Indiscriminate spoilage ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

The thoughtful and, I think, accurately perceptive review by The Custodian gets at the problematic side of BR 2049 (and I'll call the original 1982 film simply BR from here on). I think it might be possible to go a little farther, however.

In the original, the Nexus replicants were unstable, and thus banned from Earth. There was no reason at all for them to want to come to Earth (which BR adequately showed to be a hellhole), but for the fact that the replicants were becoming so human that they could now contemplate mortality in a more sophisticated way. So Roy Batty and the others descended into hell to try to find a way to lengthen their lives.

The original version of the movie had Deckard's voiceover stating that Rachel was a new type of replicant without a pre-programmed short lifespan. Ironically, she died, BR 2049 tells us, just about the time she would have gone were she a regular Nexus 6, except her death was occasioned by giving birth to Deckard's child. It's clear that all other replicants are somehow sterile.

The inhuman and manifestly evil Niander Wallace, a laughably overdetermined character played by the already unlikeable Jared Leto, apparently discovers along with us the fact that Rachel gave birth. As the sequel's analogue of Eldon Tyrell, Wallace's chief stated goal in the film is to diminish the cost and increase the pace of replicant production by moving to a reproduction regime, if only he can figure out how Deckard and Rachel managed it. That's the end of act I, and that motivates the bad guys. To be sure, Wallace is given some lines about wanting to produce replicants to open up many more space colonies, so EMPIRE! is added to his motivations in a sort of pro-forma way.

I do not think that the new film ever makes the point as explicitly as BR did, but Wallace is trying to bridge the gap between replicant and human in a de facto way, while counting on the bright legal line between humans and replicants to permit him to continue exploiting (and selling) the latter as slaves. And so, the plight of the replicants is transformed into a metaphor for chattel slavery, with replicants standing in for historical slaves whose human rights were systematically denied.

There appears to be a resistance network containing a number of the old Tyrell Nexus models (some in the 7 and 8 series, developed after the events of BR, had "normal" lifespans, it seems), who are visibly old(er) and some of the new models put out by Wallace's company. This spells trouble ahead (in the sequels, surely hoped for, if not yet in development), since Wallace's models are billed as being obedient, at least to the point that people allow them to live and work on Earth. The old Nexus models are all fugitives and still give blade runners like Joe, the protagonist, work to do.

In one important scene for the sequels, a leader of the resistance meets Joe and explains their goal of pushing past the bright line into human territory. The presence of (young) Wallace replicants among them (such as a version of the white, bald ectomorphic replicant who served as the file clerk at the Wallace Corporation headquarters) shows that there is something wrong with the obedience conditioning. We thus have the prospect of something like Conquest of the Planet of the Apes before us.

The awful Wallace and the absolutely, psychopathically terrible Luv, his confederate (who is a replicant, it should be noted), diverge in an unpleasant way from their analogues in BR. Tyrell was morally blind, suffering the consequences by having his eyes popped out, yet he is not insanely evil like Wallace. Batty is frighteningly homicidal (most of it off-screen), but is nevertheless a warm, human character. His quest for life, his ironic humor, his love for Pris, his intelligence, and his last-minute emotional growth spurt all humanize him. In 35 years of watching BR I have never felt Batty to be evil. Of course, I would not discount his sins, as he ironically does, as "questionable things."

Wallace is morally blind, too, which is trumpeted at us by his physical blindness. Just as the world he hopes to create will be served by his replicants, he too is served by mechanisms: vaguely fishlike hovering robot eyes that link to his head through some BR equivalent of bluetooth. Behold! One of the "fish," as Wallace himself points out, has a propensity to skip through water like a real fish against efficiency and orders. That un-programmed independence is going to come back to bite him in the ass when the unexpectedly independent replicants revolt.

Luv is such a poisonous character that I could hardly stand to see her on the screen, and was ungenerously pleased to watch Joe slowly choke the life out of her near the end. And there is the problem; the movie seems cold to me because of the evil, evil antagonists. One gets it that since Joe is a superman, he needed an antagonist that would present a challenge, so Luv has to be preternaturally strong, well-informed, lucky, full of resources like orbiting missile platforms, and intelligent. This is not hard when the screenwriter is on your side, but very dull to watch, because Joe just has to go through the motions of trying to get ahead of her or survive her attacks as though she were merely a recurring, if daunting, physical obstacle. A story is more interesting when the protagonist is challenged as well as affirmed, as Samuel Johnson said of fame. The homicidal Roy Batty is able to taunt Deckard: "aren't you supposed to be the good man?", and the taunt bites.

Even though Hampton Fancher has come back as one of the writers of BR 2049, there is a dearth of sharp dialogue and interplay of wit. There is nothing like the confrontation between Tyrell and Batty, or even Bryant's rough handling of Deckard. The movie is, as The Custodian notes, interesting and fun to watch, but it does a poor job of expressing sharp ideas through dialogue, and spends too much time trying to elicit an emotional response from us with spfx and violence, which is not nearly as interesting.