What does it mean to be human? To be truly human? It’s a question too large for our minds and a question that often times remains without an answer. Yes, philosophers and scholars have tried many times to answer the question in various forms but fall short. Throughout the centuries, writings, lectures, and eventually film have all tried to tackle the question from a million different perspectives, each offering a different take. From the grandiose of a sunset or large than life event to the simple feel of holding a loved one’s hand, there are a range of what we call human emotions but what is that core factor, that one thing that makes us human? A set of movies has set out to answer that question, nearly 35 years apart.
The previous question is posed by the 1982 cult classic film Blade Runner, a film where a human cop chases down and “retires” replicants, human beings that are bioengineered in laboratories. The film is one of Harrison Ford’s huge roles and one of his most remembered to date, the film has gathered a cult following. The film was praised for many reasons, including its use of noir concepts, ground breaking visual effects, and is hailed as an overall Sci-Fi masterpiece. In fact, the film won several awards, among which are a Golden Globe for best original score and two Academy Awards, one for best art direction and another for best visual effects. In 2017, Blade Runner 2049 was released to outstanding reviews and continues with a new story while also focusing on the continuation of Deckard’s (Ford’s character in the original film) narrative.
Blade Runner 2049 was released on October 6th, 2017, and was immediately praised by critics. The film, starring Ryan Gosling as the new protagonist K, another Blade Runner for the LAPD, was directed by Denis Villeneuve who earned recent recognition for the film Arrival. The film follows K through his journey of tracking down older model replicants and retiring them, just as Deckard had done in the past.After an encounter with a replicant at the beginning of the film, a thread begins to unravel, bringing K and Deckard together to uncover the truth and stop the plans of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), the new creator of all replicants. With a run time of 163 minutes, the film is action packed yet manages many scenes that run deep with emotion, with characters questioning their own existence. Several facets of the movie are intriguing and help to set it apart from your average, run of the mill Sci-Fi film.
The first and most notable thing about the film is the continuation of the franchise’s visual effects combined with a haunting score and sounds. Hans Zimmer of Dark Knight fame along with fellow composer Benjamin Wallfisch, coming straight off of IT, masterfully wove the sounds of the film together in a delightfully abrasive way. Moments of silence are followed by loud, crashing music and harsh sounds, always keeping the audience on the edge of their seat. The volume and power of the music sets in perfectly with a bleak world, a world that gave up hope and idealism long ago and gave rise to the power of machine over man. This music fits a dark neon and noir world well.
The visual effects are another striking aspect of the film, a contamination of the legacy set by the first film. Los Angeles is a dark, gritty place in 2049, almost noir but with a biologically engineered core. The blending of futuristic Sci-Fi tech and dark noir style gives the film uniqueness. This a world of replicants, people that are not born but created in labs and implanted with memories and are here to serve their one assigned function. Technology rules here and buildings are plastered with projections of sodas, girls, video games, and other neon outputs. Outside the city, everything lies in ruins, with heaps of trash covering the ground and children slaving away at the sorting of metals. This is the world of K and Deckard and it is one not to be missed.
Perhaps the best part about this film is how the excellently crafted plot ties into the larger theme of the film, that being that previously posed question of what it means to be a human. K is on a long journey of self, a journey to decide if he is a mere slave or something more, something deeper. It’s his struggle throughout the film. His relationship with his girlfriend twists and turns the traditional love plot on its head. It’s not about romance or passion but about touch, or the lack thereof. Overall, the film is just brilliantly executed and tugs at the heart strings all the while unraveling a mystery. This mystery is a new one and yet still tries to answer a question as old as time. If you love Sci-Fi and need a larger than life film, Blade Runner 2049 is the film of the fall for you.