 2049, that sparseness is advantageous; his dim-eyed stares and chewed-up phrasing tell you all you need to know about what he lost during his 30 years self-exile, and the movie’s most affecting renders him completely silent. (He is also allowed to occasionally be funny—no small feat in a Villeneuve film, which tend to be dangerously chilly.) 

Actually, that entire cast is pretty great

Brian Truitt, USA Today:

K is Gosling’s most engrossing and powerful role to date, and Ford adds gravitas and a fitting sadness to the aging Deckard. As for their co-stars, Hoeks is freakily intense as a scene-stealing villainess, Ana de Armas has a nice multilayered turn as K’s girlfriend Joi, and there’s not nearly enough of Mackenzie Davis as the mysterious escort Mariette.

Katherine Trendacosta, io9:

… it’s the women who really shine. Robin Wright’s Lieutenant Joshi is a wonderfully flawed mentor to K. Sylvia Hoeks’s Luv, who is terrifying and delivers one-liners with devilish aplomb. Ana de Armas’ Joi has an immensely complicated character arc, and she makes it seem effortless and real and her relationship with K, with the world, and with herself is the best part of the film. 

Don’t let the lazy Sunday outfit fool you – Ford totally brings it in this movie.

Image: Warner Bros.

How about that 163-minute runtime?

Brian Raftery, Wired:

But there’s very little time in Blade Runner 2049 for introspection. Actually, there’s plenty of time—the movie runs just over two and a half hours, very little of it wasted …

Katherine Trendacosta, io9:

… at two hours and 45 minutes, it’s punishingly long. And this isn’t a movie where there’s a ton of action or comedy that gives it momentum where you don’t notice that your butt’s gone numb. Like the original, director Denis Villeneuve has put a lot lingering shots and long scenes where things build slowly. 

So, is it a worthy follow-up to the original?

Katherine Trendacosta, io9:

While watching Blade Runner 2049, I kept thinking about the first time I saw the original Blade Runner. … After the movie, the room full of high schoolers was completely split in two: half the class loved the movie and the other half thought it was ridiculous and pretentious. Blade Runner 2049 recaptures that divisiveness perfectly.

Rodrigo Perez, The Playlist

At the helm and in complete command of his movie with dark, ambient magic, Villeneuve crafts a mysterious noir thriller the pushes existential boundaries, and nails the essence of the “Blade Runner” spirit.

Brian Truitt, USA Today:

The first Blade Runner influenced a generation of filmmakers and films; 2049 is the rare sequel that exceeds the original and honestly could be more important in the long run. It’s a moving, masterful movie that demands a rewatch and will wow geeks and mainstream viewers alike — so much so we probably won’t have to wait 35 years for another one.

Blade Runner 2049 is in theaters October 6.

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