K. Austin Collins’s review published on Letterboxd:
I want soaring cityscapes, heady info dumps, and bone-rattling sound design as much as the next blockbuster nerd. I want big movies that entertain and challenge in equal measure—again, like many of us.
What I don’t want is to sit through another two-hour-and-35-minute, $185 million remake of Pinocchio. It seems we can’t imagine AI at the multiplex without imagining that AI would want to become human—that they, who in essential ways surpass us, would have existential crises over how they can’t have existential crises. There are relatively few humans in 2049, and the ones who are here are more or less just ushers guiding plot points to their respective seats. It’s a missed opportunity. The premise of so much recent blockbuster science fiction about AI is that AI aspires to become like its makers. But pulling off that idea entails understanding, on the movie’s part, what being human means in the first place, on its own terms. This is precisely the idea that gets taken for granted. We’re great at weaponizing fictional AI to reflect ourselves back at ourselves; we’ve yet to learn how to ask the same questions, in this context, without all the symbolic pretense. We’re predisposed to reducing androids to petty mirrors of ourselves. We’re prone, above all, to reducing the complexity of this discussion to a handful of predictable emotional and philosophical beats. 2049—despite its beauty, despite its plot twists—is no exception.