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Blade Runner: Life As We Don’t Know It

Blade Runner: 2049 is the sequel to the 1982 cyberpunk classic Blade Runner. The 1982 film was set in 2019 which seemed like a long ways away. Futuristic societies and flying cars were on the horizon in the original film. Instead of that reality, today we have thousands of social media platforms, smart advertising algorithms that could spread propaganda slightly better than posters, and cars that can do 30 miles per gallon on the highway.

While the vision of the future in the 1982 Blade Runner isn’t meant as a prediction, the direction that the film is a society that is certainly more attuned into what’s happening than it may first appear. Corporations are the ultimate controlling powers, and the dystopian elements don’t stop at just the oppression of freedom under the guise of serving mankind.

Countless sci-fi works found their inspiration in Ridley Scott‘s film, from Ghost In The Shell (the lackluster movie adaptation earlier this year should be erased from our memories) and Akira (the remake has been in production hell for years and hopefully stays that way) to name just a couple.

Adapted from Philip K. Dick‘s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the Blade Runner: 2049 explores some heavy themes: the fragile nature of what is genuine versus artificial, the elusive hunt for the form and source of the soul, the paranoia that creeps in when society and ego find themselves at an impasse.

These, among many others, are the questions that Blade Runner: 2049 asks. The film begs and begs but never caves into objectivity. Having seen Blade Runner: 2049 for my fifth time, I can tell you this sequel would have made the original movie producers proud. Denis Villeneuve, the masterful director of the picture, may have crafted one of the best sequels of all time.

This film goes beyond prolific. It’s an astounding study of humanity and it looks straight into the eye of every gaze we fear. In the film, synthetic humans called replicants are farmed as slaves. By creating life for the tasks that humans decided were beneath them, the film created a mirror that shows us how low we actually are.

Denis arranges the detective story around our new protagonist, Officer KD6-3.7, who is played absolutely brilliantly by Ryan Gosling. Officer KD6-3.7 is a small person who is caught in the whirring chaos and larger powers that surround him. The genius storytelling asks broad questions. Is there even an answer? Will humanity ever figure itself out?
The film manages to present a familiar world but still feel like something original. Villeneuve somehow paid homage to the original without copying it.

I’ll draw the Ghost in The Shell parallel again. The new Blade Runner is like a writer who reads Shakespeare and manages to get better at wordplay, maybe this writer even borrows the structure of Macbeth to create a skeleton for the new work. Ghost in The Shell is like a little kid claiming to be Norman Rockwell after slapping down a piece of tracing paper and half-assing some silhouettes.

Stealing like an artist means taking the world original stories and distilling them down to the vital ingredients. Then, the artist moves forward and breathes new life into a unique work. The trick to this film’s success, to me, is the fact that no concrete truth at all is revealed. Blade Runner: 2049 is, by leaps and bounds, my favorite film of the year. If you find yourself hungry for an audiovisual feast, then check it out before it’s off the big screen.

Featured Image by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

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