I saw Blade Runner 2049 on Tuesday. Other than the fact that it was an excellent sci-fi film and a long awaited sequel to the original, it really did meet all my expectations… Including being somewhat haunting.
I say this because, as with many of us going to sleep at night, sometimes your mind can go a little rampant. Especially with creatives, you can ravel and unravel entire stories, ideas for illustrations, and extrapolate on all kinds of things. Sometimes my mind keeps me up as I think about these things, whether it be my own stories or someone else’s. And let me tell you, Blade Runner 2049 definitely seemed to haunt me. Don’t click read more if you plan on seeing the movie and don’t want to be spoiled. You have been warned. There are spoilers beyond this point!
While overall the movie was an excellent near three hour grind from start to finish, without an overtly-complicated plot, there were certainly a few scenes and ideas that seemed to stick with me.
I love this idea of taking the virtual assistant to the next level. But she’s heartbreaking at the same time. Not only is K not allowed to have anything real — what kind of real woman would want to be with him? And I doubt he’s allowed to consort with other replicants, even if Joi did hire one in to “be” her — but there’s also this idea that Joi is a plot device. How so? She’s a Wallace corp product. She chimes in sometimes when she has an emanator for no other reason than to let other people know that yeah, K has a “fake” AI girlfriend — he doesn’t “like real women”. Less of like and more of he’s probably not allowed to have a real woman, a real meal, a real anything.
Plus the fact that she was either knowingly or unknowingly spying on K and reporting directly back to Wallace corp about everything he did. I’d like to believe that K’s Joi was benevolent, and she was not aware that she was reporting back everything she heard (how else do you think Wallace found out about the replicant baby?), but she also was the one that told K to break the tracking chip and download her into the emanator… So she must have had some knowledge that Wallace corp could and would listen and track everything they would do. I don’t want to say Joi was on Wallace corp’s side, and I want to believe that she had no knowledge of betraying K in this way, but luckily K didn’t even know.
The Wooden Horse
One of the most poignant things — and I know you’ll agree with me — is the wooden horse memory and the scenario that surrounded that. It was just this incredible roller coaster ride, and you have to wonder who knew what. What do I mean by that? Well, on one end you have Joi telling K — really the only person who will talk to K, and she isn’t even real, she’s literally programmed to tell him exactly what he wants to hear, as her billboard suggests — you are special, you are unique, this is how. You have parents, and they loved you so much so they tried to hide you. But K isn’t entirely convinced. He goes to Dr. Ana Stelline, the memory maker and the artist, to confirm whether or not the memories are, in fact, real.
This was incredible to me. Ana is tearing up and crying — these are her memories, too — and K is tearing up as well. Ana gives him a cryptic answer — they are real, they were lived, they did happen. She does not say to who, and we, as the viewer, are led to believe that they are K’s memories — K was born. K is the prodigal replicant child.
Now we see this incredible outburst of emotion from K, who has poker-faced through the entire film. He screams, he curses, and then he abruptly leaves. He is scared. He does not want to be special. He does not want to be this child. He just wants to return to being told what to do, to obey, as a good replicant should. This is where the real heartbreak occurs — this thought is terrifying to him, but as the movie goes on, he really buys into it. If he is this child, he was born, he has free will, and better yet — he is human.
But does he? Or is this rare burst of emotion because he figures out it is not him? Does he know? She surely must know. But that does not make much sense for the next scene that really got me.
“We all wish it was us.”
After K goes through everything, suddenly believing yes, this is him, he is born without boundaries, he neglects to realize that if he was not made by Wallace corp, they would not know him as a replicant — no one would. Like said in Blackout 2022, the only thing that separated replicants from humans is the marking on the bottom of the right eye. Without that, no one could tell a replicant from sight. How could he have these memories, actually be a child, and then be placed as a replicant in the LAPD? He chalks it up to “scrambling the data”, as Deckard said. Information can be changed and switched. He’s willing to overlook all of these supposed holes to believe that he is the one. Why wouldn’t he?
Then Mariette tells him it was a girl, and she will be revealed to the world when it is ready. Mariette says: “You thought it was you. We all wish it was us.”
Nothing about him is “real”, he realizes as he hangs his head at this crushing realization. His memories aren’t his — they’re illegally planted, someone else’s memories, they’re not “real”, as they didn’t happen to him. He’s a replicant, not a “real” human. He was never born, he was made. He can’t have a real life, a real girlfriend, real conversations with people. He realizes everything in his life is a lie — his girlfriend who tells him everything he wants to hear — and he is utterly alone. Even Joi, who had named him Joe in his apartment, a billboard advertisement for her, calls him Joe. He can’t have anything that isn’t already mass produced and generic — and that includes a real name. He is a throwaway. He is a decoy. He is a machine that walks and talks and distracts everyone from Ana. He is looked at like a bunch of files in a machine, lines of code, easily deleted and retired. He is disposable.
But what he doesn’t entirely realize — or he does — is that he is not without purpose. K does exhibit free will. All replicants exhibit free will here and there. They are not the mindless slaves that Wallace has made them out to be. K lies to Lieutenant Joshi when he says that he killed the child — “it”. K goes on the run without permission. Luv tells Lieutenant Joshi she is going to tell Wallace that Joshi shot first and she had to kill her. Luv sheds a tear when she says this, implying it takes a great deal of struggle to formulate that lie, but it is still possible. These replicants, though they appear to be obeying, aren’t mindlessly obeying. Wallace thinks he’s created a perfect obeying replicant, but he has not — otherwise, why would there be a resistance?
Consider the words, too. “We all wish it was us.” Do they all have these memories of the child, of the date, of the wooden horse? Did they all believe they were this child? If yes, why was K the only one to unearth the physical horse?
Deckard had a Son
I don’t care what anyone says. Deckard may have had a girl, the prodigal child of the replicants, and they may have done well in hiding her. But he had a son, too. In manipulating those memories and making those K’s as well, Deckard had a son, and he was more than ready to take on that role. Just because he was not the physical child of Rachael and Deckard — it was Deckard and who ever else’s doing to create this secondary, false decoy child that was K — he was still Deckard’s son, with as many memories of mom and dad as Ana did (zero, for those of you paying attention). Each of them were told stories about themselves, and neither were told the truth. K dies on the steps after he tells Deckard to “go meet your daughter”. But does Deckard realize he has also met his son?
I thought there were some clever things in the movie as well. I liked the addition of the folded origami sheep — a call back to both the origami from the original film, and also to the original written work — Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in which Deckard owns an electric sheep, as he cannot afford a “real” pet animal. Real pet animals, not electric ones, are status symbols. Electronic pets, such as the sheep, often break down and people go to lengths to keep from their neighbors the fact that the electronic sheep is just that. They are indiscernible by eye alone, but you’re really someone if you own a real owl, or a real sheep, or a real cat.
They did not address the legendary question of “was Deckard a replicant” either. His status as to whether or not he is a replicant falls by the wayside in lieu of everything else that is going on. It becomes unimportant to know if the formula for the replicant child was human + replicant or replicant + replicant. It was masterful dodging, in my opinion.
I figured out a pretty big mess up first time around. Wallace makes Deckard a new Rachael, and he presents it to him. Deckard walks away, saying “her eyes were green”. This is a big setup just to show how disposable replicants are to Wallace, because he shoots her right then and there and kills her. But wouldn’t Wallace know she had green eyes? K is given the opportunity to review Rachael’s Voight-Kampff test at the beginning of the movie after finding her bones. There is video recording of her eyes — and they are clearly green. Is this an oversight on Wallace’s part? A bit of carelessness? Or was he testing Deckard’s memory? Or did the director forget about that bit of eye we saw at the beginning?
Overall, I feel like Blade Runner 2049 was a fantastic sci-fi addition. I do wish they hadn’t opened it up for another sequel of the same old “uprising of the clones/replicants/androids/whatever”, and I’m hoping the fact that it did not do as well as expected at the box office will help that. But, all in all, I can’t wait to see it a second time and consider all of the additional things I will pick up along the way.