December 18, 2017


"Blade Runner 2049", despite its amazing, atmospheric sets and production design, is a blistering disappointment. I am huge Philip Dick fan--both print and film--(e.g., "Through a Glass Darkly," "Minority Report") and the original 1982 "Blade Runner" (director's cut), is one of my all-time fav films. But now I am questioning my love of BR after seeing the sequel. Read on.


For starters, one really needs to have seen the original BR for the sequel to make any sense at all. It's actually very satisfying for the audience to already know what a "replicant" is and what the heck is transpiring as the film gets off the ground, cutting deep into the BR world.

For those who haven't seen the original BR, here's a rundown. The fictional "Tyrell Group" robotics company (slogan: "more human than human") creates the world's most life-like human robots to do the superhuman and dangerous work of planetary expeditions. They are forbidden from returning to earth. However, as the computer-machines self-evolve, they don't want to be "retired" aka terminated (just like us humans--who could blame them?) Some models also have an indeterminate expiration date. Lest their kind mutiny and take over, futuristic human cops called "blade runners" must hunt these immortals down and kill them if they return to earth. Harrison Ford (incidentally, Fr. Harrison Ayre @christian_state is named after Harrison Ford) is the main character, a blade runner cop (LAPD) named "Rick Deckard." Only problem is, it's very hard to tell replicants from humans, AND Deckard manages to fall in love with a replicant (Sean Young).

Rutger Hauer (incidentally whom I met at a Santa Monica U-Haul) plays a replicant resisting his demise. The film ends with a subtle question: At one point might we consider these creatures (of human creating) human? Have they earned their stripes? Are they somehow becoming human? (My answer: NEVER!)

SPOILER ALERT! And then there's the question, is Deckard himself really a replicant, beknownst or unbeknownst to himself? In some fan literature, it seems to be a settled question (supposedly settled by Philip Dick himself).


Ryan ("Hey, girl") Gosling plays a  replicant blade runner (LAPD is now hiring replicants!) without a name (replicants don't get names so he's just called "K") sent to kill immortal replicants (the "older models") of which he is also one. In the opening scene he is about to kill "one of his own kind." The doomed replicant utters a mysterious sentence about why he wants to live: He claims he has witnessed "a miracle."

In his spare robot time, "K" listens to Frank Sinatra and enjoys time with his hologram Stepford wife named Joi (hologram wives are allowed to have names) who is utterly adoring, waits on "K" hand and foot and keeps changing her tailored clothes mid-sentence (incidentallly, Gosling also stars in "Lars and the Real Girl" about a young man in a relationship with a doll). This diaphanous woman is so scary--scary, that is, if there's a future for her ilk IRHL (In Real Human Life). Please tell me this is NOT what real men really want.

Without giving too much away, the "miracle" has something to do with replicants replicating or, rather, reproducing--even though that's not supposed to be possible.


The few humans in BR 2049 are rather nasty, cynical folks, while the plastic people--save one femme fatale replicant--are rather affable (self-loathing filmmaking humans, anyone?) Little by little we see more and more "human" traits in the robos. The question of what makes us human is all over the film. The film's answer seems to be: "a soul," "birth," "memories" and "feeling desired." The robots want to become the best of what is human while the humans are devolving into the worst of ourselves and becoming, well, robotic: unfeeling and coldly calculating. On second thought, maybe the filmmakers are not self loathing. Maybe a mirror is being held up to us.

The Tyrell Group also is briefly reprised, now helmed by the evil Mister "we lost our stomach for slaves" Wallace (played with aplomb by the always reliably trippy Jared Leto). Many other elements from the original BR are also revisited, including some hard-boiled dialogue which is always a hoot: some good but heavy-handed maxims about humanity and nobility.


I read an article that queried: "Are Millennials too impatient to appreciate the new Blade Runner?" Er, no. Millennials have great tolerance for science fiction and in-depth, intricate stories. But they, wisely and discriminatingly, as with any age cohort, do not have patience with snail-paced, predictable films.  

For me, the question of the co-existence of humans and robots (before The Singularity, that is) was already answered eloquently by HAL in "2001: A Space Odyssey." Yes. They will eliminate us.

The mythology is tight, but, as in  Spielberg-directed Kubrick's "A.I.," what makes the whole enterprise a failure (even if you can endure its utter bleakness), is the fact that in "A.I." and "Blade Runner 2049", we are not watching humans (even though it's easy to forget that fact). We are watching robots. They are not human and never will be. And, quite frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a damn about the so-called emotional lives of robots.


--One big plot hole: they coulda used some kind of IVF on the robos to get them to "reproduce" or otherwise manufactured them. It wasn't clear why they had to have "faith births" (to quote the fine film "Gattaca").

--To answer at the most basic Theology of the Body level: "What makes us human?" It's not how we're conceived or birthed or our memories or desirability. (Incidentally, all humans are loved by God and by other humans who love all humans.) What makes us human is first of all that we're "made of human stuff." If you're made of human stuff, you are human. God obeys us even today when we play God and scientists manufacture human life in the lab (e.g., IVF): God endows that child with a soul. God--not humans--makes us human, and God is the Source of the dignity of all human beings without exception.

--My mother: "Let's go see that movie, 'Rollerblade.'"

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