Summary: This review of Blade Runner 2049 is unlike the ones you see on Rotten Tomatoes. The film, and the critics’ reviews, reveals much about us — perhaps the real value of this boring film and its lavish cinematography.
A review of Blade Runner 2049.
I watch indie science fiction shorts on YouTube. The key is to skim to find the good ones, since most are terrible. Most are done by people in love with their cameras and little interest in plot and character. I start at the two minute mark, since nothing happens at the opening — just endless boring establishing shots. Blade Runner 2049 (BR2049) is just like those, but spun out to 164 minutes.
BR2049 is dull. Despite the gushing praise in most reviews, the visuals are not just dull but inferior to those in the original Blade Runner (which were not only stunning, but innovative). The plot makes little sense, even on its own terms. The key plot point (the bad guy’s motive) is absurd, given their skill at genetic engineering. Some of the scenes advance the plot through clunky implausibilities. The scenes in BR were alive with crowds of people; the scenes in BR2049 are sterile and empty — even dead.
The best part of the film was the classic Hero’s Journey of one of the lead characters. The world is wrecked, with few signs of hope even in the stars (we have just taken our sins with us). Humanity is irredeemable, with horrors in our past and another war in the future. But it ends with one tiny spark, like a flower breaking through the snow.
Is BR2049 misogynist?
Like a tic, film critics pan anything insufficiently leftist by condemning its portrayal of women. Lots of that about BR2048. For example, Sara Stewart at the NY Post says “You’ll love the new ‘Blade Runner’ — unless you’re a woman.”
“Female characters get the short end of the stick in this long-awaited dystopian sequel; they are drowned, knifed in the stomach, shot point-blank in the head and, in one instance, simply winked out of existence with the stomp of a boot. All, it must be said, with artful cinematic relish.”
Most of the casualties in BR2049 are men — all those anonymous male workers who die in the fight scenes (they’re beneath the notice of critics on the screen as in real life). There are four guys with significant roles. Two die. One is knifed; one is shot.
Charlotte Gush at Vice adds different complaint: “Why blade runner 2049 is a misogynistic mess” — “Women in the sci-fi sequel are either prostitutes, holographic housewives or they die brutal deaths that we are forced to watch in horrifying detail.” Jordan Valdes says it is a “heterosexual male fantasy.” David Jenkins at Little White Lies, has a similar critique.
“But what tips it towards the negative is its clutch of dubiously rendered female characters. Women in Blade Runner 2049 are one of three things: evil, prostitutes or naked.”
They must have dozed during the film (easy to do). Following the trend in Hollywood productions, all the leaders in BR2049 are women, except for the obligatory white middle-aged corporate bad guy. See these photos of the Police Lieutenant, Rebel leader, and a scientists (plus Luv, the bad guy’s Chief Assassin). No hyper-sexualization. As usual in modern TV and film, clothes are unisex (with a few exceptions of women dressed for work). Only one of them suffers a “brutal death”. Also, the prostitute Charlotte and David mention is not what she seems.
Hollywood sees the future.
The first Blade Runner film showed us a vision from 1982 of the future. We have severely damaged the world of 2019, but have built interstellar colonies, flying cars, and synthetic human beings (almost like the natural kind, but genetically engineered to be stronger and smarter). Our world of 2017 is superior in every way, although without the super-tech of BR’s world. Despite Hollywood’s fears, new tech has made the developed nations cleaner and the world richer.
Despite the failed vision of BR, in BR2049 Hollywood again shows us a bleak vision of the future. Tech has advanced in the 30 years since BR — there are super-AI and holograms in cheap consumer products — but with poorer people and a wrecked world.
BR2049 might get some things right — which the critics miss. First, the women are hard — formidable presences in their unisex outfits (the dark, loose pants and shirt of Mao’s China and today’s colleges). Men reasonably prefer prostitutes and AI-driven hologram sexbots.
Second, BR2024 has two levels of class warfare. Natural humans’ hate the replicants that have taken their jobs, much as the early unions’ opposed immigration (drove down wages, immigrants often used as strike-breakers). And replicants are slave workers in the Blade Runner world. Their fight is a class war against their corporate owners. The Hero’s Journey in BR2049 describes a revolutionary awakening of consciousness. The real world might see a lot of that during the next 30 years.
For More Information
A great look-back at the first BR: “Blade Runner’s 2019 Los Angeles helped define the American city of the future” by Peter Suderman at VOX — “In many ways, Ridley Scott’s 1982 film set our expectations of what future urban centers should look like.” It’s a great description of the film, but his theory is obviously false.
The best review I’ve seen of BR2049 — “Making Sense Of Mystery: The ‘Blade Runner 2049’ Ending Explained” by Ricky Derisz — Many spoilers!
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