Ridley Scott's 1982 neo-noir classic "Blade Runner" has long been a hit among Film fans (it ranks 140th on IMDb's Top 250), and it's sequel, "Blade Runner 2049," generated as much excitement as any film so far this year (save for perhaps Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk"). With a blue-chip director, a star-studded cast, and one of the largest budgets for any film this year, "Blade Runner 2049" has all the tools to be a worthy followup to its famed predecessor, and it doesn't disappoint.

The fresh, new plot

The film takes place a few decades after the original film did.

It opens up with an LAPD officer (Ryan Gosling) who, like in the first film, works alone in a dystopian future as a blade runner—someone who hunts down older, dangerous replicant (android) models and "retires" them. Unlike in the original, however, our protagonist is a replicant himself. He goes by K, which is short for his serial number, and is responsive to authority. He undergoes regular tests to make sure that he is not developing any sentiments that could cause him to rebel, as the replicants in the original film did.

K arrives at the farm of Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), one of the replicant models that are now targeted by blade runners due to their potentially violent tendencies. After retiring Morton, K comes across a box of human remains.

Upon analysis, it is found that the remains are of a woman who died during a caesarian section—but there's a kicker: the woman was a replicant.

It was previously believed that replicants could not reproduce, but now it is believed that the child of a replicant is somewhere in this dystopian world. Different groups want to handle this different ways—K's boss wants K to eliminate the replicant child and all evidence that it existed, which seems to cause K some unease, while Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), who runs the replicant manufacturer Tyrell Corporation, wants to obtain the child to figure out how to get future replicants to reproduce, as well.

As you can imagine, a bit of chaos ensues.

The plot gives us many of the same aspects we loved about the original "Blade Runner," but unlike a sequel such as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," this film provides plenty of fresh, new material, building off its predecessor rather than merely imitating it.

Star-studded cast and crew

The film was directed by French Canadian Denis Villeneuve, who has become somewhat of a star in recent years with hits such as "Sicario," "Arrival," and now "Blade Runner 2049." The screenplay was written by "Blade Runner" screenwriter Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, who is known for his recent work on "Logan" and Ridley Scott's "Alien: Covenant."

The lead role, as mentioned, is played by Ryan Gosling, while his lieutenant is played by a cool and collected Robin Wright, and his girlfriend of sorts is played adorably by Ana de Armas. Jared Leto plays the tyrannical head of the Tyrell Corporation with a bit of light overacting that seems to have become somewhat of a trend since his terrific work in "Dallas Buyers Club," for which he won an Oscar.

Harrison Ford plays a significant role as the original film's protagonist, Rick Deckard, while Edward James Olmos also reprises his role from "Blade Runner" in a brief cameo.

The music, haunting and mysterious, was composed by the legendary Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch.

A style reminiscent of the classics

Like in the first "Blade Runner" film, "2049" embodies the neo-noir genre. While it doesn't feature "Blade Runner's" old school detective narration, "2049" remains reminiscent of a classic film noir for various reasons. First of all, there's the dark and lonely hero, who seems to connect emotionally with a holographic companion (Ana de Armas) but no one else. He is at times tortured by his existence, by implanted memories that he knows never occurred.

Then there is the spiraling plot, which can be difficult to follow at times, but not in a detrimental way—more so in a way that keeps you on your toes and thinking, even during the film's slower moments.

Dull palette

The special effects in "Blade Runner 2049" are impressive and at times captivating, but like the original film, "2049" falls victim to the perception that the post-apocalypse has to look dreary and dull. Villeneuve practically made many of the scenes look as if they were filmed in black and white, but rather than evoke the stark contrast between white and black, as well-filmed black-and-white movies do, "2049" merely provides a series of grays that dully blend together.

During a series of scenes in the desert, the shots look as if a teenager had added a yellow Instagram filter during post-production.

It often looks more like a video game than a great film. The palette is boring and unsettling, and while some may believe that it drives home a post-apocalyptic feel, Villeneuve could have accomplished this in a way that would be more visually enjoyable.

George Miller proved that post-apocalyptic films need not be dull but can rather be vibrant and visually stimulating when he made the outstanding "Mad Max: Fury Road," which took home the most Oscars (six) at the 88th Academy Awards. As for the desert scenes, they were more reminiscent of 1984's monumental flop "Dune" than they were of the classic "Lawrence of Arabia," in which director David Lean portrayed his desert as elegant and mesmerizing rather than mustardy and suffocating.

(Interestingly, Villeneuve is expected to direct a new version of the classic sci-fi novel "Dune," so hopefully he takes a page from Lean's book before going to work on his next project.)

The best part of 'Blade Runner 2049'

"Blader Runner 2049" enthralls audiences with action, special effects, and twists and turns throughout the plot, but the most interesting aspect of the film may be the relationship between K and his holographic companion Joi. Similarly to Deckard's relationship with a replicant in this first film, K's relationship with Joi brings to mind questions of what it takes to love and whether one can love something that is in many ways quite different from oneself. "2049," however, takes this a step further—where Deckard was a human and his replicant lover a physical presence, K is a replicant himself, and his companion is visually present but unable to be touched or felt.

This leads to an eerily beautiful scene in which Joi uses an interesting tactic to come as close to making love to K as she possibly can. The scene is reminiscent of Spike Jonze's "Her," one of the most brilliant artificial intelligence films ever made. K and Joi's relationship evolves throughout the film, and you'll end up rooting for them as much as you would for any human couple.

The verdict: 3.5/4 stars

Science-fiction is at its best when it provokes thought and leaves us wondering how we would handle abstract situations, and "Blade Runner 2049" does just that. Through the eyes of K, get the slightest glimpse of what it might be like to be a replicant, and we are able to feel his pain and empathize with him.

We wonder if a man could love a replicant, if a replicant could love another replicant, or if a replicant could love something that is even less human than itself (or is it less human?). We wonder what an ability to give birth might mean for a race of artificially intelligent beings—what it might mean if they could become a self-sustaining, reproducing population over generations.

Pairing these questions with a captivating plot, plenty of thunderous punches, and a large serving of special effects, "Blade Runner 2049" is a fascinating film that has a ton of great moments.

There are just two aspects of the film that keep "Blade Runner 2049" from earning a full four stars. First, its palette often makes it visually blend in with other post-apocalypse films of much lesser quality.

Second, with a runtime of 163 minutes, the film feels as long as it is. Like in the original film, "2049" moves slowly and carefully, which provides some useful feel and pacing but still leaves the viewer checking his watch from time to time.

The bright moments of the film, however, far outweigh its minor faults. Villeneuve was brilliant in managing to maintain the same style and feel from the first film while also adding new, fresh layers to the "Blade Runner" world. As a result, this sequel is even better than Ridley Scott's legendary original. Villeneuve also managed to make "2049" function as a standalone film—it would probably be wise to see "Blade Runner" before seeing "2049," but you'll likely be able to fully follow the latter without having seen its predecessor.

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