For those who have watched the original, expect to see a few familiar faces in minor roles. Harrison Ford reprises the role of Rick Deckard, the first film’s hero but his part in the film is different from how trailers presented it. This isn’t a buddy cop movie and Deckard isn’t the wise mentor. While Deckard provides an important connection between the two films, the central character in Blade Runner 2049 is a replicant who works for the LAPD named K (Gosling). Unlike many long awaited sequels, this one doesn’t just drop the same characters in similar situations as the previous film. Instead, elements from the original movie are used to give the current story line a foundation for a new original story to be built.
Like Deckard in the first film, K’s job is to track down rogue replicants and “retire” them. While on a job , he makes a discovery that according to his boss Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) could break the world. Or in other words shakes up the status quo. K is assigned to destroy the evidence and his investigation takes a surprising turn of self-discovery. Nefarious replicant manufacturer Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and his replicant minion Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) are the film’s villains.
This isn’t a typical action flick where the cocky dude bro defeats the bad guy so that he can get with the hot chick. It’s quite the opposite. K is a soft-spoken replicate who is in a committed relationship with his girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas), a holographic artificial intelligence. At one point another character accuses him of not liking “real girls”, perhaps a nod to Gosling’s role in the film Lars and the Real Girl. However, Joi is real to K and their romance feels surprisingly genuine. Whether their connection is in fact genuine or not is left somewhat ambiguous.
The film is a philosophical character study with K’s journey exploring what it actually means to be human. Is humanity something that we are born with? Can it be manufacture or earned? Gosling, in perhaps his best performance ever, switches back and forth from the hollowness of an android to complex emotion seamlessly as the story unravels. The goal isn’t to tackle the bad guy so much as for K to find his purpose, if he has one.
In today’s world of very real villains, Blade Runner 2024’s examination of what it means to have a soul provides some food for thought. Replicants are designed to be submissive slave labor. They are treated as lesser and dispensable. Condescending remarks are made to them and in their presence with a cruel superiority. People abuse their power knowing there will be no retaliation. It can be frightening just how inhumane humans can be.
Oscar nominated director Denis Villeneuve directed the film from a screenplay by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, story by Fancher, based on characters from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. Tim Gamble, Frank Giustra, Yale Badik and Val Hill also executive produced.