I am happy to report that it did not live up to those promises. Instead, Blade Runner: 2049 is what so few films today are and even fewer sequels try to be:
Its own story.
What's even nicer is that the creators knew that not everyone was around thirty years ago. They knew people would come in with fresh curiosity just as much as they would to see where the story goes next. The references to the original Blade Runner are weaved organically through the mystery: revealed as clues uncovered by K, and presented just enough to serve the narrative and not so much that it comes off as pandering. So even if you've never seen the first film, you can still follow along with 2049 without begging your neighbor to draw you a map , and you can leave the theater without needing to wait for the next one to actually tell the rest of the story!
2049 had its flaws, of this I cannot deny. It was definitely brighter and lacked some of the atmosphere of its original. Some of the editing could also have been tighter too, and there were points where pontification took precedence over preparation. Much like when one stares too long into the abyss, the abyss stares back; but if you stare too long into pretentiousness, then you risk becoming a douchebag film, and there are points where the film maybe could've kept that abyss a little more outside of its periphery.
Blade Runner: 2049 stands as the exception to the rule: that a modern sequel can be more than fan-bait or a franchise-linchpin. A sequel can be unique. A sequel can be its own story.
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