To relinquish Natural City to the "Blade Runner" copycat bin, which so many reviews do, and which might seem the obvious and correct thing at first go, does the film something of a
It struck me that while it works off of the same "conceptual fabric" as Ridley Scott's vision of the PKD novel, it was, under the surface, a different film in a number of ways, and offers a dystopean vision that is uniquely Korean with cultural and sociological reference points which understandably Scott and North American audiences do not usually have the experiencial palatte to grasp without a great deal of effort and attention. While east and west have some shared iconography of what a decaying society is like, they also have many that are idiosyncratic.
It took me several viewings but it struck me as eerily beautiful in its own right. One simple example is the relationship between R and the cyborg doll Ria. When contrasted with theirs, the dialogue and body language expressed between Deckard and Rachel shows us a rather cold and distant pairing. Korean film is much more emotionally sophistocated than what we are usually fed in North America.
I understand the temptation of some reviewers I've read elsewhere, to parse N.C. as an example of what has become a common trend in the film industry of generating endless cheap productions that have titles close enough or Trailers that are visually similar enough to a blockbuster in order to confuse the ticket buyer and video renter (or more appropriately now-video streamer). This production does use the shiny-glossy Ridley Scott marketable window dressing of B.R. but would argue that this is only a veneer that wipes off fairly quickly. Perhaps the marketers did want to generate some confusion, but the creative people behind the film slipped in some herbal flavouring of their own into the audiences bubble tea.
Perhaps I am over valuing the cultural ligaments of the film (I watched this in the midst of an orgy of viewing dozens of S. Korean films), but I believe they invest it with enough of a unique vision that it removes the film from the category of "cheap Blade Runner knock-offs" and makes it of value to watch. Perhaps it belongs on a shelf next to the one which holds B.R. rather than on the shelf below it.