One of the hallmarks of the original Blade Runner (1982) is its command of space and scale, and in this sense its sequel does not disappoint and demands a big-screen viewing. In Blade Runner 2049, Los Angeles looks much the same as it did 30 years prior, but it’s the interiors — the light-and-shadow play inside the seat of empire, the monumental monotony of its archives — that convey the power relations of this milieu. The replicants of the earlier movie — mass-produced humanoids designed to colonize other planets and do humans’ dirty work — have been refined to eliminate their capacity for emotion and will to power.
Enter K (Ryan Gosling), a replicant “blade runner” tasked with tracking down the last rogue replicants of the previous generation — and one in particular who could hold the key to the survival of humanity or to its destruction. K’s search constitutes a discussion-worthy narrative arc about selfhood, memory, and the technologization of humanity. But it’s couched in an even bleaker vision of the global city than Ridley Scott’s, one in which neither individuality nor collectivity seems possible.