Many sequels give you pretty much more of the same, often sacrificing plot for action. Great if you're craving more explosions and fight scenes.
Blade Runner 2049 is not more of the same, it is a progression, the world 30 years after the migration to the off-world colonies. But the plot, and to some extent the look, is only skin deep and drawn-out resulting in a ponderous film that keeps the viewer on the outside looking in.
Blade Runner 2049's environment and inhabitants are monolithic. LAPD officer K (Ryan Gosling) is a new breed of replicant (an organic replica of a human) designed to simply do his job, so he basically stares at everything and everybody. To set the tone we see him at the beginning of the film having dozed off in his hovercar as it drives him to his next chore.
An autopsy results in his lieutenant, Joshi (Robin Wright), ordering him to find and kill a replicant. Her emoting: the tough and frustrated movie trope of police lieutenants.
Then there's the head of the new corporation that builds replicants, Niander Wallace (Jared Leto). Its headquarters decor is ethereal modern art museum. With a prissy delivery he explains his motive for the mission he gives his head of minions, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks). Luv's emoting: permanently pissed providing an evil look to supplement Wallace's.
In the course of investigating his assignment, officer K eventually finds Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former Blade Runner who's passion breaths some life into the film as only Harrison Ford can, but I feel it's too little too late. In any case, Luv with her stock henchmen arrive and we end up getting the obligatory explosions and fighting.
To compensate for one-dimensional characters we're treated to snippets of exposition (eg, Luv's unnecessary line explaining her potential alibi). Also we're treated to lingering scenes of K starring (eg, K getting his baseline tested), aerial tracking shots of grey cityscapes steeped in haze, and interiors where people, if any, are props. Don't forget the music that reminds us that this is a Blade Runner sequel. The film's visuals and dialog portray an interesting minimalist world, but with so little life I longed for something more than its blatant theme of good versus evil.
By comparison the original Blade Runner is a rich detective story with a conflicted Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), coming to grips with his life choices. A crowded, dismal world provides tension. Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel), the genius creator of replicants and CEO of his own corporation is a man overreaching for perfection seen in his manner, and his replicants. You can even feel for the main antagonist replicant, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), who's striving to experience more life. They're all relatable. The visuals and music do hype this future world, to great effect, but they don't distract, they always support the story line.
Blade Runner 2049 succeeds in being light si-fi fare that presents a more sober vision of a future than many films. If that's all you're looking for, then you've found your tidbit. There's just not much food for thought.