Blade Runner 2049: see the world through Hollywood eyes

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.

Blade Runner 2049

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.”

Luv (Sylvia Hoeks)
Luv. Played by Sylvia Hoeks.

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.

Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright)
Police Lieutenant Joshi. Played by Robin Wright.
Rebel Leader Freysa (Hiam Abbass)
Rebel Leader Freysa. Played by Hiam Abbass.
Ana Stelline (Carla Juri)
Ana Stelline. Played by Carla Juri.
Blade Runner
Available at Amazon.

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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The Blade Runner 2040 Trailer

 

18 thoughts on “Blade Runner 2049: see the world through Hollywood eyes

  1. I saw Blade Runner with my family on Saturday and generally our opinion was positive – the one negative is the very long length of the movie i.e. it could have been shorter. The plot/narrative is appealing and logical and keeps the viewer guessing and the acting is up to scratch. There is a lot riding on the film at a budget of $150 million but I reckon it will recover this over the long term, even if not making a profit, given that the original Blade Runner also did not take off at the box office.

    As a sequel, it does a pretty good job in my opinion and obtained the required investment to make it stand out from the most homogenous crowd of sci-movies like the Marvel films (all the same), Star Wars (being done to death by Disney) etc.

  2. No!! No! “Blade Runner” is not boring! It has themes, and allusions, and…and…and did I mention themes? It influenced other classic movies that I’m sure you love, such as “Johnny Mnemonic” and Strange Days”! Don’t say bad things about it!

    But seriously, I liked your review. Especially the part about “misogyny.” It seems the only thing worse than not treating women like men…is treating women like men.

    1. PAT,

      I loved Blade Runner! It’s influence is legion in sci fi films (most of which are devoid of new ideas). Blade Runner 2049 is the ersatz version of Blade Runner, manufactured to earn a buck.

      Interesting comment about the misogyny. The Left appears to consider anything but Socialist Realist art to be evil. Like The Great Wall. Men and women, both great warriors (the women a general, the guy just a grunt). They fight together, then shake hands and go their separate ways. That was the writer’s concept for Pacific Rim, frustrated by the director who created a light romance between the leads without changing the script.

  3. The left just wants something to complain about. Look at TV – representations of gender and race not consistent with reality. Heck, it’s even done in commercials. Misogyny trumps (grab em by the …) race – right Cam Newton?

  4. Don’t forget that the Synthetics have taken many of the jobs that WOULD go to humans. Ryan Gosling’s character is resented by his human neighbors for this. They live in slums, rationed food, or on the outskirts of civilization foraging for tech. They probably have more “rights” than synths… on paper, but are useless in comparison to the bioengineered slave humans.

  5. Once I heard about Ridley Scott’s attempt to retcon the original Blade Runner (with the unicorn dream sequence and other crap in the Director’s Cut) with the notion that Deckard is himself a replicant, (which, if true, renders much of what happens in that excellent movie nonsensical), I lost all interest in seeing this sequel, though I’ll probably catch it on rental at some point.

    One of the few cases where an actor had a much better understanding of the story than the director. Hell, apparently everyone involved tried to talk him out of the Deckard=replicant premise, but he just pulled rank and stuck with it.

    As George Lucas has taught us, sometimes creative properties need to be protected from their creators.

    1. phageghost,

      I agree that Deckard as a replicant is a forced reading of the original film (which imo is the best of the many recuts). That so many people like that reading reflects our fascination with alt identities. As with DarkWing Duck, Spiderman’s Spawn, the many specie-crossings hybrids in Star Trek (idiotic if good drama), and the entirety of the new Battlestar Galactica. This means something. I don’t know what.

      The nature of Deckard’s biology plays no role in BR2049. I believe it assumes that he is human, based on some small bits of dialog (but I haven’t thought much about it, and could easily have missed other evidence during my 3 hour slog thru BR2049’s wasteland — without much drama or action.

    2. For me, the critical message was not that Deckard was a replicant, but that he, a human, could be reduced to a state where he couldn’t tell if he was or not. Just as Roy shows that a replicant can achieve humanity, Deckard shows that a human can become totally detached from humanity. Him actually being a replicant would ruin that.

    3. Spoiler alert!

      Tice,

      The big story in my opinion was K’s journey to become human. Somehow he broke his programming and made his own choice. That was imo as big or bigger deal than the big plot reveal. In terms of the revolution, much bigger.

      Of course, it shows that even when we have AI’s and star travel, there will still be shoddy programming.

  6. Hi Mr Kummer and all,

    This wasn’t the post or the comments I was hoping for… dadgumit!

    I will go see it, and I’ll see it with as open a mind…amuse bouche

    I still love Seven Samurai. I can love long movies. It’s an advantage of advanced old age. An hour to me is a minute to you.

    Blade Runner, I saw in the theater. I’d read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (pretty sure that was the title) I don’t know how many years earlier…

    I was enrapt. I am still at a loss it wasn’t huge at the time. It 2001ed me. I watched the latest directors cut here in Atlanta not long ago on a (fairly) big screen, and I still loved it. Even more. It stands up. I think they’ve gotten better, on the whole.

    The scene of Deckard “retiring” Salome… that was Philip K Dick flipping your world view upside down, and Ridley Scott nailed it.

    Of course, it was horrible. But it was mind-expanding. What if something with a few months to live, wants to live with that much passion? Then, had to suffer so much to not be allowed to? Well, 42! You can’t even contemplate the question. Awesome in the sense of awe-some. Aweful. From whence life?

    How to rank movies? Different criteria.

    Just favorite? Seven Samurai, Godfather, Blade Runner… I just love them.

    One I’d like to steal and say “I made that!” Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Everything revealed, I suppose…

    Really freaked me out: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (freakier than the book, and way to creepy real how that can really happen) and The Killing Fields.

    One I hope I never forget watching on the floor with a beautiful woman and laughing our asses off: The Princess Bride.

    To save civil discourse: Blazing Saddles and any number of Richard Pryor stand-ups as the amuse bouche.

    With all of the best regards for you and those who come here,

    Bill

  7. Reblogged this on gottadobetterthanthis and commented:
    ~
    A worthy review. I disagree the film was boring. It was certainly slow paced. It gave me time to think, take it in.

    I didn’t expect it to live up to my hopes and expectations. It almost did.

    The original Blade Runner is simply must see. It really is a movie everyone should see regardless of its cinematic characteristics. BR2049 was worth the wait and mostly lived up to the legacy.

  8. FWIW, per reviews, I was expecting a formulaic movie with beautiful set design, like Oblivion (2013). Ended up being let down by the set design — low light dystopian / post-apocalyptic scenery is boooooring, The best movie worlds need to be alive.

    The movie though – while indeed lifeless on so many levels, I thought it worked great as suspense. Also food for thought on some themes of socio-economic relations, and isolation enabled by media-tech. And by the standards of how painfully blunt Hollywood productions tend to but be when they choose to moralize – the delivery of those themes wasn’t too bad.

    And yes, all the most powerful characters were women. Probably the virtual AI housewife is something that generated a bit of discomfort. Also the protagonist and the movie itself is a dud for romance, or personal connection of any kind … which is another part of the whole exposition of the dystopia that defines this film.

    Despite this, above average movie for watching the mystery unfold. Yes obvious plot holes in terms of the genetics. Suspend disbelief… See it if you’re ok with “dark”, and don’t expect the original :\

    1. Pete,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the film!

      “And yes, all the most powerful characters were women. ”

      Guessing, this is the future of products from Hollywood. Look at TV shows, where the authority figures are increasingly women. Last night’s Blue Bloods — the 2 senior women in the DA’s office, the female Mayor, the female judge. NCIS Los Angeles — the two senior women in the department of Special Projects, Kensi is dominant in every way over Deeks just as Nell is over Eric.

      Similarly, romantic plot arc are women breaking alpha men into betas. Castle in “Castle” was a bold alpha in season one, a pitiful subservient beta to his mother, wife, and daughter by the end. Similarly with Deeks in NCIS LA. Both lost vitality and IQ points as the show evolved, to better showcase the dominance of the women around them.

      Not much equality, as was usually the case in men-women TV partnerships going back to “The Avengers” (starting in 1961), with Steed’s equal (and even more kick-ass) partners.

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