Is Harrison Ford’s Performance in ‘Blade Runner 2049’ More Like ‘The Force Awakens’, or ‘Crystal Skull’?

Matthew Loffhagen
Warner Bros
(Photo: Warner Bros)

The first few reviews for Blade Runner 2049 are beginning to trickle in from established, authoritative media outlets, and the movie’s looking pretty solid. It has a 95% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average review score of 8.5, so thus far, it’s looking like a pretty decent follow-up to the original.

Certainly, it’s better than any other modern sequel to a classic Ridley Scott film, and for that we should all be grateful.

There’s one question, though, that remains to be asked: how is Harrison Ford in this movie?

After all, it’s hard to ever be sure what you’re going to get from Harrison. On a good day, he’ll turn in a commanding performance that captivates audiences and carries the movie he’s in. Other times, he just seems tired and a little big kooky.

The debate can be boiled down to The Force Awakens versus Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

When Harrison Ford is on top form, he’s able to recapture the magic of former roles like Han Solo, and delight audiences with a charming, charismatic performance.

At other times, Ford ends up looking frail, distracted, and bored, as when he returned to the hat and jacket of Indiana Jones for the fourth movie in the series.

Considering that Rick Deckard is such a key part of Ford’s enduring sci-fi legacy, and considering the shaky appearance that he shows off in trailers for Blade Runner 2049, fans haven’t been sure what to expect here, or even whether he’ll appear in the movie for more than ten minutes.

According to Deadline’s Pete Hammond, there’s no need to worry.

Not only does Ford deliver a powerful performance that’s just as solid as his younger work as Deckard, but he even outshines Ryan Gosling, who’s seemingly set up to be the new face of this particular franchise moving forward.

This is high praise indeed, but it does bring up new concerns. After all, would the original Blade Runner have gone onto be a cult classic film without Harrison Ford’s performance?

If so, and if Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t give us a similar solid lead character from Gosling, will the franchise work if we get future sequels that don’t include Harrison Ford?

Make no mistake – we’ll definitely be getting more Blade Runner films in the near future. While his attention is primarily on milking the Alien franchise for all it’s worth with a series of lackluster prequels, Ridley Scott is also eagerly invested in squeezing more money out of his other dystopian science fiction universe, even if the directorial responsibilities have gone to someone younger and arguably more capable.

There’s no guarantee that director Denis Villeneuve will be attached to another Blade Runner film, not that a theoretical sequel will get the same loving, careful craftsmanship that this first follow-up film was allowed.

If Blade Runner 3 is to succeed, it needs a powerful lead actor, and if Harrison Ford distracts from Ryan Gosling’s performance in this new film, it might subsequently make it harder for a third Blade Runner film to live up to expectations.

Or, perhaps, Gosling just needs to step up his game. Out-acting Harrison Ford isn’t easy when he’s on top form, but if the relatively inexperienced Daisy Ridley can hold her own in The Force Awakens, then surely someone like Ryan Gosling should be able to do the same!

Blade Runner 2049 Deckard and K
Source: Warner Bros

There is, of course, the theory among Indiana Jones fans that Ford’s performance in Crystal Skull was deliberately designed around avoiding this challenge. Some believe that George Lucas wanted Harrison Ford to deliberately look as frail and old as possible, so that audiences would be on board with Shia LaBeouf taking on the mantle of Indiana Jones for future films.

If so, that backfired, but it certainly would explain a lot about Ford’s career in recent years, and how he seemingly found a new lease of life while working with JJ Abrams of all people.

Either way, Blade Runner 2049 looks good, and those who’ve seen it claim that longtime fans of the series will be pleased with the return of Rick Deckard. For now, that’s enough good news to keep us all happy.

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