I won't spoil any of Blade Runner 2049 for you. Just trust me when I say you should go see it as quickly as possible, on as large a screen as possible. (I recommend going to Cinerama, obviously.) The performances are roundly incredible, but Roger Deakins's cinematography runs away with the show. Deakins, whose photography made the generic Spielbergian thriller plot of Minority Report into a cultural touchstone, is doing the best work of his career with 2049.
I'm glad to report, also, that this isn't some dumbed-down franchise-builder of a sequel. It's very much in the tone of the original film, in design and sound and pacing. If you were worried about the possibility that 2049 would amount to a Fast and the Furious movie set in the Blade Runner world, you should rest assured that it's a close relative to the original. It is a noir film and a sci-fi film, and a film for adults.
But is 2049 in the spirit of Philip K. Dick? The first film, of course, was based on the Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and it hewed very close to Dick's central themes of technological alienation and the blurred lines of identity and personhood in modern civlization.
The truth is, I'm not sure if 2049 is a truly Dickian movie. The film does address some of the first film's themes of what makes a human, but it doesn't seem interested in those questions in the same way that Dick was. Instead, it moves on to other themes and topics. It has its own questions to consider.
But would it even be worthwhile or relevant for 2049 to address the questions raised in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Perhaps now that we all carry thrumming electronic rectangles that contain all of our interests, hopes, and fears, we've moved as a society past Philip K. Dick's concerns of what it means to be a person in an accelerated technological era.
"Who am I?" seems like a question our artists left behind in the hairy, self-investigatory late 1970s and early 1980s. Now, our art seems to be more interested in questions of purpose and intent, and 2049 definitely does some interesting work in those spaces. It's a movie that people will be pulling apart for months and years to come, and I hope that there will soon be a raucous and inclusive public conversation about where the film stands in the pantheon of Dick's fictional worlds.