Just how much does Joi genuinely love K? An argument can be made that, as an advanced A.I. programmed to "say everything you wanted to hear", means that most interactions between the two are just simply Joi trying to satisfy K's needs, up to and including a Three-Way Sex where she allows K to hire a local prostitute to act as a 'stand-in' for her. However, there are also scenes that suggest that she develops actual feelings for K instead of just following her directives as well. She seems very enthusiastic when K bought her an advanced mobile emitter that allows her to go anywhere she wants and interact with the world around her. Later in the movie, she begs K, against his objections, to transfer her personality into the mobile emitter entirely then destroy her original system in his apartment so that it cannot be used to track him down, even if it means that she's at the risk of being 'killed' permanently if the emitter is destroyed. She frantically tries to wake K up after his vehicle crashed before the scavengers overwhelm him, and her last words before she is destroyed by Luv is telling K that she loves him. But then, K later has a conversation with a holographic advertisement of Joi, in which she uses several of the same affectionate words and phrases his own Joi did, reinforcing how she's programmed to love him, but then again, the holographic Joi is an advertisement made specifically to attract each individual customer and technically not the same 'Joi' that knows K personally. And given how a Replicant's emotions and human responses come mostly from fake childhood memories programmed in their brain, is the A.I. feelings that different?
Even more so since we know that Replicants can move beyond their programming, as we see with Roy Batty and the others in the original, as well as the replicants in this film that are slowly developing a resistance. If the Replicants can move beyond programming, what's not to say that Joi and other A.I. programs couldn't?
It's worth noting that Joi's use of specific phrases and pet names comes from beforeJoi asks K to break the antenna in her emitter. Sure, Giant Naked Joi isn't the same Joi, but she is a targeted advertisement almost certainly using data in the cloud and customer-identification capability. Just imagine what advertisers do today with non-sci-fi technology, and extrapolate it to a corporate dystopia where problems like building hard-AI, natural language use, and visual recognition are completely solved.
A case can be made that Joi is literally just an AI who becomes an extreme version Talking to Themself is tied to the entire last portion of the movie and K's arc. Given the ending the timing with him encountering the giant naked Joi soon after K discovers that he was not the miracle offspring of Deckard and Rachel it plays into the theme that all along K was the The Unchosen One who deep down desperately wanted to be The Chosen One. Joi was just echoing his repressed desires when she kept driving at him being the child. In the end the emotions she showed were just K's own desires for companionship which he could never really get from either humans or other replicant's due to what he is and what he did as a Blade Runner. With these reveals it was enough to push him to his decision to save Deckard and reunite him with his child instead of just selfishly running or trying to kill Deckard as the Pro-Replicant army had asked him to do to keep Ana safe. Throughout the movie he either did things per missions given to him or his own personal survival, at the end he did something that was neither mission nor in anyway for his own benefit because he realized his place in the whole thing and wanted to do what he felt was right.
When Luv attacks K in Las Vegas, Joi appears and begs Luv to stop, which then leads to Luv promptly smashing Joi's emitter and killing her. If she had stayed quiet, Joi would probably have survived, and the fact that she cried out anyway, seemingly because she couldn't bear the sight of Luv beating him, throws some serious doubt on the "Joi doesn't really love him" argument.
One could argue that Luv like many other Replicants, also wants to find the child for pro-Replicant reasons, and not just to help her boss build a better race of slaves. She flat-out says at one point that she is going to lie to Wallace to cover up a murder and, by extension, cover up the fact that she can be disobedient in the first place. She is visibly enraged when she thinks the child is out of reach and goes on a speciest anti-human rant about Replicants being superior when Lt. Joshi tells her the child is dead, and it is possible that she too has the memories of Ana in her head driving her to believe she can be more than "just" another Replicant, which puts her aggressive No-Holds-Barred Beatdown of K and her gloating of being "better" than him in a different context- both are driven by I Just Want to Be Special, but Luv goes to more murderous extremes because of it.
Consider the scene where Wallace horrifically mutilates that poor Replicant woman in front of Luv. In that scene, as well as every other time that she kills someone in the movie, Luv is shown crying, but when she's with Wallace in that scene, she she looks rather subtly terrified. Wallace's line to her as he leaves ("The best angel of all...aren't you, Luv") is a clear case of emotional manipulation on his part. And not to mention how desperate she is to prove herself to Wallace, taunting K by telling him "I'm the best one", echoing Wallace's words even in a moment of mortal peril. Are her violent actions motivated by an Inferiority Superiority Complex? And moreover, is her fanatically dedicated service to Wallace an example of Undying Loyalty, or because she's actually afraid of him?
Is Ana Stelline actually the offspring of Deckard and Rachel, or is K? The film does indicate it is Ana. But while she does confirm that the memory of the wooden horse is real, she never acknowledges it to be hers. The only word we have to go on about the gender of the child is someone who has every reason to lie to protect its identity. And both Ana and K have the same eye color, which they both share with Rachel.
The green eyes can be explained fairly easily. Rachael and K are both replicants, so it's not unlikely that they might have the same eye colour. Since Ana is Rachael's daughter, she would likely inherit at least one of her parents' eye colour, in this case her mother's.
What was Luv's precise motivation for killing Joi? A deliberate act of cruelty, intended to break K's spirit? Another example of her Inferiority Superiority Complex meant to demonstrate the power she holds over K, that there's nothing he owns that she can't take away? An example of Fantastic Racism in action, since most of the other Replicants we see seem to think themselves superior to holograms/AI beings, like Joi? Jealousy motivated by her Villainous Crush on K, and anger that he loves what she considers to be an inferior being to her? Was it just because she could? Or some combination of the above?
In his brief cameo, Gaff appears to have gotten only more enigmatic with age. His statement that Deckard was "not long for this world" and use of the Replicant euphemism "retired" seems to suggest that he still at least believed Deckard was a Replicant whether or not this was actually the case, but many fans have taken it at face value that Gaff is a Secret Keeper protecting the secret of Deckard and Rachael, supported by his famous "it's too bad she won't live" line. Does he actually believe Deckard is dead, or does he know that he's still alive in Vegas, and is flat-out lying to K's face to protect Deckard? If he is protecting Deckard and Rachael, does he know about their child? And was he possibly even a member of the Replicant resistance? After all, since we have no idea how many people were involved in protecting Ana other than Freysa, Deckard, and Sapper Morton, it's quite possible that Gaff could have assisted them- and it would have been very helpful to have a currently serving Blade Runner keeping the others away from going after the AWOL Deckard. If Deckard's job was "scramble the records and leave", Gaff's job could have been "stay behind and look the other way." Again, much like the original, no matter the extent of his knowledge, we still have no idea what his motivation is for doing anything he does.
Furthermore, is the line "something in his eyes" confirmation that Deckard is a Replicant? After all, Replicants are detected by scanning their eyes.
A number of fans have noted a very small moment during Deckard's conversation with Wallace. When Deckard leans forward to ask "You don't have children, do you?" Wallace very slightly recoils, almost as if he's afraid of Deckard.
Others have suggested the movie has the message of "stop focusing on Misery Poker for one group and focus on problems for all humanity", since the movie showed that not only Replicants were suffering, but the poverty-ridden in general, while also showing the environment is completely destroyed.
The film's depiction of women qualifies as well. Perhaps owing to its relatively detached, clinical narrative style, viewers have disagreed whether the film should be read as an endorsement or a critic view of its setting's obvious misogyny. For his part, director Denis Villeneuve has stated he had no such intention, but others may consider Death of the Author to apply. This is discussed in much further detail under Broken Base.
And You Thought It Would Fail: A sequel to the legendary Blade Runner has long been considered a bad idea by fans of the film. The fact that said sequel was in Development Hell for so long certainly didn't help matters, but there was still confidence in the project here and there given Denis Villeneuve's great (and still growing) reputation as a filmmaker. The film reached 88% on Rotten Tomatoes (compared to the 90% of the original) and scored 81 on Metacritic (89 for the original), and eventually won two Oscars for Cinematography and Visual Effects. Definitely not bad for a sequel that had a lot riding on it. However, this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that, like the original and despite its success with critics and fans, the film had a less than stellar box office performance, especially when compared to its budget ($150 million).
Audience-Alienating Premise: A big-budget sequel to a moody, somewhat depressing R-rated Cult Classic from thirty years ago (which itself bombed financially), that's light on the action and heavy on the philosophical brooding, was always going to be fighting an uphill battle at the box office, no matter how good the reviews were. The nearly three-hour runtime didn't help matters. What's perhaps less surprising than the fact that it didn't make its money back was the fact that Villeneuve and crew were handed such a big budget in the first place, Villeneuve's Auteur License was solid enough that he was given the task to direct a new adaptation of Dune afterwards (after anotherhigh profile flop from The '80s).
Award Snub: Although the movie did quite well at the Oscars, picking up five nominations and two wins, many were angered that Denis Villeneuve was passed over for a director's job despite the nearlyimpossible task ahead of him. Similarly, Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch failed to get a Best Score nomination for their, dense atmospheric and moody compositions that paid homage to Vangelis' legendary work without ever copying it wholesale.
While the film's visuals, soundtrack and performances were unanimously praised, the main storyline and how it develops were more divisive. Some think Blade Runner 2049 chose a genuinely interesting premise and ran with it impeccably, while others think it is a poorly explained mess that also suffers from an agonizing pacing, and a middle ground between both believes it was a good attempt that simply ended up dragging along too much and not being clear enough.
The film's portrayal of women is also a source of division. The film is at times extremely Male Gaze-y and its setting is unambiguously misogynistic (as was that of the original, but 2049 arguably takes this further), with women mostly being relegated to roles of sex workers, victims, or "holographic housewives", but there's disagreement over whether the film steps over into endorsing the misogyny of its setting. For his part, director Denis Villeneuve says that it is not intended to do so: "Blade Runner is not about tomorrow; it's about today. And I'm sorry, but the world is not kind on women." Some of the film's defenders have argued that the film can be read as a parable about fertility, perhaps comparable in some ways to The Handmaid's Tale or Children of Men — its villain, Niander Wallace, is obsessed with fertility, essentially "consumed by rage that women can do something he cannot", as Helen Lewis argued in the New Statesman:
"Fertility is the perfect theme for the dystopia of Blade Runner 2049, because of the western elite anxiety that over-educated, over-liberated women are having fewer children, or choosing to opt out of childbearing altogether ... Feminism is one potential solution to this problem: removing the barriers which make women feel that motherhood is a closing of doors. Another is to take flight, and find another exploitable class to replace human females ... Maybe androids don't dream of electric sheep, but some human men certainly dream of electric wombs."
Writing in Moviepilot, meanwhile, Rachael Kaines argues that the theme of the entire setting is that of "second-class citizens. Replicants. Orphans. Women. Slaves. Just by depicting these secondary citizens in subjugation doesn't mean that it is supportive of these depictions - they are a condemnation." (Kaines' interpretation is arguably in keeping with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as well, as Dick intended society's dehumanisation of androids to have applicability to all forms of societal oppression; the novel was explicitly constructed as a deconstruction of the mindset that produced the Holocaust, but due to Dick's subtlety, many readers missed his intended meaning.) Despite these defences, the film's portrayal of its female characters and some of its plot elements (particularly the violence against women) remains a point of contention, and women overall seem to have responded less readily to the film, which may have been a factor in its relatively middling box office performance.
Cry for the Devil: A number of viewers found themselves feeling unexpectedly sorry for Luv given the amount of her service to Wallace, namely that she has no choice but to watch him murder other Replicants just for kicks and lead his crusade that, if successful, will lead only to her being rendered obsolete. And almost a literal example of this trope, given that Luv cries on several occasions.
Cult Classic: Like the original film itself, it already has a dedicated following.
Luv has gained quite a few fans on account of being a ruthless and even terrifying Dark Action Girl, who kills tons of people but practically oozes style in the process.
Niander Wallace is a merciless, unfeeling Corrupt Corporate Executive but is well-liked for his creepily stylish appearance, incredibly high-class threads and office and Jared Leto's extremely unsettling performance.
It's really all about being who you are by birth, rather than about what choices you make. If you were not born to be the Chosen One, your own actions will not change this; the best thing you can do is sacrifice yourself and die with dignity. Of course, if K turns out to have survived in the next movie, this would subvert this Aesop.
Of course, the aesop is The Chosen One is more important about how she inspires people rather than the person she is. The real replicant child is a woman living in a bubble who can't do anything outside of it. However, her memories have given them all hope despite being a programmer who has never done anything important in her life.
A one-sided example with My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) of all things, as both films were released the same day with this one being cited as the reason why the former underperformed at the box-office (which is ironic, as this film hadn't really done any better).
More straightforward with Bright, as fans of that film dont get along with this movies fans, due to this being critically and audience acclaimed but being a Box Office Bomb while Bright was a ratings hit despite its Vocal Minority fanbase.
Fetish Retardant: The ad campaign version of Joi, despite still being played by a gorgeous and nude Ana de Armas, has overtones of this. She shows up shortly after K's version of Joi dies, and clumsily flirts with K. Her dialogue's peppered with hints that K's Joi was just a really lifelike program, and not actually in love with him, to depress both K and the audience.
With Drive, another film with Ryan Gosling as a stoic, understated protagonist in a noir Los Angeles, especially since the films have very nearly the same climax. Plenty of "Real Human Bean" jokes have been made about K since the film came out.
Fans of this movie often get along surprisingly well with fans of Mad Max: Fury Road, with both films being long-awaited sequels to legendary, genre-defining science fiction films, that came out after thirty years in Development Hell. Not to mention that both received overwhelmingly positive reviews despite the seemingly-impossible bar that was set by their predecessors, and both made extensive use of Practical Effects to create their dystopian futures.
Heartwarming in Hindsight: The last time Harrison Ford returned to a major sci-fi franchise of his and reconnected with a child he hadn't seen in years, it ended tragically, with him dying at the hands of his own son, who turned out to be corrupted and swayed to the side of evil. In this movie, he goes through Hell - losing his wife and separating himself from the daughter for her entire life - to keep his child safe, but she turns out to be possibly the nicest and friendliest person in the entire movie, and it ends with him joyously reuniting with her.
The character name Ana Stelline is a pun on anastellin, a human antiangiogenic peptide.
One for those aware of Philip K. Dick's original influences; Niander Wallace is most likely intended to be a stand-in for the Demiurge, a malevolent creator figure with delusions of godhood that, despite its delusions, can create only imperfect, material things and bring suffering to those under its thrall.
Germans Love David Hasselhoff: While 2049 lost its first place at the weekly US box office quite rapidly, it's still enjoying great success in Denis Villeneuve's native Québec, remaining first at the local box office after three weeks.
A downplayed case with Ryan Gosling, as some of his other recent roles had already helped raise his reputation as an actor, but some critics have cited this as one of his best performances to date, if not his best.
Even more downplayed with Harrison Ford, his stature as an actor is unquestionable, but many viewers admitted to being surprised by the impressive depth and complexity of his performance as Deckard in this film, despite his limited screentime, especially considering the accusations of Dull Surprise that have been frequently made regarding his acting in the first film.
Harrison Ford returns to a famous and iconic science-fiction film after a decades-long Sequel Gap, whose new installment features a search by a new main character (with a very short name) for the now-missing original main character. Are we talking about Blade Runner 2049, or The Force Awakens? Not to mention that the climax of both films feature said main character with a short name wielding the iconic Weapon of Choice of the franchise's original protagonist in a battle against the evil second-in command.
In the final battle of this movie, a monosyllabic, stoic protagonist played by Ryan Gosling rams the villain's car into the ocean (bonus points for it being the Pacific Ocean) and drowns them after they climb out, followed by an ending that plays coy about whether or not the protagonist died. Sounds an awful lot like Drive, doesn't it?
In this film a character who was Harrison Ford's character's love interest appears, restored to her youth by the use of visual effects and motion capture on a younger actress. This could just as easily apply to the final seconds of Rogue One as it applies to Blade Runner 2049...
Some people have noted the fact that the hologram "meal" Joi serves K is almost exactly like Plankton's holographic meatloaf, which was prepared for him by an AI wife, no less.
Meta example: Mackenzie Davis revealed in an interview that while watching the original Blade Runner in college that she predicted that the movie was going to have a sequel and she would more than pleased even if she were cast, fast forward 9 years later....
Mackenzie Davis' casting in Terminator: Dark Fate, in which Linda Hamilton is supposed to reprise her role, means this movie won't be the last time Davis appears in a newer installment of a long-running sci-fi franchise that began in the 80s, will feature the original movie's star returning to the role many years later, and centers around humanlike, violent robots...
Late-Arrival Spoiler: K's a Replicant. Although a carefully guarded secret prior to the film's release, good luck trying to find someone discussing the movie nowadays without mentioning that fact, considering it's an essential, fundamental aspect of his story and character that largely drives his role in the plot (and is revealed in the first five minutes of the movie, no less)...
The scene of the giant pink Joi hologram leaning down to talk to K has widely become ripe for photoshop fodder.
"CELLS" and "INTERLINKED" is popular on 4chan, specifically /tv/.
"Not even close to baseline" has become a new way of saying "feels bad man" on the internet.
Screenshots◊ of Agent K's violent Freak Out! when he visits Ana Stelline's lab are very popular as a reaction image.
In the year following the movie's release, a screenshot of K screaming after failing his baseline test captioned with "I'M SO LONELY AND HORNY" has ascended in popularity.
Misaimed Fandom: The whole point of Joi's character (arguably) is that no matter how appealing she might be, an artificial woman is no substitute for real love (probably). Doesn't stop the dozens of fans who left the theater thinking "I want one."
Moral Event Horizon: If you thought Luv hadn't crossed it with her brutal murder of Lieutenant Joshi, then her crushing Joi's emitter to eliminate her will definitely do the trick. Her other acts of violence, while not morally justifiable, could at least be explained as aligning with her mission; this last one, however, appears to have been done for no other reason than pure, sadistic cruelty.
The decision to cast Dave Bautista as a hulking but still relatively nerdy doctor might have gotten some surprising acting from the former professional wrestlers, but those familiar with his usual roles and persona could easily giggle at the sight of him in such role. That his glasses look somewhat small for his face doesn't help.
The hologram with whom K shares a rather touching relationship is named "Joi", which is meaningful by itself but unfortunately also might remind some of "JOI" or "Jerk-Off Instructions", a term used to describe a form of porn. Though, considering that the character is a holographic AI designed to be a perfect romantic partner for lonely men, this might be an intentional reference.
While Niander Wallace is an interesting and powerfully acted character, "Wallace" is a rather prosaic surname, especially next to the more exotic-sounding Tyrell from the previous film. The fact that his corporation's name follows again the unoriginal pattern of "surname + Corp" and thus causes his surname to be repeated over and over in the film only makes it to be even worse.
K casually bursting through a marble stone wall while chasing Deckard is not only a Mood Whiplash for a scene meant to be tense, but also the kind of stunt one would expect from the Incredible Hulk in an Avengers movie.
Narm Charm: Niander Wallace is soObviously Evil that some of his dialogue borders on the cartoonish (i.e. "You do not know what pain is... you will learn"), but Jared Leto sells the hell out of it so convincingly that the character is both charismatic and terrifying.
Frequent scene-stealer Tómas Lemarquis shows up as an overly cheery File Clerk who helps K get some information.
Barkhad Abdi as a friendly black-market dealer who only talks in Cityspeak.
Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: While the original is far too much of a classic for him to be truly hated, Harrison Ford's rather subdued acting as Rick Deckard is a common source of criticism for the first movie. In this film, by contrast, Ford was given high praise for his subtle and complex performance as an older, more vulnerable Deckard despite his limited screentime.
Sci Fi Ghetto: Triumphantly averted, with five Academy Award nominations and Roger Deakins finally winning his Cinematography award for the film's absolutely gorgeous cinematography. Shame about Villeneuve not being nominated, though.
Signature Scene: The giant naked Joi hologram leaning down to point at K has quickly become the film's iconic image. The fact that the scene is arguably the emotional center of the movie helps a lot. If history repeats itself, it might become the equivalent of the original film's scenes of the giant advertisements with the smiling geisha.
Supercouple: Although it's left up to the viewers' interpretation how much she actually loves him (or is capable of loving him), people really love K and Joi together, despite (or maybe even because of) the fact that they're both (supposed to be) emotionless machines incapable of loving each other and they're both dead.
They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Luv appears to feel deeper emotions than replicants should, and she seems to be conflicted about the things Wallace has her do, based on the quiet tears she sheds on several occasions. However, absolutely nothing is done to explore this aspect of her character further.
Tough Act to Follow: It's a sequel to a Cult Classic that is considered one of the greatest science fiction films of all time; this is bound to happen. Ultimately the film was released to highly positive reactions and critical acclaim, with some reviewers arguing it managed to surpass the original Blade Runner, albeit mostly among film critics. The general public's reaction was far more tepid, proving to be a financial underwhelming.
Wallace in general just looks off◊, mostly because of the glowing chip on his neck a la Frankenstein's bolts and his blind, scarred eyes. At times, his bizarre, stilted delivery and slow, mechanical movements make him seem more like a robot than any of the Replicants (which is almost certainly intentional.)
The CGI on Wallace's version of Rachel is one of the best replications of a photorealistic human face in film to date, but it's still not perfect. Then again, considering the purpose of that scene, it's almost certainly at least partially intentional, and arguably works to the movie's advantage.
Joi's pure hologram averts this completely, but when she synchronizes with Mariette's body, the process is just imperfect enough to look at least slightly off. It's most notable on the hands because hers and Mariette's fingers rarely synchronize at all, which results in someone with twenty fingers caressing K. Face synchronization also falters slightly from time to time, leading to a strange hybrid look composed of both women's features. Given that it'd be way easier to film it with just Joi, this is probably deliberate.
Joi's ad hologram is an intentional example, with her completely dark eyes.
The visuals from the first trailer alone are incredible, turning the ChiaroscuroCyber Punk aesthetics of the original film Up to Eleven with modern visual effects and CGI. Furthermore, the film is lensed by famed veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins, and it pays off big time. So much so he finally won an Oscar for his work!
They apparently didn't use a lot of CGI. Ryan Gosling and Villeneuve state that they only used four greenscreens for the entire production and a good 80% of the film was done practically. The LAPD headquarters, the ruined cities and Niander Wallaces building? All scale models and miniatures! The deserted background of Las Vegas as Rick Deckard and Officer K talk? A matte painting. The famous shot of K walking slowly through the desert? A combination of a gigantic set, miniatures and CGI. Here's a behind the scenes clip for proof. Visual Effects of Awesome doesn't begin to describe it.
The shots of Rachael were replicated through motion capture and CGI so perfectly that it was almost impossible to tell which elements were real and which elements were artificial. In fact, Deckard's memory of Rachael looked as if they'd lifted it directly from the first film.