I had my doubts. Even though I studiously avoided the trailers, online speculation and promo blurbs, I couldn’t help but anticipate a letdown upon finally seeing “Blade Runner 2049.” Thankfully, under the sure hand of director Denis Villeneuve (”Arrival”) and producer Ridley Scott, who helmed the legendary original back in 1982, this film is both a loving tribute and a brilliant sequel.
Part of what made the original so watchable (over and over) was the sense of a lived-in, gritty, hard-edged, tangible world not too removed from our own – and although real time has pretty much caught up with its fictional future time, the “2049” crew has fashioned a glimpse of another leap ahead that seems just as vividly plausible.
Yet, despite the dazzling eye candy, the “Blade Runner” universe is about people. Villeneuve explores the same themes rooted in the original: a Raymond Chandler-esque mystery amid a science fiction landscape that surprises us with elegant ruminations on what constitutes humanity and the soul.
In this sequel, we follow a young Blade Runner named K (Ryan Gosling) as he tracks down a case that suggests replicants may be able to reproduce. K and his beautiful virtual girlfriend, Joi (Ana de Armas), live in a breathtakingly realized future where society has moved on following the bankruptcy of the Tyrell Corporation due to replicant malfunctions. Although virtual and android beings have become fully integrated — and controllable — Blade Runners still exist here, but they are almost a relic kept around in order to “retire” existing older model replicants, which still pose a danger to ordered society.
Blade Runners, if you hadn’t guessed, were essentially assassins who worked in the urban underworld to locate and kill rogue replicants, manufactured androids created by the Tyrell Corporation to look and act “more human than human.” However, it wasn’t called killing. What they did was called “retirement.”
Yes, it pays to have seen the original film, which stars Harrison Ford as a Blade Runner named Rick Deckard and Sean Young as a replicant who doesn’t know she is one named Rachel. So influential was Ridley Scott’s vision, “Blade Runner” imagery and ideas permeated an enormous amount of pop culture in the decades since. Poignant lines like this, uttered by a rogue replicant named Roy Batty, still carry a power that transcends the genre: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”
Villeneuve has said in media reports he knew he was under a lot of pressure to not only create a satisfying sequel, but also to push far beyond those expectations. In that, he has accomplished the near impossible. Like his breakthrough alien encounter film, “Arrival,” he approached this film with logic and intelligence, plus an artist’s eye by conveying virtually intangible concepts that lesser directors would have discounted for being too esoteric.
In this film, we learn what happened to Deckard and to Rachael and what their escape at the end of the first film 30 years ago means to the megacorporation that controls what people know, see and feel.
This is a brilliant film.
“Blade Runner 2049” is rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity and language.
It is showing daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.
Also showing in Taos
The Mountain Between Us
MPAA rating: PG-13 for a scene of sexuality, peril, injury images and brief strong language
Mitchell Storyteller 7
In this film – based on the novel by Charles Martin and directed by Hany Abu-Assad – two strangers headed from Salt Lake City to Baltimore, one a surgeon who has to perform an operation (Idris Elba), the other a photojournalist who’s about to get married (Kate Winslet), hail a chartered flight together after their initial travel plans fall through.
They end up stranded on a snowy mountain when their plane crashes and soon realize they must trek to safety since no one is coming to rescue them.
This film will be screened daily.
Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.
MPAA rating: Unrated
Movies at the TCA
Since the arrival of the new teacher, Maria Drazdechova (Zuzana Mauréy), to a Bratislava suburban school in the year of 1983, life has turned upside down for students and parents.
The teacher’s corrupted behavior and a student’s suicide attempt that could be related to that matter make the school principal call the students’ parents for an urgent meeting that will suddenly put the future of all the families at stake. They are asked to sign a petition to move Ms. Drazdechova out of the school.
The teacher’s high connections within the Communist Party makes everyone feel threatened, but at this point, they have no choice but to make a decision: Will they dare to go against Ms. Drazdechova and stand up for what they believe in at any risk – or will they just remain silent and let things be?
Director is Jan Hrebejk and screenwriter is Petr Jarchovský. The film is in Slovak with English subtitles.
This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 15) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (Oct. 16-18).
Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.