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What is human? A Blade Runner analysis

By Staff | Oct 25, 2017

Has everyone now seen “Blade Runner 2049”? Since the studio enforced moratorium on specific characters and plot details has now passed, let’s get analytical.

For newbies, “Blade Runner” 35 years ago had Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, an enforcer retiring (by a bullet through the head not 401k) rebellious robots who wanted to stay alive and ran away. Set in 2019, Ford’s character falls in love with dark-haired android Deckard runs off fully enamored by Rachael. Neither have been seen in 35 years. Other bots disappeared too, such as Pris (Daryl Hannah).

There have been four versions of the original film, including a director’s cut and extended versions, teasing a riddle -was Ford’s character himself a bot?

“2049” has a new enforcer rounding up the replicants. However, K (Ryan Gosling) discovers a game changer: A secret burial site that prompts his human superior to order, “What you saw, did not happen.”

The sequel has a big plate of ethical, theological and philosophical matters beyond strong-willed clones that do jobs real people will not.

Real people. What are they? Pinnochio, for instance, wanted to be a real boy instead of a wooden marionette.

Due to population gender shortages, Japan and China (in particular) now face millions of males without hope of finding a mate or significant other. Enter the so-called “love” (or “sex”) doll which has evolved from an inflated adult teddy bear to one that can respond to questions and will soon walk.

A photo of a New Jersey state police officer stopping a vehicle with a female imitation lead to a ticket for using the commuter lane illegally. The stop was for a mechanical infraction, though.

Japanese, in particular, have “married” their “dolls.” One company has a psychiatrist specializing in artificial intelligence issues – what happens to the “doll” if the man finds a real woman? Legislation has been implemented to prevent the import/export of “smaller” bots that resemble children.

Artificial life has been the subject of movies (“Cherry 2000,” “Her,” “Lars and the Real Doll,”) and TV (“My Living Doll,” “Outer Limits,” “I Robot,” “The Twilight Zone,” “After Hours”). But I read in a European newspaper that an exhibit of a super realistic speaking “robot/doll” led to a swarm of men that touched and felt so much (and roughly), “she” had to be sent back to the factory for repairs.

These puppet (for now) companions cost hundreds to thousands depending on how realistic. Do you want her to pose? How about a conversation? Maybe she can do chores (just not washing dishes)? Greet customers? Walk in the park with you…not yet, under her own power. “She” can be anywhere from four- to nearly six-feet tall and customized (in part) by the potential human companion. One company will sculpt a face of a provided photo. Celebrities are thumbs down. Must have their permission.

The most requested feminine bot is one of Marilyn Monroe, which her estate has not authorized.

Which leads back to “Blade Runner 2049”. What is the definition of human? Replicants can speak, move, think, feel and reproduce. They have their own holograms as buddies. What’s missing – the androids have no soul (and, for some, that itself is merely a ‘belief’).

Despite knowledge of their manufacturer, K ponders soulful issues. A majority of the film’s mind bending mysteries relate to what’s real (or shall I say who) and what’s implanted.

Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Sicario,” “Prisoners”) directs a stellar production already receiving multiple thumbs up as the best sequel of all time. He found a camera genius, Roger Deakins (Rolling Stone demands – give him an Oscar now!). His cinematography has a dark, post-industrial punk populated center hand stamp; the sands and garbage pits have haunting, desolate and gloomy displays. No matter, many visual tapestries compare to works of art. No kidding.

The story seamlessly shifts from satire to tragedy to romance and mousey thriller.

K’s loyal hologram buddy, Joi (Ana de Armas), tags along courtesy of a portable projector. One of the best lines, comes when a woman at a bar tells K, “you don’t like real girls, do you?”.

K will eventually encounter Deckard, but along the occasionally incomprehensible hallucinatory journey that soars into geek heaven. It’s a cool multiple choice examination – place one assumption into the blank, consider the results, then, change assumptions three or maybe four times.

“2049” has received near universal reviewer praise from critics. I join the category and place it among “Avatar,” “2001 a Space Odyssey” and “Soylent Green.” The nearly three hour film relies on detective work, character development and tantalizing puzzles prior to lasers, fists and sparks flying for a finale. A few “slow” assertions are insulting; it demands intense concentration.

Can’t help concluding borrowing a line from the St. Louis Post Dispatch: Don’t be the only human on your block not to see it. There’s enough for an infinity of coffee shop, cosplay, geek, con, and academic quandaries for years.