I will not lie to you.
I did not watch Blade Runner 2049 for the plot or the metaphysics. I don't care what androids dream about. I don't care if there is a god who made humans, the makers of replicants. All of that is very uninteresting to me.
Also, the director of the original Blade Runner, Ridley Scott, has recently made prequels to his 1979 film Alien that are packed with the worst metaphysical mumbo jumbo ever. This only indicates that the metaphysics of his 1982 Blade Runner are probably built not on a solid foundation but muddy waters. (The 19th-century German philosopher Nietzsche once described metaphysics as the muddying of "water to make it seem deep.")
I watched Blade Runner 2049 because I wanted to see French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve's vision of the city of Los Angeles. Villeneuve's eye is perfect for big-budget cinema. He knows how to make a pile of money into truly stunning and unforgettable images. Recall his 2015 film Sicario. What happened in that movie? Some drug deals went really bad; some bad hombres were killed by even badder hombres. If you only saw that, then you missed the movie, which was one startling image after another.
Villeneuve's Arrival had a story with some meat, but it was his visual work with the genius cinematographer Bradford Young that really made that film (all that stuff about peace-loving and philosophical space octopuses can be forgotten without much effort).
So is Blade Runner 2049's Los Angeles as good, as fantastic, as rich as its predecessor? Here I must say no. It's not. Villeneuve is not an urbanist. He has a great sense of architecture. Meaning, he knows how to stage and shoot one building or house, but not a street or cityscape. He is also not interested in the ballet of busy streets or places. He prefers his spaces to be sparse and immediately graspable.
When we enter the room of a protein farmer early in the film, we instantly notice the pot on the stove. Steam is rising from it. This is Villeneuve's eye. For another example of his aesthetic, look at the spaceship in Arrival—it's in the middle of nowhere, it's primal, it's beautiful. And the interior of the spaceship is basically black walls and a space-fish tank.
Ridley Scott's Blade Runner captured the density-sublime: There was no line from the density of interior spaces to the density of the street to the density of blocks and skyline. Though Villeneuve has brilliantly continued the technological and commercial world of Blade Runner (there are no cellphones in 2049 because they were not predicted in 2019), he cleared a lot of clutter. So the urbanist in me was disappointed by 2049.
But will Blade Runner 2049 be worth it to the rest of you? Visually, yes. Like its predecessor, it has many images that just must not be missed, so you have to see the whole thing—metaphysics and all.