I’ve only watched Blade Runner 2049 once. There are no big spoilers, and below I’ve also included a summary of the main plot in the review.
K … (later referred to as K) is a Blade Runner hunting replicants. Sounds familiar, but times have changed now and there are a new series of replicants, some of which are recruited to hunt the older series. K justifies hunting older models who ‘run’, having been steeled for his job by intense psychological training akin to brainwashing (‘cells are interlinked’) that first appear as a way to make K think he is human to protect human interests or to adhere to a baseline of standard operating behaviour that is fit for a Blade Runner. It’s a bit like the Voight-Kampff test in the first Blade Runner, but this time it’s for a replicant working as one, and not to determine whether a human is a replicant.
The first job we see him carry out is to ‘retire’ a replicant who lives and works as a protein farmer, but wasn’t always a farmer, having likely been a replicant working off world as slave labour. Most older-series replicants used to work as slaves. The replicant is extremely strong and well-built, and looks more than capable of ripping K apart, and having seen the extraordinary strength of replicants in the first film we don’t think we’ll be surprised by the result. Understandably, he replicant isn’t happy that K has intruded on his home and does not want to have his eye scanned prior to being taken in, where it can be assumed he will be ‘retired’ anyway. A vicious fight ensues, after which K survives. He does find something interesting on the farm, a casket of bones, and reports the find to headquarters before making his way there.
At headquarters, analysis shows that the bones belong to a woman who had a C-section. What’s strange – and ‘ominous’ to most of the human workers doing the analysis next to K – is that the woman was a replicant! A replicant reproduced! How or why is not known and K’s boss Lieutenant Joshi doesn’t even care so long as the truth is hidden and all evidence, including a surviving child, is erased. The balance between humanity and replicant has to be preserved, for the sake of appearances if nothing else. K is ordered to find and kill the missing child, who has grown up now, but he has immediate misgivings. K is trained to kill replicants without ‘souls’ and children or beings that are born are considered to have souls. Ironically his Joshi comments that K has managed to get along fine without one, until this time, which makes us see how similar in terms of detaching themselves from empathy killer-replicant K is to human Joshi.
This odd parallel between human consciousness and the replicant non-consciousness is apparent on Earth in everyday life. People frequently hurl abuse at K, calling him a ‘skin job’, and these are even the same people who live in his apartment block. K himself seems at first to wholly dismiss human women as potential partners because he has a relationship with a holographic customisable artificial intelligence called Joi. However, as the problem of her unreality hits him he opts for a blurring of the lines, a best of both solution to his needs. Why? He can’t touch Joi, or share physical intimacy. She’s locked in his apartment’s digital network, and if he receives a call or there is interference then she either pauses or disappears. That’s not good, is it? But K instinctively knows he shares something special with her on an emotional level, and seeks to free her from her constraints. She, in turn, wants to help bridge the gap between their realities. I thought it was quite sad how they seemed trapped away from each other. I kept worrying that her behaviour was just programming – I suppose it’s inevitable for a human to think about artificial life-forms in this way – but I really wanted their connection to be real.
A recurring theme in Blade Runner 2049 was the reality of dreams. If our dreams aren’t real, it means we’re not real. Having implanted dreams means somebody has a level of control over your mind – or had at some point – and this realisation can be terrifying. We live in a world not unlike that of Blade Runner 2049. We have technology where our voices can be recorded and our every movement seen or monitored. It’s this level of technological manipulation, intrusion, and control that is at its most powerful and dangerous to the individual in Blade Runner 2049. To humans as they exist in the film, human lives are expendable and human emotions are secondary in both humans and replicants. Pleasure – human hookers, pleasure models, giant holographic women, and statues – are seen as appropriate substitutes. Despite all the artificial or holographic glamour, we do see a contrast between its falsity and the genuine bonds shared between two beings. Even in a corporate-controlled world where technology is plugged in everywhere there can be hope and true humanity (even if it’s not always between humans as we know them).
Blade Runner 2049 has amazing visuals, just like the first film. There was a motorbike sound throughout town that pressured the audience into thinking something deadly was always on the verge of occurring. Holographic scantily clad women and brands advertising were to be seen everywhere. You could be forgiven, in some shots, of thinking the world bore some resemblance to Star Wars’ Coruscant, in scope, but the lack of aircraft gave it that post-apocalyptic hunter-in-his-car feel. There was more action than the first film, but there were enough characters and depth to appreciate it as equal to its predecessor, and the audience kept wondering who was to be trusted. K was a contrast to Deckard, being emotionally suppressed and psychologically trained for his job – as well as being a replicant – and without the emotional human vulnerability side that Deckard shows. K cast his emotions aside, and like fought a robotic thug, even though we know he is disturbed by dreams that later threaten to ask himself questions about his identity.
(The website requests cookies, but for what purpose, now or in 32 years’ time, we’ll never know.)