Blade Runner 2049 – A Thothful Movie Review
It’s 2049. You are a blade runner.
“a system of cells”
You identify and retire Replicants… like death retires human beings.
“like cells interlinked”
Replicants are self-evolving bio-engineered human beings.
“within cells interlinked”
Made to replicate and evolve, they become more human by the day.
“within one stem”
To be human is to be different.
To be a rapidly-evolving human means to become superhuman…
… Or more frightfully – more human than human.
“interlinked within cells”
And that is why it is your job to retire stray Replicants.
“a system of cells”
And if it was 2019, you would have most probably been a human.
“interlinked within cells”
But in 2049, human beings and replicants are practically indistinguishable.
Your name is the initial of your model number.
“a system of cells”
A replicant is created to replicate being human…
“cells interlinked, within cells interlinked”
But, what does it mean to be human?
“Post Trauma Baseline Test: Complete”
So, are Blade Runner (1982) and Blade Runner 2049 interlinked? Long answer:
I’m thinking… when I watched the Final Cut of the first Blade Runner (1982) a while back now, a day or two before watching Blade Runner 2049, I was thinking… “This isn’t my kind of sci-fi setting (bleak, dark, cluttered, dystopian). Maybe it’s just one of those movies that gets props for being one of those movies, back when they didn’t do as many movies as those… You know?
So, as Movie Monk Confusious mused over his confusion as to whether Movie Monk Sarcofagus and I – were plain stupid or downright morons, for not having watched this classic… we finally sat down to watch it. And to meditate. Because we’re Movie Monks. We meditate on movies… Aaand self-introductory plugs asides, the movie began and I’m thinking, we were right off the bat impressed by the visual-achievement that the movie must have been in 1982. Every frame looked like it was pulled out of a beautifully drawn, dark graphic novel.
Nonetheless, I’m thinking, halfway through the story – I kept thinking – how the plot and progression weren’t impressing me all that much. The story of a Blade Runner hunting replicants in an imagined 2019, which looks nothing even remotely similar to what 2017 now looks like?… And the replicants? I’m thinking, at that point – I shrugged them off like they were the machines from the Matrix *shrug*. And only in retrospect can I appreciate that –
“therein lies one of the greatest long cons in cinema history i.e. the plot for Blade Runner”
I’m thinking, anybody who watches the old Blade Runner, will instantly point out how mind-blowingly surprising its ending was. This – mainly due to one of the most heartfelt monologues in cinema history, delivered (and also written by) by actor Rutger Haue. So what’s the con? Indeed – the con of Blade Runner (1982) is that it leads you to believe that the movie is just another story about the good guy hunting the bad guys i.e. the replicants. And only at the end of the movie, does the “dreadfully distinct” significance of the Blade Runner universe in the sci-fi genre, significantly hit you. It hit me? Indeed, I’m thinking the movie made me feel and think about “artificially” created-beings like I never thought of them before. You see – I realized – if The Blade Runner sci-fi universe was bleak, dark, cluttered, dystopian… It was only because that’s what a world made for machines looks like. But the irony is: the Replicants aren’t machines, rather – machines made to replicate humans. And to be human means to – FEEL.
Why does this make Blade Runner’s Replicants more interesting than say – the A.I. of The Matrix? I’m thinking, if I snap a pencil in two – nobody would blink an eye. But if the pencil could feel… if the pencil had memories… and the pencil didn’t want you to snap it in two: then how now do you feel about all the pencils you snapped in life? It feels dreadfully similar to how we hope death would feel for us, doesn’t it?
So, after being so philosophically blown away by the first part, think how psyched I was to see what the Blade Runner universe would look like in 2017. Or more appropriately – in 2049. This time, the experience would include Ryan Gosling (of the as-straight-faced-as-a-replicant-from-the-movie-Drive fame). And it would be directed by the guy that already made one of the best sci-fi movies period – Arrival (2016). Not to mention – Prisoners, Sicario and Incendies: Denis Villeneuve – the guy who convinces you that the standard for great films is higher than expected, with each new film that he makes.
So are Blade Runner (1982) and Blade Runner 2049 interlinked? Short answer:
In case the fact that I just broke into a mini-review for the first part without even starting on the sequel, doesn’t significantly indicate anything… 1 – you should consider taking the Post Trauma Baseline Test I started this review with – again! And 2:
Yes, they are interlinked. Very closely too – I’m thinking. And even still, in all fairness, I’m thinking I must regretfully admit that you don’t have to watch the old one to get this new one. In fact, what adds to the cinematic masterpiece i.e. Blade Runner 2049, is that it’s a perfectly balanced sequel and stand-alone film at the same time. But be warned, I’m thinking, this is one movie you have-to/want-to watch with complete, unflinching attention. It deliberately doesn’t always explain itself and least of all in its dialogue. Rather, every breath-taking gorgeous, stunning, dreadful – visual frame of this 2 hrs. and 44-minute masterpiece – is carefully constructed to inform your imagination and understanding: of all that was, all that has transpired, and all that is – in this truly other-worldly version of the world as we know it.
My verdict: Watch both parts! These movies aren’t simply movies, they’re artistic masterpieces which compliment each other. And like with any true art, if you don’t invest interest in it, you – Just. Won’t. Get. It.
How to watch, enjoy and appreciate Blade Runner 2049:
The movie is pretty long for a Hollywood sci-fi film, as indicated with the aforementioned movie duration. And so, I’m thinking, if you’re expecting an exciting action-packed, explosive, fun-filled film, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. At the heart of it, like the first Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049 is a sci-fi investigative movie, and metaphorically so. As also indicated earlier – the meaning of the movie demands investigation. The movie takes its time, it’s slow when it needs to be, it’s fast when it needs to be, and if you’re not feeling every carefully crafted scene, I’m thinking – it deliberately ignores you.
Make no mistake:
The true hero of Blade Runner 2049 is beyond doubt its mind-blowing visuals, whose brilliance goes beyond Art and can probably be described as “Surreal”. But if you aren’t really taking it in – you won’t really see it.
The true heroine of Blade Runner 2049 is undoubtedly its Sound. The soundtrack hauntingly enchants you with other-worldly – retro, electronic, daunting, futuristic echoes. And it is this music that transports you to fully experience this alternative world in person. But if you aren’t really grasping it in – you won’t really hear it.
And finally, it is this union of otherworldly visuals and sounds that finally give birth to Blade Runner 2049: a movie that is sci-fi by nature, but a truly, worldly, human story – by virtue. And like witnessing any true creation being birthed, it’s bound to leave you awestruck on the precipice where emotion and understanding meet. But you have to feel it, or you won’t really know it.
Being Thothful about the Philosophy of Blade Runner:
The philosophy of Blade Runner, as per my Thothful interpretation, seems to interestingly deal with the age-old question: what makes us human. However, the thing about the Blade Runner philosophy, which really freaked me out – I’m thinking – was the idea that we aren’t the only ones capable of being what we call – Human. The idea that there are thinking-feeling-remembering replacements for us, capable of being human. Perhaps even more human than human. Possibly – better. Better – not just at thinking, but possibly better at feeling, and better at living. And the movie threatens that these replacements are so easily at hand – that even we can create them. We humans are so confident and arrogant about being the most superior species encountered, that we never consider the possibility that we can be replaced. Machines can be given memories and machines can be given superior intelligence/abilities – this is now easily fathomable, I’m thinking. However – I’m thinking – what makes humans so irreplaceable are our empathetic feelings and our ability to contemplate. And if bio-engineered humans created by humans – can have that – then what difference does it make who created them? Humans have been dabbling with the idea of being gods for centuries. Yet most of us don’t care about who created us. We even conveniently ignore the fact that we were created, making us incapable of being the Alpha, let alone the Omega. So, for instance, if we were replaced by a species that we happened to create, who don’t give a damn about us, how different would that be?
There’s an interesting verse from the Quran –
“… And whoever withholds only withholds [benefit] from himself; and Allah is the Free of need, while you are the needy. And if you turn away, He will replace you with another people; then they will not be the likes of you” –The Holy Quran, verse (47:38)
– I thought then and I’m still thinking, The Quran may be referring to a different culture or a different people. However, that inference speaks volumes of the false certainty that I have as a human – of being the ultimate creation. So much so, I didn’t even consider the possibility of there being a completely new creation, superior to human beings. Then I read this:
“Did We fail in the first creation? But they are in confusion over a new creation” –The Holy Quran, 50:14
Point is: the reason Blade Runner 2049 is the best sci-fi movie that I’ve watched period, is because it has humbled me as a human like no other movie has. Spiritually, it has given me a fresher perspective into how alone and confused we humans are, being the most “superior” species encountered in our little world.
It has left me with a hundred questions that I never considered a possibility. Hypothetical questions like:
What if human beings were created to simply create a better creation?
And morally challenging questions like:
What if human beings were replaced by or subject to a better species, like we subject the environment, animals etc. – as of now -to us, would that be better? Could that be worse?
There’s a metaphorical scene in the movie where a Replicant hires a human prostitute: and tells her the next morning that – “I’m done with you, you can leave”.
And that’s the thought Blade Runner 2049 left me with: if tomorrow brings other thinking, feeling beings into existence to co-exist with us in our little world. And such beings, whether created by us or by an unknown, happen to become more human than human (‘human’ – being the only word we’ve invented to describe our standard and not just species). And if said Beings became better inhabitants than us, what would happen if they eventually told us – humans – “we’re done with you. You can leave”.