Blade Runner 2049 is the sequel to the critically acclaimed 1982 film Blade Runner. The film stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford and is directed by Denis Villeneuve. Blade Runner 2049 is set thirty years after the first film and follows Gosling’s character replicant K, a bioengineered human, who hunts rogue replicants. When K discovers evidence of a reproducing replicant, he is tasked with destroying the child to prevent a replicant uprising.
Blade Runner has been lauded for its artistic design and perceptive vision for the last 35 years. However, since the release of the first film, the representations of gender and race were often critiqued. The female characters were largely objectified and even though the Asian aesthetics strongly affected the look of a dystopian LA, the Asian characters were merely background characters. The replicants were portrayed as the true oppressed minority groups. When news of a sequel emerged, questions were raised whether or not it would update this perspective. The answer is: not really.
Los Angeles in 2049 looks mesmerizing and the cinematography is sublime as it shows vast details in the deteriorating distinctions between human and artificial life – it is breathtaking thanks to the technological development of today. The music and sound effects stay true to the 80s soundtrack of the original and honour the source. Nevertheless, for all the effort to update the graphics, it does little truly ground-breaking. Similarly to the original, it focuses on white male protagonists.
Ford’s reprised role as Deckard, and Gosling’s K both lead complicated lives behind their macho leading role stereotype but do not add anything new to the story. Both actors’ performances are fitting to the setting but do not blow you away. The tragedies both men are faced with involving women only relate to a straight white man’s narrative and are not recognized as tragedies for the women themselves. Aside from the lack of perspective from a gender point of view, it worsens when viewed from a racial perspective. Two dubious male illegal dealers and an unnamed woman of colour are the only non-white characters in the movie. Neither have identities beyond their use to K. Dystopian sci-fi has always been dominated with oppression narratives, however only from a straight white male point of view. These films focus on the rise up against the system, the creators seem to often neglect the current actual minorities – women, people of colour and the LGBTQ community. Rather than including them in the narrative, their stories become metaphors for the actual film. This was one of the missed opportunities to transform the film into not another visual feast but an incisive perspective of 21st century society.
Blade Runner 2049 is without a doubt an interesting watch for sci-fi lovers and neo-noir lovers alike when it was released during autumn 2017 and a must-watch for people who watched the original 1982 film. Just don’t expect a ground-breaking film when pressing play on your remote for Blade Runner 2049.