Blade Runner 2049 ★½

Visuals and script seem to act in a coherent way in shaping this sequel's major flaws. As a barren formalism replaces the baroque noiresque aesthetics which brought to life the dead world of Blade Runner - the crowdy, chaotic sprawl of Los Angeles with its neon-lit, foggy darkness is reduced here to inert background, confined in a few shots of mere reference, elegant but dead under filmic glass - the screenplay (when it's not busy referencing) concentrates on expanding the world while killing the mistery, feeling like a normalization, a dissection in which resonance is lost in the pursuit of rationalization.
A general failure to replicate the evocative weight of Blade Runner haunts this film as it tries to relocate mistery from concept and atmosphere to the plot, leaving the story to float on the surface of its twists and turns, and relying too much on explicit intertextuality and contrived simbolism to convey meaning. Even the introduction of the idea of replicant conception, the "miracle" which serves as the narrative premise for this sequel, feels like an unneeded broadening of the original concept. The blurring of lines between human and artificial psyches is now biologized, literalized and, much like what happens in the rest of the movie, stripped of its mistery; the film tries to preserve it in its original dimension of empathy and love in K's relationship with the hologram Joi, but fails to make it resonant: we already know from the first film, and Blade Runner 2049 reiterates it right away, that replicants and therefore artificial intelligences are capable of empathy and love, so there's no real arc of discovery, no real tension of sort, nothing meaningful to be added; furthermore, this relationship feels too much as a miniature reflection of the love story between Deckard and Rachel, with a weak "Her" twist to it.

Futile prolixity afflicts most of the film; if in Blade Runner every scene was economically put in the service of atmosphere and narrative, here too many moments feel unpleasantly superflous.
The climatic fight in Blade Runner 2049 is really significant if compared to that in Blade Runner. In Blade Runner, Deckard, who has by now fallen in love with the replicant Rachel, must "retire" the last fugitive replicant, Roy Batty, who is maddened by the loss of his own partner and because he now knows he can't escape his programmed death: at the acme of the sequence, Deckard is saved from falling by Batty. Here, the tension of the scene is intertwined with the thematic core of the film: the possibility that a replicant could prove to be as much capable of human empathy as a "real" human, if not more; the two major characters are facing each other at the peak of their narrative arc, and this results in a truly engaging scene with meaningful and iconic dialogue.
On the other hand, in Blade Runner 2049, the two fighting characters face each other with the background of a far more dubious arc: K has now discovered he was not born a human like he had believed and hoped to be (but this doesn't make much of a difference for the scene since we have been shown from the get-go he's capable of human feelings, from his reluctance to "retire" other replicants to his love story with the hologram Joi); whereas Luv, his opponent, is only Wallace's replicant enforcer, and does what she's told. There's no real emotive tension here, no real acme; in facts, this empty space is filled with shallow expedients like the water filling the shuttle and endangering Deckard's life, and K being seemingly defeated by Luv but wait, no he's not, he's alive and he defeats her. There's no depth here, only predictable action and fake tension.