Blu-ray Review: Blade Runner 2049

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Who exactly is the target audience, some 35 years later, for the finally-realized Blade Runner sequel? The original 1982 Ridley Scott-directed sci-fi classic is beloved by a relatively small—but feverishly-devoted—cult. For many mainstream audiences members, Blade Runner is largely a film to cite as an all-time fave only when striving to appear "hip." It's a movie with consistently inventive visuals, intriguing concepts, and an overall je ne sais quoi. Largely the same can be said for Blade Runner 2049, directed with the requisite dispassion of the original by Denis Villeneuve.

It's too bad there isn't some of the same hotbloodedness of Villeneuve's Prisoners, Sicario, and Arrival running through 2049, but perhaps it was mandated that he maintain Scott's detachment. Whatever can be said about the original, in none of its numerous versions does it ever top the two-hour mark. Villeneuve displays none of Scott's economy with a sprawling, two-hour and 43-minute running time that likely tries the patience of even the most ardent Blade Runner fans.

Honestly it shouldn't be surprising that 2049 has ultimately reached a limited audience so far. Even the return of Harrison Ford as Deckard didn't lure in many looky-loos. A great deal of money went into the production of 2049 and the visuals, as a result of the lavish budget, are often stunning. The film has been honored with five Academy Award nominations (all in technical categories). But those brilliant images aren't in support of a particularly interesting story.

As those versed in Blade Runner lore know (and if you haven't seen the original, it's highly advisable to do so prior to investing time in 2049, though there's a little "guide" on the Blu-ray in the form of mini-featurettes), the future of humanity revolves around bioengineered replicants. The first generation of these ultra-realistic androids required forced "retirement" (i.e. destruction) upon reaching the end of their usefulness. The so-called blade runners are tasked with ending those replicants' lives.

There's a whole new breed of replicants in 2049, "breed" being the operative word. Next-gen replicant K (Ryan Gosling) has discovered that some replicants have in fact birthed offspring. This earth-shattering news is stumbled upon during a routine termination assignment. The remains of a replicant who died in childbirth are discovered by K. So the main thrust of 2049 finds K following his LAPD boss' (Robin Wright) orders to identify and locate the child birthed by the deceased female replicant. There are some rather ingenious moments along the way (not the least of which being K's virtual girlfriend Joi, portrayed by Ana de Armas, seemingly inspired by the 2013 Spike Jonze film Her). But as K questions his own existence, has run-ins with all sorts of peril, and eventually uncovers the mystery, one wishes director Villeneuve would cut to the chase more often.

Warner Bros.' Blu-ray edition of Blade Runner 2049 contains various goodies for fans who want an inside look. Featurette "Designing the World of Blade Runner 2049" offers the most interesting peek behind the curtain, simply because the production design and effects are the most interesting aspects of the film. There's also "To Be Human: Casting Blade Runner 2049" and "Blade Runner 101." There are three intriguing "Prologues," short films that take place before 2049 (the earliest predates the main film's events by 27 years, the most recent preceding the main film by just one year).

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has also made Blade Runner 2049 available as Blu-ray 3D and 4K UltraHD editions.
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Chaz Lipp is a Las Vegas-based musician and freelance writer. His new jazz album 'Good Merlin' is now available.

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