Bladerunner 2049: A Cautionary Tale
Updated: Oct 4, 2019
A perfect example of what happens when fantastic actors are handed a god awful script. Supposedly this movie is supposed to be exploring one of the underlying themes in Science Fiction (yes it is supposed to be capitalized); the question 'what is human?'. Star Trek has dedicated more episodes than I care to count right now to this question in one form or another. The show Almost Human was devoted almost exclusively to this question (personally I think if it hadn't been for politics it would still be running) and did a damned fine job with it. This issue was central to Asimov's Robots of Dawn series. In each of these cases the authors spent some time exploring differing aspects of the human condition in an honest attempt to answer this question. Its very clear that the writers of this movie, however, did not. Instead they put about as much thought into their answer as I do when asked what I want for dinner. Admittedly that is sometimes a battle.
The movie meanders about through most of it's length before positing the idea that the most human action is to die for something. First off, that's not a definition for what it means to be human. That's the definition for altruism; an attribute that can be found more often in most mammals, even when dealing with different species.
Along the way we see multiple examples of obvious fighters who then allow themselves to die (mostly for zero gain) in a juvenile attempt to prove this asinine idea. We are told that Dave Batista's character allowed himself to be killed to hide a secret that was easily uncovered by the standard equipment of a Bladerunner. K's superior officer allows herself to be murdered simply because she somehow thought a security system less effective than a screen saver would keep sensitive information safe. And at the end of the movie K allows himself to bleed out instead of stopping by the supermarket for some 'glue'. None of this is in any way close to how humans react. In fact, if we were to accept the writers' interpretation of what it means to be human we would be forced to conclude that the most human person in the movie was the psychopathic replicant Love, as she is literally the only person who dies fighting for something! Sorry Jack the Ripper, we clearly misunderstood you. Apologies Adolf; clearly you were far more human than the people you were actively exterminating.
On top of this failure is the fact that the movie merely nods its head in the general direction of issues that should be at the forefront of this story: namely slavery, degradation of sentient beings, and racism. The closest we come to this is watching a blind man throw a tantrum because his latest attempt at making fertile replicants has failed. Now first off, nobody gets that successful without understanding the simple economic rule of supply and demand, nor the exponential nature of reproduction. His giving replicants the ability to reproduce would be the equivalent of Walmart handing out Star Trek style replicators. Secondly, even if he were trying to cut his own throat financially, why would he destroy such a failure when he could still sell it? Apparently such behavior is simply not dramatic enough.
The movie steps on its own assumptions as well. At the beginning we are told that these new replicants must follow orders. Yet we see K lie to his superior, and even kill humans. This made sense when we thought he was a human being (or at least partially human) but gains the cohesiveness of a cup of powdered sugar dumped in the ocean when we find out he's still a replicant. Nor does it make sense for him to even have the memories that might have made him think he wasn't. Why would you pass on such memories to who knows how many replicants, when you are trying to hide from the people making replicants. You don't leave a trail of breadcrumbs to your hidden lair.
Supposedly the point of this movie was that the replicants were more human than the humans. But the bottom line is, this is due to Ryan Gosling acting his ass off and the writers crafting a slew of characters that are as two dimensional as paper Mario, and/or have the self preservation instincts of a moth at a candlelit dinner.
The movie attempts to distract us from these flaws with incredible graphics, copious amounts of sexually suggestive content (most likely in the hopes of creating enough blood loss in the brain to make it hard to think) and a plethora of action. And even in this there are paradoxes. For over 2 hours we are treated to K breaking people with the enthusiasm of Wreck-it-Ralph, be it in melee combat or with his sidearm. In melee he disables his opponent (usually permanently) with a brutal efficiency Darth Vader would envy. When that's too much effort he shoots them with an accuracy and speed John Wick would approve of. Yet in the final confrontation with Love (the psycho replicant, not the emotion) he misses several times, and passes up on at least two opportunities to disable her in melee. I guess that wouldn't have been dramatic enough.
Personally, I give this movie a 30%; and all of that belongs to the actors. But if this subject interests you, go watch #Almost_Human.