The first thing I have to say about the new Blade Runner film is that I think it is a very worthy sequel to the original 1982 film, which is quite a feat. I went to see it on the day after it came out in a fully-packed IMAX theatre and it was mind-blowingly stunning.
Firstly, aesthetically, the use of colour was a spectacular – from the swirly yellow lighting of Wallace’s space to the faded oranges of the radioactive zone. The city of Los Angeles, also, looked incredible, with neon lights, holograms and low-angle shots looking up to the imposing modern high rise buildings and skyline. The film did not hesitate to slow down the action to show this to its full potential. Slow zooms in and out accompanied by synthy, ethereal music provide beautiful periods of calmness amongst some face-paced action scenes.
The film doesn’t rush into action, just as it doesn’t feature the excess sentimentality and dramatisation of most modern blockbusters. The acting of Ryan Gosling, playing K, was understated and believable. The dystopian, cold world in which it is set is supposed devoid of emotion and the film captures this perfectly. An example of this could be the encounter between K and Deckard in which we expect to be full of revelations and emotional outbursts, believing that they are long-lost father and son at this stage. However, instead, we get a gun fight in the ruins of Las Vegas’ formerly iconic venues. The flickering projections of performers in the dark concert hall portray a sense of loss, sadness and memory, instead of a sense of warmness from a family reunion as we might expect.
The film examines the components which make a human similar and different from a replicant. The idea of the sensory experience is fervently portrayed as we see multiple scenes showing close ups of rain and snow falling onto the skin and a focus on K’s relationship with his holographic/android girlfriend where we see the longing for a sense of touch. The way that the replicants are showing a desire and a willingness to combat these differences make us consider how far this could go.
The film also brings in the idea of birth and memory as what makes something human. We hear many times that K is ‘special’ and that he seems more human than other replicants. The flashbacks of childhood experience are seemly his, which tricks the viewer into believing he is really human. Also, the fact that he is the protagonist of the film tricks the viewer into believing there must be something unique about him. The film then brings a sense of bathos when we realise that he is not actually the child. Although we do find out who the child is, we don’t get the same sense of satisfaction. We do not see much of Dr Ana Stelline in the film, which makes the final twist in revealing her as the child more of a surprise. We also don’t get to see the interaction between her and Deckard before the film ends. Although this is slightly disappointing, it is probably for the best, as these sorts of ‘I’m your father’ scenes have been done so many times and it could easily seem stale. It is also a thought that the disappointment of K actually shows us that replicants can have hope for their future. The fact that K believed he was part-human when he wasn’t shows that their minds can believe in new and subversive ideas against the authorities. We see this diversion from fate as a numb robot when he fails his tests and we see that his mind is in disarray, as a human’s might be. Therefore, perhaps the fact that K turns out not to be human is actually more promising for the revolution than if he were.
The most chilling parts of the film for me are the ones which dehumanise the female. The female replicants in the film are objectified: they are sex workers, holograms and billboards. Blade Runner shows us a world where woman are naked, nameless and disposable. Particularly the scene where Wallace confronts the newly created female replicant displays their vulnerability. She drops onto the floor, shaking and covered in some sort of bodily fluid. Wallace then proceeds to touch her womb threateningly and then slash it open, portraying his disrespect and displeasure with the being he has created. He is furious that the old version of the replicants have been able to give birth, or Rachel has anyway, and he has not been able to find out the secret to this.
The whole concept of the cold, hyper-masculine figure of the replicant draws out their machine like violence and oppression of women. This could be seen as a critique of the masculine, and actually show a crisis of masculinity and a sense of self-defence. Also, although women’s bodies are objectified, they are somewhat powerful. Rachel, in the first instance, became a femme fatale, changing the course of history and rebelling against the laws. This power is echoed by some of the female replicants in the film such as the incredibly clever and evil villain, Luv, and the leader of the revolution, Freysa. We realise that women are stronger than they appear. The posthuman idea of the cyborg also makes us think about the idea of otherness. Theoretically, if cyborgs are robots then they are different from humans. Then, if they are different from the human then we are more likely to consider the difference of species between the human and the cyborg instead of considering the difference of gender between the male and the female. In this sense, the gender divide is somewhat blurred and cyborgs are ungendered. However, the way that the film considers the difference between humans and cyborgs blurs this boundary as well, as the idea that replicants are able to reproduce, feel human emotions and rebel threatens the whole system. We see an increasing similarity between the two and an overall fragmentation of human identity.
Fans of the original Blade Runner will appreciate the various allusions made to it throughout the film. In fact, some of the actual audio from the original is used, for example we hear the dialogue between Rachel and Deckard when they first meet. The way that Rachel was brought back as a source of torture for Deckard was also brilliant. Seeing her sparkling new in the bright lights of Wallace’s chamber next to the aged Deckard is quite a spectacle. This respect and reference to the original is important and provides a profound reflection on the ideas of re-creation and artificiality which are so fundamental to the film.
The world which it depicts reminds us of our own and shows us certain elements which could be present in the future. With modern technology developing at such a fast rate, it is interesting to reflect on possibilities and consequences that it could have. In some sense, the film is located in a strange place between fantasy and reality, making us consider the known world from a different perspective.
Basically, this film is thought-provoking, action-packed and visually outstanding. It was understandable to be sceptical about a sequel being released so long after the original. However, this time gap actually provides the film with a new sense of perspective on humanity, memory, modernization and change which makes the film so ingenious.