Putting together a movie sequel is sort of like walking down a wooden staircase in your sock feet.
You might get all the way down with no problem and breathe a sigh of relief. Or you might end up in a wadded heap at the bottom, wondering why you tried it in the first place.
There are some movie sequels that are as good or better than the first film: "The Empire Strikes Back," "The Godfather II," "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" or "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."
But there are some stinkers, too: "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," "Exorcist II: The Heretic," "Damien: Omen II" and "Jaws 2."
"Blade Runner 2049" is one of the good ones. In fact, one of the best ones. Of course, taking 35 years to release a sequel should give you plenty of time to get it right.
It explores many of the same themes as the original: What does it mean to be human? Can you be human physically yet be inhuman in your actions? Is being human more a product of how you think than how you act? And sometimes the least human in shape is the most human in heart.
But other things have changed. Replicants — artificial humans who look and act exactly like real humans, but are essentially slave labor — are no longer killed on sight. A newer version must obey humans, but the older models are still around, still much too self-aware for humans to feel comfortable, and still hunted down and killed.
Ryan Gosling is K, a replicant who's also a blade runner. He hunts down rogue replicants and "retires" them. Not a big fan of his repugnant job, he begins to wonder whether it's morally justified or just murder. From there, he begins to doubt everything he's been told. Except for one brief moment when his emotions overwhelm him, K is just as grim and gritty as the Los Angeles where he lives.
Harrison Ford is back as Deckard, the blade runner of name in the first film. Ford plays him as a cranky-angry guy with far deeper conflicts, a familiar setting for the actor.
If you've never seen the original "Blade Runner," it would be a good idea to watch it before "Blade Runner 2049." The plots are intertwined to the point newbies will probably be confused at certain points.
Like the original, this is not a whiz-bang, everything-blows-up-real-good film. At almost three hours long, it moves slowly — a tad too slowly at times — and its twisting, turning plot makes it far more of a detective story than straight science fiction.
But the heart of it is an examination of issues that dig into philosophical and emotional depths. But then, the best science fiction always does.
Contact Shawn Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.