“Blade Runner 2049” is the single best movie of 2017 so far

“Blade Runner 2049” is not only the single best movie of 2017 so far, but one of the most staggeringly beautiful movies ever made.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the film takes place 30 years after the events of the 1982 original. Earth is overpopulated and heavily polluted, and “replicants,” androids who closely resemble humans, are second class to humans. The Tyrell Corporation, which manufactured replicants in the original film, has since gone bankrupt. Taking its place is the Wallace Corporation headed by the diabolical Niander Wallace, played by Jared Leto, which has engineered upgraded replicants to work in synthetic farming. K, played by Ryan Gosling, is a specialized officer, tasked with hunting down out-of-date replicants for the Los Angeles Police Department, called a blade runner. As he performs his duties, he eventually encounters something with the potential to spark worldwide chaos.

Villeneuve — who previously directed 2016’s “Arrival” and 2015’s “Sicario” — has once again crafted a film which transcends expectations. Contrary to the majority of contemporary film sequels, “2049” proves more compelling than the original.

“Blade Runner 2049” is a movie best experienced with as little knowledge of the plot as possible. The film expands upon the themes of the original film, which prompted viewers to question what qualifies as human. Good science fiction story lines should spark existential and philosophical debate, and the plot of “2049” does not disappoint.

The film is jaw-droppingly spectacular. The dystopian future is so perfectly depicted that viewers feel completely immersed in the cyberpunk surroundings.

Overpopulated, neon-lit cityscapes illuminate smog and grime in this vision of futuristic Los Angeles, establishing an atmosphere evocative of film noir. Other locations in the film feature intricate set design, creating a sense of awe few films of the last decade have been able to match.

The technology used in the film, which includes flying automobiles and personalized AI, convincingly builds upon technology in contemporary society. All the displayed technological advancements seem entirely plausible.

Contrary to what the marketing campaign indicates, “Blade Runner 2049” is not in the action genre. Like the original, “2049” is a detective story involving methodical, detailed world-building.

The 165-minute running time might prove off-putting to some viewers. However, “2049” lets viewers become fully invested in the haunting, captivating world.

Several prolonged sequences are entirely without dialogue. The deliberate editing lends the film a contemplative, hypnotic quality.

The action is exciting, well-choreographed and enhanced through Hans Zimmer’s synth-heavy score, but the real draw of the film is the dystopian universe.

Roger Deakins’ cinematography creates a grand sense of scale, reflecting the ambitious plot. Viewers can taste the thick, polluted air in the city and feel the clean, polished sheen radiating off the walls of LAPD headquarters. Each shot in the film could be framed and put on a wall. The lighting, color, shot composition and set design all come together to create a magnificent aesthetic, practically unrivaled in any film of the last decade.

An emotional, powerful, incredibly-well-made film, “Blade Runner 2049” should satisfy anyone who appreciates movies as an art form.