I loved this movie. I thought it was beautifully shot and wonderfully acted. I saw it a week ago and have been thinking and talking about it ever since.* Just like the original Blade Runner movie it’s got layers and layers and layers, enough to keep you pondering for ages. You can take it apart and examine each portion of it from every angle. I have a feeling film students will be writing essays on Deckard’s dog 35 years from now. If you disagree with my opinion please feel free to write a blistering rebuttal. I’ve only seen the movie once, so if I’ve forgotten or misremembered anything, please correct me in the comments.
DISCLAIMER: This ain’t no “Siskel and Ebert at the Movies.” This missive is nothing but one spoiler after another and is strictly my own take on it. so if you haven’t seen it, better leave the room. We’ll wait.
Blade Runner 2049 is rife with (surely) deliberate misogyny, ageism, ableism, and probably a bunch of other isms that I didn’t notice. Unlike the original movie which was populated with flabby humans with all their foibles, by 2049 any human with ability and ambition has fled the earth for the outer planets leaving the megalopolis populated with replicants, designed and manufactured by a genius with the mind set of a Donald Trump (but, you know, competent). In this disposable work force there are few replicants of colour, no disabled, no gays, hell, there are no FAT people. They are still living in a dystopia of catastrophic climate change and rotting urban landscapes wrought by rampant capitalism.
MISOGYNY MUCH: With the exception of K’s boss, played by Robin Wright, and the rebel leader (Hiam Abbass) EVERY woman exists solely to attend to her master’s every need and desire. And every woman is preternaturally beautiful. It’s like an MRA wet dream. (So how is that different from any other movie? Ha! Right.) There is no plot-driven reason that UberVillain, Nander Wallace (Jared Leto) should have a beautiful woman assistant/assassin/henchperson in stiletto heels and bangs, yet. Even Wright’s character is named Madame and dresses like a dominatrix, make of that what you will.
These “women” apparently cannot make a decision that does not directly benefit their masters. When K uses his bonus to present his computer wife, Joi (Ana de Armas) with a device that will allow her to exist away from the holographic projector in his apartment, she uses her new-found freedom to hire a prostitute/surrogate so the literally untouchable Joi can give K a sexual experience.
And women are disposable. A naked, vulnerable replicant is sliced open just as a demonstration of Wallace’s power of life and death over his creations. Faux Rachel is murdered when she is no longer needed.
YET this seemingly inviolable obedience and devotion is just an illusion, as fake as the home-cooked steak dinner that disguises K’s meal of Soylent Green pottage. When Luv kills the human Madame, she explains that she is making the decision by herself, and states that she will LIE to Wallace regarding her reasons. His supposedly complete control over her is a fallacy. The giant interactive hologram of a naked JOI basic model who accosts K implies by her nudity that he will be able to attain a physical and emotional intimacy that cannot be. He will never be able to touch her, and his most personal and poignant moments with his wife are shown to be just part of her program. There is no true allegiance, no love or even respect, even though that is what they were supposedly designed for. There is just deceptiveness and self-deception.
Thanks to Morgan for pointing out that K’s story is that of the Little Match Girl. He has been sustained by the illusions of his own making, and at the end, stripped of all these comforts, he sits alone in the snow.
Thanks to Cal for explaining that the anachronistic PanAm sign is a nod to Kubrick’s 2001, PanAm is the carrier that takes Dr. Floyd to the moon and is likely the method the humans take to the outer planets.
Thanks to Rhys for showing that Luv is one of the most deeply interesting characters, who cries at the sight of death.
Things that I cannot explain (if you can, please do):
Wallace seems to be suffering from cataracts. Why? Cataract surgery is one of the oldest and most common surgeries. Has human medical knowledge degenerated to the point where they cannot treat a simple condition?
What’s with the bees? Out in the desert there are no plants for them to pollinate, why are they there?
That’s enough to think about for now. It’s just a movie after all.
The balcony is closed.
*Unlike say, Dr. Strange, which I enjoyed while I was watching it but afterwards realized that they had put a goatee and a cape on Benedict Cumberbatch and wrapped him in the sets of Inception. And I would watch Benedict Cumberbatch read the phone book if such things still existed. Actually I wish I had watched THAT instead of Dr. Strange.