If there was ever a science fiction film that deserved a sequel, it was the original “Blade Runner” starring Harrison Ford and directed by Ridley Scott. It seems hard to believe, but that film came out in 1982, presenting a dystopian vision of Los Angeles in the year 2019. And now here we are in 2017, 35 years later, and it’s clear that the new “Blade Runner 2049” is the sequel we’ve dreamed of. The timing simply couldn’t be better.
“Blade Runner 2049” makes us question what it means to be human
In many ways, “Blade Runner 2049” is a deeply philosophical movie, asking some very deep questions about what it means to be human. And the way it does that is by making us question the blurred line between artificial life and human life. At what point does a replicant become a human? In the dystopian future, the only way to discern between a replicant and a human is a complex behavioral-emotional test.
The key to figuring all this out, of course, is the lead character, Ryan Gosling, who plays a replicant himself. He is Officer K of the LAPD, but “K” is just part of his serial number. He is a replicant – but a replicant who is more self-aware than most. He has memories, but knows they have been artificially created in a lab and placed within him. At one point, he even begins to question whether or not he has a soul. If he was “born” and not “made,” does that mean that he is more alive than other replicants?
Of course, there are layers and layers to dissect here, and that’s what makes “Blade Runner 2049” so much fun. For example, take the fact that Officer K has a girlfriend named Joi. Nothing too surprising in that, right? Well, it turns out that his girlfriend is an artificially intelligent hologram who prefers to call him by a human name (“Joe”) and not by his replicant name. And there is something remarkably human about K – he listens to Frank Sinatra, he reads Nabokov, and he yearns to learn the story of his existence. But is that enough to make him human?
“Blade Runner 2049” unites Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling
While Ryan Gosling is clearly the star of the movie, he is joined by the star of the earlier “Blade Runner,” Harrison Ford, who plays the legendary blade runner Rick Deckard. In many ways, this union of former star and current star is what makes this movie so powerful. The involvement of Harrison Ford is important for so many reasons, and not just for the reason that he provides a line of continuity between the original and the sequel.
Deckard holds a lot of secrets – both for Officer K and for the audience. He is the central link back to the sci-fi classic, so it’s surprising that the movie studio originally wanted to keep the involvement of Harrison Ford in the film a surprise for moviegoers. Later, it was decided that Gosling and Ford had such chemistry together that all of the initial marketing for the movie had them doing joint interviews.
“Blade Runner 2049” is a mystery and a quest, all rolled into one
A sense of noir mystery seems to permeate every frame of “Blade Runner 2049.” Part of that has to do with the pacing from director Denis Villeneuve, who unveils, piece by piece, the future dystopian reality of the year 2049. Some viewers have complained that the length of the film – at nearly 2 hours, 45 minutes – is too long, but they are missing the central point: there is a secret within the film so big that it needs plenty of time to gestate. As one character in the film says of this secret, “This breaks the world.”
And, as much as “Blade Runner 2049” is a mystery, it is also a classic quest film. It is a quest to find the true answer about what the world has become. It is a quest to find the original blade runner, of course. And it is also a quest to find one’s personal identity. This is not a quest that involves a lot of lethal explosions every 10 minutes – it is a quest that takes place as much in the mind and soul as it does on the screen.
“Blade Runner 2049” presents a new view of the dystopian future
If you think about most of the science fiction films of the past two decades, they have been strongly dystopian in nature. They ask a question, “What happens when technology gets out of control?” So in many ways, the new “Blade Runner 2049” follows this basic narrative of ruminating on the fate of a dystopian world. But it advances the narrative one step further by asking what we, as humans, can really do to prevent this world from happening, and whether humans are more to blame than the actual technology.
The milieu of “Blade Runner” is one in which replicants act more “human” than humans. Just how dystopian is a world in which the soul, feelings and emotions matter so much? How dystopian is a world in which we challenge our views and concepts and question why we’re on this Earth in the first place?
When the first “Blade Runner” came out in 1982, the idea of the future was that it would look a lot like downtown Tokyo, just filled with a lot of interactive holograms and replicants. That was the way we thought of the world. Flash forward 35 years, and the vision has become much more bleak. The feeling now is that technology will eventually destroy us in an orange apocalyptic fog. There is something within us as humans that might make us incapable of taking the next big step. Maybe it’s better if we just hand things off to the replicants.
“Blade Runner 2049” has a dream-like intensity
Those are some of the feelings, emotions and thoughts that will cascade through your head upon watching this film. Anyone watching “Blade Runner 2049” will inevitably feel more introspective upon exiting the cinema. The movie unfolds with a dream-like intensity. And, just like a dream, we can remember it, and we can remember how it made us feel, even if the details are hard to describe.