There are several cuts of the original Blade Runner movie, but the theatrical release was just about two hours long, and I honestly find it kind of dull and not as great as most people seem to think. The new Blade Runner 2049 is almost an hour longer, and you feel it. It actually seems like two movies in one, with the second one being the weaker of the two and largely unnecessary.
The new film picks up several years after the end of the first. The original line of replicants are still outlawed, there are still some in hiding, and there are still blade runners that track them down and kill them. But there’s also a new line of replicants that’s much better at following instructions. K (Ryan Gosling) is one of those newer replicants, but he’s also a blade runner. All replicants are artificially created, but K uncovers evidence that suggests a female replicant had a baby. When he tells his boss (Robin Wright), she freaks out, convinced that if anyone finds out, it’ll create a war between humans and replicants. So she sends K out on a mission to find and destroy the replicant offspring for the sake of civilization.
This is the premise for the first half of the movie, and if it had ended with that storyline, then it would’ve been fine. Well, it still would’ve had substantial problems, but being way too long with a much less creative and interesting second half wouldn’t have been one of them. I do like how the movie’s future is extrapolated from our world as it existed in 1982, with references to things that existed then but not now, and ideas from the first movie that seem dumber in retrospect but are nevertheless still part of the movie world. The extended use of drones is a nice way of incorporating newer technology into the film, but the extended use of droning on the soundtrack is far less welcome, and Hans Zimmer really needs to learn a new trick or two. And maybe Gosling should also take a page from the same book because while he was very good in Drive, maybe it would be good if he played a different character from time to time.
But one of the biggest problems with the movie is the basic premise that it is somehow possible for replicants to have baby replicants that grow up to be adult replicants. If, like in the original story, replicants are androids comprised of a mix of organic and inorganic materials, then this doesn’t make even the slightest bit of sense because the inorganic components wouldn’t be reproduced and wouldn’t grow. But if we assume that replicants are purely organic creatures that have just been genetically engineered to be superior to humans in some ways (for example, in strength, tolerance to pain, and ability to heal), while also engineered to be slaves without free will, and that also somehow enter the world as fully-formed adults without ever being children, then that doesn’t make any sense either. I suppose that there could be a middle ground in which replicants have some inorganic material but that the offspring would be purely organic, but the movie doesn’t seem to pursue that possibility at all.
There are plenty of other things wrong with the movie. Jared Leto is in it, for one. It’s also got a holographic character that is done in a fairly illogical manner, and it steals a creepy sex scene idea from Her but make it creepier and more annoying. And I don’t even want to get into anything in the second half of the movie because it would be difficult to do so without spoiling things, and it’s just not good enough to warrant the effort.
Maybe if you’re a big enough fan of the original movie, you can overlook all of these problems and still come away enjoying it. Its high ratings on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes certainly seem to suggest that. But while I can appreciate the first Blade Runner, I just plain don’t find it all that enjoyable to watch, and the sequel doesn’t do much to change my opinion of the franchise.