The Film The parable of the blind men and an elephant is one that really describes the entire world of film and literary criticism. Academia has fragmented into critical schools, each designed to examine works with a very specific – and ultimately, limited – critical eye. Each critical approach is blind to the whole, like the blind men are to the elephant, and it can be devastating not only to one’s aesthetic and intellectual development, but to how one understands an individual work, the world of that work, and sometimes even the world around us. Which naturally brings us to Blade Runner 2049. Upon its initial release, Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up to the critically-acclaimed Arrival (which was a follow-up to the critically-acclaimed Sicario, and so on and so on), was met with… critical acclaim, with many reviewers actually preferring 2049 to the original, Ridley Scott-directed Blade Runner (1982). It now sits at a score of 87% fresh from critics and 81% from audiences. However, at the same time, a vocal segment of the audience began declaring the film sexist, calling out the lack of agency in the female characters as well as the overt sexualization and objectification of women in the world of the film. There was widespread backlash to the film on social media based on these interpretations, and if you were a cis white male, your opinion was obviously biased in favor of the sexism on display. But that’s where we get back to the blind men and the elephant. There’s no denying that there are sexist aspects to the representation of the world of Blade Runner 2049, but the overall passivity and personal powerlessness of most of characters – not just the women – is also a part of the picture. The central theme of the film involves making choices that go against “programming” (psychological and social), and the female characters, Joi (Ana de Armas), Mariette (Mackenzie Davis), and Freysa (Hiam Abbass), do demonstrate agency, transcending their control limitations. In fact, it’s their subversion of the surface/socially gendered identifiers that allows the film to function on many different thematic levels. Joi is particularly interesting in this aspect, as she lacks even any corporeal existence, being a holographic projection, which puts her on a social level even lower than the Replicants. She’s a programmable virtual companion and everything she says and does is part of that programming. However, when K (Ryan Gosling) provides her with an upgrade that allows her to escape the confines of the ceiling-mounted projector in his apartment, there is a noticeable, if subtle, shift in the way de Armas plays the character. Part of the upgrade allows her to simulate physical contact and “feel” the rain on her hands and face. This image is returned to later, when K discovers that his memories are real. He stops and feels the snow falling onto his hand, contemplating the revelation. Because Villeneuve mirrors Joi’s first moment outside in the world and K’s first moment of actualization, I think it’s clear, through the visual language of the film, that Joi has also transcended her programming – however limited by it she still is. K’s very next conscious act is to lie to his superior, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright). In his world lying is rebellion. Freedom is criminal. Because this is a world where the new breed of Replicants, designed by their creator, Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), are incapable of lying or disobeying their controllers. They are slaves, regardless of how they are gendered. They are all objects to be used and disposed of if they break down. Villeneuve’s films almost always end up being, or including, meditations on modern masculinity (toxic and otherwise) – and by extension, how women are represented in relation. There’s also a lot going on in this film about isolation, loneliness, and how identity is constructed through a combination of memory and physicality. Parenthood in general and fatherhood in specific (which also ties back to themes from Arrival) are also central thematic elements running through the entire film and comes to be encapsulated in the performance of Harrison Ford. All these things are intertwined and it’s difficult to pull one thread out (say, a surface reading of women’s representation) for discussion without having to address it in relation to these other themes. Ultimately, that’s a large part of what makes Blade Runner 2049 such a magnificent piece of work. The screenplay by original Blade Runner screenwriter Hampton Fancher, with an assist by Michael Green, demands a complex philosophical interaction with its audience. Nothing is easy with this film. Nothing is simple. But even if the story and the acting were garbage, the cinematography by film legend Roger Deakins is a wonder to behold, taking visual elements from the original film and expanding upon them in ways that help to create a much more expansive, believable, dying world. There isn’t a single frame of this film that isn’t a masterpiece. And Deakins’ use of light and shadow is like a magic trick. The sequence in the Las Vegas nightclub with its faulty holographic projections of Elvis, dancing girls, and Marilyn Monroe is mind-bogglingly complex, and the majesty of the light reflecting on and through the water in Wallace’s offices is simply beautiful. Original Blade Runner designer Syd Mead was also brought in to design the desolate, post-dirty bomb Las Vegas, which recaptures the aesthetic of the original, right down to its use of space and architecture. Composers Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch provide a score that at times echoes the Vangelis original from 1982 but at other times swells into a rumbling, almost ambient wave. There is literally no element of this film that isn’t brilliant, even at its 2 hours and 44-minute runtime. It’s no accident that the last words in the film are Dr. Ana Stelline’s (Carla Juri), “Beautiful, isn’t it?” as she constructs a memory of snow falling. The Extras Designing the World of Blade Runner 2049 (21:55) – This one is very interesting, spending a lot of time with Villeneuve and Deakins, discussing their inspirations and motivations. Deakins’ segments are especially fascinating as he talks more about the difficulties with staging and lighting some of the more complex scenes. The emphasis on physical sets and props, as well as massive models, is also enlightening. This was truly a passion project for everyone involved and while I don’t know if anyone really thought it would make its budget back, everybody put everything they had into the film. To be Human: Casting Blade Runner 2049 (17:15) – This feature goes through all the main characters, discussing the thought processes behind their casting. It’s vaguely interesting, but doesn’t really bring a whole lot to the table except for the fact that it seems like everybody wanted Ryan Gosling as the lead, from Hampton Fancher to Harrison Ford. Blade Runner 101 (11:22) – Using clips from the longer featurettes as well as additional interviews, this is a series of six mini-features introducing the world of Blade Runner with self-explanatory titles: Blade Runners, The Replicant Evolution, The Rise of Wallace Corp, Welcome to 2049, Jois, and Within the Skies: Spinners, Pilotfish, and Barracudas. Also included are the three Blade Runner short films that were released online prior to the film’s opening, which tell stories bridging the gap between the original, which was set in 2019 and 2049. The Prologues 2022: Black Out – written and directed by Shinichirô Watanabe (15:45) – Watanabe is responsible for classic anime series Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, as well as segments of The Animatrix. This short tells the tale of the Black Out, when rogue Nexus 8s exploded a nuke over Los Angeles, triggering an electromagnetic pulse that wiped out the Tyrell Corporation’s Replicant registry. Meanwhile, Replicants Iggy (Jovan Jackson) and Trixie (Luci Christian) sacrifice themselves to destroy the physical back up. Edward James Olmos makes a brief appearance, reprising his role as Gaff, from the original film (which he also does in 2049). This is the most complete and satisfying of the three shorts as Watanabe’s animation fluctuates between more traditional anime styles and looser, more experimental looks that reminded me of classic Ralph Bakshi. And if 2049 wasn’t existential enough for you, Iggy gets to deliver the line, “No heaven or hell for us. This world is all we’ve got.” 2036: Nexus Dawn – directed by Luke Scott, written by Brian A. Alexander, Hampton Fancher, and Michael Green (6:31) – Ridley Scott’s son, Luke, helms the last two prologues, the first of which documents the day that Niander Wallace demonstrates his illegally-produced new type of Replicant to the Lawmakers and Magistrates of Los Angeles in an attempt to negotiate a repeal of the Replicant prohibition. This was our first glimpse of Jared Leto’s performance as Wallace and it’s about as weird and full of affectation as one might expect. He’s suitably creepy though. Benedict Wong also appears here as one of the Lawmakers Wallace is out to convince. Nicely done, but doesn’t really expand much on what we can just as easily get from the pre-titles crawl. 2048: Nowhere to Run – directed by Luke Scott, written by Hampton Fancher, Michael Green, and Luke Scott (5:49) – This one is much better, if only because it has an emotional core. Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), a rogue Nexus 8 who has been living as a farmer while trying to stay off anyone’s radar, has befriended a woman and her little girl on his trips into the city. This time, he witnesses them being abducted and springs into action, brutally killing their attackers. Unfortunately, this also exposes him as a Replicant. As he flees the horrified little girl, he drops some of his paperwork and has a call put in to LAPD about where he might be living. This one practically leads right into the film’s opening scene as K flies out to confront Sapper. Bautista is fantastic here, and in the feature film, as the aging Battle Replicant turned farmer. There’s an emotional center to his performance that brings so much more depth and interest than Leto brings to Wallace that you’d be hard pressed to believe that of the two, Leto is the award-winning actor. See larger image Blade Runner 2049 (BD) [Blu-ray] Blade Runner 2049 (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Combo Pack) (BD) Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a longburied secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years. New From: $18.50 USD In Stock Blade Runner 2049 Blu-ray Review5.0Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.