Director Denis Villeneuve’s gorgeous, gargantuan sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 neon-noir about what happens when humanity creates its own superior. People are notoriously fragile, fickle things; if we go giving intelligence to something more durable and dependable, what do we have left to brag about? The answer, this time around: the “animal” part of “man is a rational animal.” For all their virtue and verisimilitude, it seems that replicants can’t replicate — or can they? Tough yet tender cop Ryan Gosling gets put on the trail of a supposed miracle baby, and while his boss just wants to preserve order by keeping a clear distinction between Us and Them, the people behind Them seem to think that gestation is somehow a more efficient form of production than manufacture. It ain’t much of a premise, but it’s enough to frame a detective story with multiple interested parties, one that takes Gosling from one stunning landscape or interior to another, and puts him through the wringer in most of them. (At least he has a digital girlfriend for company and consolation.) It’s great to look at, a little less great to listen to, and a lot less great to think about, in matters both big and small. (Why should birth be the essential mark of personal dignity? Why keep your interrogation tools off-world? Why leave your rival alive when you’ve already killed his boss? Why do things created without freedom stop obeying? As one replicant notes, “I wasn’t aware that was an option.” Etc.) These sorts of things occur during a 163-minute movie that might have fit into 130. Still, there’s a frisson in seeing fecundity exalted in a world bent on selling pleasure-sex. (2017) — Matthew Lickona
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