* * C
Blade Runner 2049 was a huge disappointment. The film is fairly hard to follow, and the reasons things are happening are often not obvious and go unexplained. It is set far into the future from the previous game. There is a long, difficult to read (on the small screen) text explaining what has happened in the intervening years: there has been a war in the colonies, and production of replicants has been banned.
K (Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner (rogue replicant hunter) who is himself a replicant. He has a girlfriend, Joi (Ana de Armas) who is a software program who can project herself as a hologram. He gradually uncovers the mystery of what happened to Deckard (Harrison “Indy” Ford) and Rachael. Meanwhile, Niander Wallace (Jared “Joker” Leto), the current maker of replicants, has his replicant henchwoman Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) seeking Deckard.
The original nailed the core concept of the Philip K. Dick novella on which it was based: What does it mean to be human? This film continues to explore the topic, delving into how implanted childhood memories are used to keep the replicants stable. A new test is introduced by which K’s mental stability, referred to as his baseline, is verified. Joi, who for me was the most interesting character, is never explained, and you are left to wonder how human she is.
I liked the way that, like the original, the envisioned future was simply shown, with very little exposition. Unfortunately, this was not made up for with detail and dialog. In the first film, what replicants are is explained in video that Deckard watches and by people that he interviews. A negative, for me, was the bleak nature of Dick’s future. In 2049, the natural world is largely dead. Even wood has become incredibly rare. The dead world and the slow pace of the film make its mood deeply depressing.