• by Wes Singleton

Blade Runner 2049, B+

Rated R, 163 minutes

Ridley Scott's 1982 science-fiction classic "Blade Runner" was one of the most misunderstood films when first released (the visuals are great but its story falters). In various rereleases and director's cuts over the years has the film found new life and achieved cult status. The entertaining, stylish new sequel "Blade Runner 2049" improves upon the original with some stunning visuals and set pieces; those who were big fans of the first film will be pleased, even with a few flaws, namely an overlong, overly ambitious narrative.

Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a new blade runner for the Los Angeles Police Department, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what's left of society into chaos. His discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who's been missing for 30 years.

Heavy on style, "Blade Runner 2049" is skillfully directed by "Arrival's" Denis Villenueve and co-written by "Logan's" Michael Green and Hampton Fancher, who wrote the original "Blade Runner," which is based on a short story by renowned science-fiction author Phillip K. Dick. Like the original film, this is most memorable for its incredible, awe-inspiring special effects and production values that masterfully evoke a futuristic, dystopian Los Angeles.

The sublime visuals include Roger Deakins' ("Sicario") handsome photography and a pulsating score from Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, which elevates the proceedings from some slower moments. The story, involving Gosling's new blade runner unearthing some replicant secrets that could alter the course of the futuristic society, is too plodding - the second act crawls along - and takes too long to involve Ford (he doesn't come in until the last act), but there's still many good things about it.

Gosling broods well, and he's well-supported by the eternally grumpy Ford, as well as "House of Cards" Wright as his even testier superior, Ana de Armas ("War Dogs") as Officer K's lovely, realistic replicant, "The Martian's" Mackenzie Davis as a kindly prostitute, and little-known Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks as an evil replicant enforcer ironically named Luv, whose bloody showdown with Gosling's K in the climax is one of the film's highlights.

Rounding out the cast is Oscar-winner Jared Leto, who appears in a tiny role as a wealthy replicant manufacturer, and watch for original "Blade Runner" actors Edward James Olmos and Sean Young in cameos or small parts. "2049's" is essentially a glossy procedural and on that note it goes on about 30 minutes too long, but those sumptuous visuals are lovely to look at, and for many, that would include Gosling too.

Villenueve, Oscar-nominated for last year's solid sci-fi thriller "Arrival," sublimely handles the proceedings here too, adding some nice touches, even if he could've tightened up that slower middle act. You'll hear more about the stylish, enjoyable "Blade Runner 2049" come Oscar time: for its superb special effects, visuals and production design. Definitely worth a look, though you'll feel its nearly three-hour running time.

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