Blade Runner 2049 is a worthy sequel to the first Blade Runner (1982). This movie is packed with so much detail and references to the first that it requires multiple viewings. The plot is simple, ‘K’ (Ryan Gosling) goes in search of an old Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) to get some answers. There is too much involved in this simple plot and if I were to give out too many details it would ruin the surprise. The questions that I have are simple and have been explored by other reviewers of the film. ‘Reviews’ not so much, more like critiques. There are two aspects of the film that I found myself questioning. They are as follows 1) role and representation of female figures 2) white male as the oppressor and oppressed in the ‘future’….hmmm
(Possible Spoilers* from here on that don’t ruin the SUPRISE)
*The screen is taken up by K as the leading male role. We are introduced to his mundane life and learn that he is a replicant and Blade Runner working for the future LAPD. His boss Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) is the only real human woman that he comes into contact with for a good portion of the film. Joshi is tough and emulates a masculine domineering figure over K. At one point Joshi actually demeans K and hits on him at the same time. For Joshi, K is just another weapon she can use to get her job done. This representation of the female figure in 2049 can be contrasted with K’s girlfriend who is a hologram, created and programmed specifically to emotionally please their owners. This holograms name is Joi (Ana de Armas). In the very first scene we actually see Joi she is wearing a 1950’s dress and presents K with a hologram meal of steak and fries that she places over his mundane ‘real’ one. She is constantly flickering here and there donning different clothes (often in the same scene) and asks K about his day. She is manufactured, presented, and used just to please K in the same way as he was created to be a Blade Runner and ultimately hunt down his own species (replicants). So with this first example, my question is, What is Blade Runner 2049 suggesting about the Female/Male relationship (replicant or not) and more importantly what is 2049 saying about the Female in its world? Asking this question along the lines of the heteronormative suggestion that 2049 focuses on.
When I asked myself these two questions after the film, I was disturbed. I love the original movie but I do have a few problems with both when it comes to presentations of the Female. For instance, the ‘love’ scene where Deckard (Harrison Ford) forcibly ‘manhandles’ Rachel (Sean Young) and in the end, they are seen by audiences ‘making out’ (Blade Runner). Rachel is introduced to Deckard in a similar way as audiences are introduced to Joi both are quiet, beautiful, and there to be looked at and enjoyed. They have little to no authority over their own bodies and they are controlled by the dominant male. In 2049, I feel the issue of the ‘real’ Female representation is more serious. Besides Joshi, there is only one known ‘human’ (or part human) female in the entire movie. The ‘real’ females, the ones that ‘have children’ (which seems to be valued above all else, the discussion of birth vs. creation) is almost non-existent. This aspect supports the synthetic future within the film, where everything is a copy of a copy and almost NOTHING is actually organically birthed (except for humans which of course, are the oppressors).
The second aspect of Blade Runner 2049 was that it is a crime noir film with the usual white men (real or replicant) fighting against other white men (bad guys, good guys, detectives, murder, etc). The replicants, K especially, are oppressed and controlled by humans. In contrast, those today who are victims of oppression and discrimination every day within our own society (minorities) are not fully present within the film. There are less than five (characters that are not white) presented in the film which I found curious since, if Blade Runner 2049 is at all set within a dystopian future that suffers from overpopulation, why is everyone white? The notable traces of Asiatic countries and their presence is seen in both Blade Runner’s but whenever the main characters talk to anyone not speaking English, they only respond in English ( for example the scene where K goes to a shop owner to find out if a wooden horse is made from real or synthetic wood). Although I love Blade Runner 2049 for its visual aspects (the scenes are shot beautifully and the color schemes paired with the soundtrack is awe-inspiring), It is a movie that makes me question exactly what it is saying to its audiences and specifically which audiences?
Overall, I would recommend any fans of the old Blade Runner to go and see this film maybe not with the intention of looking too closely into the details since what we can find there is more disturbing than comforting.
Thank you for reading my writing, I hope that you will return in the future!