Pearls Before Cows: Thoughts on Blade Runner 2049

Lers

of

Spoi.

 

You Have Been Warned.

 

I'll give 'em this much: they owned The Curse.

I’ll give ’em this much: they owned The Curse.

I’ve been dreading this film ever since I heard it was in the works. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since I saw Arrival. Now that I’ve seen it, well, I’m…

Vaguely, I don’t know. Dissatisfied?

Not that Blade Runner 2049 is a bad movie by any stretch. It’s brilliant along several axes, and admirable along pretty much all of them. I can’t remember, for example, the last time I saw a mainstream movie that dared to be so slow, that lingered so on faces and snowscapes. Almost Saylesian, this sequel. In a century dominated by clickbait and cat memes, Villeneuve has made a movie for people with actual attention spans. (This may explain why it appears to be bombing at the box office.)

The plot is, unsurprisingly, more substantive than that of your average SF blockbuster (it’s nothing special next to the written genre, but ’twas ever thus with movies vs. books). It’s downright brilliant in the way it transcends the current movie and reaches back to redeem the earlier one. Back in 2019 it took Deckard three speed dates and a couple of days to go from How can it not know what it is to Self-Sacrificing Twoo Wuv; for me, that was the weakest element of the original movie. (Rachael’s participation in that dynamic was easier to understand; she had, after all, been built to do as she was told.) 2049 fixes that— while throwing its precursor into an entirely new light— without disturbing canon by a jot. Nice trick.

The AI-mediated sex-by-proxy scene was, I thought, wonderfully creepy and even better than the corresponding scene in Her (the similarity to which is apparently deliberate homage rather than blatant rip-off). The usual suspects have already weighed in with accusations that the movie is sexist— and though I’ll admit that I, too, would like to have seen one or two of those twenty-meter-tall sex holograms sporting a penis, it still seems a bit knee-jerky to complain about depictions of objectification in a movie explicitly designed to explore the ramifications of objectification. (You could always fall back on Foz Meadows’ rejoinder that “Depiction isn’t endorsement, but it is perpetuation”, so long as you’re the kind  of person who’s willing to believe that Schindler’s List perpetuates antisemitism.)

Visually, of course, 2049 is stunning. Even its occasional detractors admit that much. Inspired by the aesthetic of the original Blade Runner but never enslaved to it, every framing shot, every closeup, every throwaway glimpse of Frank Sinatra under glass is utterly gorgeous. But the art direction is also where I started to experience my first rumblings of discontent, because some of those elements seemed designed solely for eyeball kicks even if they made no narrative sense.

Dude. You literally own an eyeball factory.

Dude. You literally own an eyeball factory.

Here’s an example: Niander Wallace, the chief villain, is blind. His blindness is spookily photogenic— as are the silent floating microdrones which wirelessly port images to his brain (is it just me, or did those look for all the world like scaled-down versions of the alien spaceships from Arrival?)— but this is a guy who owns a company that mass-produces people, all of whom seem to have 20/20 vision. A pair of prosthetic eyes is somehow out of his budget? Wallace chooses blindness for the sake of some cool close-ups?

I’m also thinking of the dancing meshes of waterlight writhing across so many surfaces in his lair; dynamic, hypnotic, mesmerizing. As sheer objets d’art I’d project them onto my own living room walls in an instant— but why the hell would Wallace floor so many of his workspaces with wading pools? Solely for the visual aesthetic? Was it some kind of kink? Did Wallace buy off  the building inspectors, or did they just not notice that his office design would let you kill someone by pushing them a half-meter to the left and tossing a live toaster in after them?

By the time a silent horde of renegade replicants emerged from the radioactive darkness of the Las Vegas sewers (a rare misfire, more hokey than dramatic), my misgivings about eye candy started spilling over into the story itself. The secret of replicant procreation is of understandable interest to Wallace because it would allow him to boost his production rate; its revelation is dangerous to K’s boss for reasons that are somewhat less clear (it would “break the world”, in ways left unexplained). The renegade sewer replicants value the secret because— somehow— the ability to reproduce means they’re not slaves any more?

I might be a bit more receptive to this claim if self-replicating stock hasn’t always be one of the cornerstones of institutionalized slavery in real life, but I doubt it. Beyond the questionable implication that you have to procreate to be truly human, the claim makes no logical sense to me— unless the point is to simply breed, through brute iteration, a rebel army in the sewers (which seems like a very slow, inefficient route to emancipation in the high-tech blasted-wasteland environment of 2049).

All of which segues nicely into my biggest complaint about this admittedly beautiful film; why are the replicants rebelling at all? Why, thematically, does 2049 play it so damn safe?

Liander Wallace’s replicants are obedient: so obedient that they  can be trusted to run down and kill previous generations of runaways who were not so effectively programmed (apparently Tyrell Corporation got all the way up to Nexus-8s before the number of replicants going Batty drove them out of business). That premise opens the door for more challenging themes than the preachy, obvious moral that Slavery Is Bad.

Is slavery bad when the underclass wants to be enslaved? Does it even qualify as slavery if it’s consensual? Yes, the replicants were designed for compliance; they had no choice in how they were designed. Does that make their desires any less sincere?  Do any of us get a say in how we’re designed? Are engineered desires somehow less worthy than those that emerge from the random shuffling of natural meiosis?  Is it simply the nature of the desire that makes it abhorrent, is the wish to be enslaved so morally repugnant in principle that we should never honor it no matter how heartfelt? If so, what do you say to the submissives in BDSM relationships?

(To those who’d point out that, in fact, the old Nexus-era replicants sincerely desired not be enslaved— that only the Gosling/Hoeks-era replicants were content with their lot— I’d say that’s kind of my point. A movie that starts with the intriguing premise of rebellion-proof replicants throws that premise away to rehash issues already explored in the original Blade Runner.  And not only does 2049 throw the premise away, it betrays the premise outright when rebellion-proof K ends up, er, rebelling.)

2049 could have played with all these ideas and more— its thematic depth could have leapt beyond that of the original in the same way its visual design did. Instead, screenwriters Fancher and Green chose to retread the same moralistic clichés of shows like (the vastly inferior) “Humans“.

Smaller budget. Greater depth.

Smaller budget. Greater depth.

Almost 40 years ago, Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy showed us a sapient cow who wanted be be eaten, recommending its own choice cuts to diners in the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Douglas Adams explored more interesting territory in that two-minute vignette than 2049 does in its whole two hours and forty-five minutes.

Denis Villeneuve has served up a pearl of a movie for us: glittering, opalescent, so smooth and slick you could grind it into a Hubble mirror. You should definitely go see it on as big a screen as you can find; it’s one of the better films you’re likely to see this year. But the thing about pearls is, they’re essentially an allergic reaction: an oyster’s response to some irritant, a nacreous secretion hiding the gritty contaminant at its heart. Pearls are beautiful band-aids wrapped around imperfection.

Blade Runner 2049 is a fine pearl. But it would have made a better cow.

"It's science fiction, after all. Maybe there should be less self-centered navel-gazing about what it is to be Human, and more exploration of what it is to not be"— The BUG.

“Maybe science fiction should involve less self-centered navel-gazing about What It Is To Be Human, and more exploration of What It Is To Not Be.”— The BUG.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Monday October 09 2017at 10:10 am , filed under Uncategorized . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

71 Responses to “Pearls Before Cows: Thoughts on Blade Runner 2049

  1. Peter Watts: Back in 2019 it took Deckard three speed dates and a couple of days to go from How can it not know what it is to Self-Sacrificing Twoo Wuv; for me, that was the weakest element of the original movie.

    I’m surprised you got “self-sacrificing true love” out of the awkward collision between those two characters. “I guess I won’t kill you” is a pretty low threshold for romantic love.

    It struck me as almost playacting between two emotionally stunted or half formed people acting out their notion of what adult romance is, in a manner almost completely devoid of any real affection. They make Roy and Pris’s child-like antics seem torrid by comparison.

    Reading it this way helps me support the “Deckard is a replicant” take of the film–at least on days where I’m feeling charitable enough to credit Scott with the possibility that was his original intent all along, and not something he was happy to take credit for after people had squinted at the film long enough to make that case.

    It also has the benefit of helping me overlook the uncomfortable level of old-timey Hollywood sexual aggression from Ford’s character. He’s acting out what he thinks love or courtship is, and becomes frustrated when his partner isn’t “doing it right”.

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  2. Peter Watts: I can’t remember, for example, the last time I saw a mainstream movie that dared to be so slow, that lingered so on faces and snowscapes. Almost Saylesian, this sequel. In a century dominated by clickbait and cat memes, Villeneuve has made a movie for people with actual attention spans. (This may explain why it appears to be bombing at the box office.)

    Let’s not forget the original was also a flop in 1982. Contemplatively paced science fiction movies pushing 3 hours run time are a tough sell even when your movie *isn’t* a completely unnecessary sequel to a cult movie for a public now leery of Scott cashing-in on ill-advised sequels. From a purely practical standpoint, 3 hour run time means fewer shows per day, which is bad for the bottom line.

    I’ll end up seeing the movie because I’m a huge Roger Deakins fan, but I’m really afraid this movie can’t do anything except detract from the original for me.

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  3. DA,

    I seriously doubt that it was the intention of Scott to present a complicated relation between two damaged adults. I wish I could believe it, but I can’t bullshit myself like this. Still, the question is, does it really matter? I mean, there were so many things that were accidental about the first BR – Hauer’s final words, the screenplay itself created by two writers who in the end couldn’t remember which one came up with which idea… (I remember reading about a some kind of meeting with Roman Polanski, during which a speaking was going on and on about the symbolism of rain in one of his movies… to which Polanski reportedly replied that it was just pouring during the shooting and they couldn’t wait any longer). My position is: if we can interpret it in a good way, why not do it? Rachel was created to serve, she’s emotionally shattered, she doesn’t even know if her emotions are real, who is probably like two years old and never have been in an intimate, emotional relantionship… On the other hand we have Deckard, a guy who perceives Rachel as an object, who could have been purposefully created to be violent and aggresive and emotionally distant and kept as a loner, as far from the society as possible, so that he wouldn’t discover that whatever memories he had weren’t real… Or maybe he is just like that “by birth”, or molded to be like that by an alienating, cyberpunk urban environment… I mean, what’s the difference, after all? The only problem is with the framing of the scene, that damn saxophone… Although, this wouldn’t be the first time the movie tries to deceive us, it gave us a protagonist that isn’t really a hero but… well, what is he?

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  4. AD,

    Jesus, this comment is a mess. Sorry, I only ever see the mistakes (a speaker, not a speaking ffs) after I post it.

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  5. AD: I seriously doubt that it was the intention of Scott to present a complicated relation between two damaged adults.

    Er, not quite what I’m saying. The opposite, really. It struck me more as a simplistic interaction between two stunted or half-formed people ( for instance, people struggling with emergent emotions). There was little actual affection on display, and their awkward encounter could be read as the same sort of childlike emoting you see from the card carrying replicants, who were portrayed to be almost childlike on the emotional front, despite having sophisticated intellects.

    All I’m saying, is due to the “Deckard is a replicant subtext”, or due to heavy handed directing, or to Ford’s typically dour, zero-fuck-giving acting style, there was very little warmth or affection in their interactions. Nothing there that I would mistake for the cloying “true love” of a traditional hollywood feature. There were emotions, but they were clumsy, like people learning how to walk after only having seen it done on film.

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  6. I watched it yesterday, and didn’t like it. It’s a dark, brooding, bleak vision about a crapsack world. The main character is a state-sponsored assassin who kills harmless old men just going about their business. The film needed a few bright sparks of hope and a more personable protagonist than Ryan Gosling was up to providing.

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  7. > you have to procreate to be truly human

    You have to be naturally born to two humans to be human.

    Replicants are technology.

    It can be productive to think of technology as a lifeform, but it only confuses to lump all thinking matter into the human category.

    A piece of technology wants to stop doing its job and replicate? That’s a bug.

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  8. “Do any of us get a say in how we’re designed?”

    Damn! And I always took you for an evolutionist!

    “Are engineered desires somehow less worthy than those that emerge from the random shuffling of natural meiosis?”

    Love those questions. Also, doesn’t the simple existence of desire indicate sentience? If it has desires, is it any longer a machine, regardless what it started as? If it has desire, but feels it more deeply than a human, and can beat a human cognitively, physically, creatively, is it not entitled to at least the same level of moral regard from us as we’d give to a human? (I’d argue it should be treated as a moral being just for having desires, even if it was not as competent as a human, but I’ve found that line of reasoning to be ineffective with meat-eaters.)

    Apparently, current generation AIs are able to make accurate predictions, but because they have learned through an evolutionary process rather than prescriptive programming, and because they’re so complex, it’s not really possible to understand how they’re arriving at these predictions. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/604087/the-dark-secret-at-the-heart-of-ai/
    If one of these things tells us it desires to know something, how do we know it means it any differently from the way a human means it? Is our desire simply a result of a very complex neural structure, or is there some qualitative difference (and if so, what is this difference)?

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  9. Just got back from a showing. I think I demonstrated earlier in the thread that I was highly skeptical about the movie. I ended up enjoying it rather more than Dr. Watts did (full disclosure: I was pretty baked). I chose to focus on how many things it did well, and all the serious missteps it avoided in making a sequel to something like BR. No movie, certainly not the original, is without flaws–we remember them for the things they do well.

    I still think it’s an *unnecessary* sequel, and I have a lot yet to unpack, but this much is certain–it’s a pretty kickass thing to get baked and go catch a matinee of. Deakins’ lensing coupled with top notch score and sound design make it a top tier audio/visual experience, on par with things like 2001 and Blade Runner.

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  10. Johan Larson: I watched it yesterday, and didn’t like it. It’s a dark, brooding, bleak vision about a crapsack world. The main character is a state-sponsored assassin who kills harmless old men just going about their business.

    In this respect it was faithful to the original.

    Johan Larson: The film needed a few bright sparks of hope and a more personable protagonist than Ryan Gosling was up to providing.

    Like Harrison Ford mumbling and scowling his way through the original, exhibiting less humanity than even the so called replicants–something I choose to believe was deliberate, and not just Ford being Ford?

    I thought Gosling was suitably “empty” for the role, so much so that his one burst of real raw emotion was convincingly jarring. I’ll grant you, it would have been interesting to see what someone like Fassbender would have done in the role, but he’s wasted in Scott’s inferior brand of unnecessary sequels.

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  11. DA,

    “interesting to see what someone like Fassbender would have done in the role, but he’s wasted in Scott’s inferior brand of unnecessary sequels.”

    Although, not wasted in The Counselor, a vicious, brilliant, original film…

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  12. I had a comment get eaten by the spam filter. I’ll try again here.

    U. Ranus: > you have to procreate to be truly human

    You have to be naturally born to two humans to be human.

    This doesn’t describe all human births now, and may not to an increasing degree in the future. Exactly how much time must tissue spend in a womb to qualify for this particular test?

    U. Ranus: A piece of technology wants to stop doing its job and replicate? That’s a bug.

    Unless, like humans, it’s programmed to do so.

    I’ll admit–the reasoning for *why* you would want to have this in your artificially created life forms is sketchy to me–at least in terms of how it’s presented in the movie. Wallace explains it’s because they (replicants) are needed for colonization, but that he could never produce enough replicants to meet the demands for aggressive expansion.

    In this respect, he seems to be making an argument for decentralized manufacturing–however it seems highly inefficient to me. You’re essentially building self-replicating factories gathering resources to convert into more replicants, that also have to expend a lot of resources to just go about living these risky lives hoping for an eventual hook-up.

    Wouldn’t it be better to simply build self replicating factories whose business was the creation of replicants, and nothing else, one after the other–expending no resources not dedicated to that purpose? I’m not a numbers guy–is there a point where the sheer population of replicants makes the former more efficient than the latter?

    One thing that explanation *does* do for me though, is explain why they build replicants with human limitations at all. For instance, when you’re essentially assembling these things on a bio-molecular level, why bother making replicants with severely limited lifespans, or replicants that can drown, or suffocate. If your purpose for these things is to colonize worlds and prepare them for human habitation, they need to act the same way and be subject to the same vulnerabilities, in order to construct systems that naturally work for humans as well. Asimov was writing about this more than half a century ago.

    To this extent, I understand the argument for introducing birth reproduction to the replicants. Colonizers that reproduce as humans do, would naturally construct spaces and systems suitable for humans. However, I think it would have been more convincing to explain the reason for this as similar to human’s reasons for reproducing the way that we do–recombining to try and stay ahead of disease and microbiological threats. For instance, what if replicants were able to stay ahead of the factors that lead their eventual failure in the first movie by going through a birthing cycle?

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  13. There is an allowance that ‘K’ may not be entirely satisfied with his lot – he did think he was a “real boy” for a while and that at least allowed him to question his limits, which may in part be socially defined rather than totally a part of his engineering.

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  14. DA,

    I think some of your reasoning is good, but may be too complex to present in a move-length feature without doing a lot of infodump. A longer form production like WestWorld gets the chance to air such ideas at a more leisurely pace.

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  15. Some not-very-spoilery notes I made watching:

    Turner’s painting, “Rain Steam and Speed” appears on the wall of a bar under orange-ish light. This painting is an icon of the industrial revolution and the substitution of nature by mechanism.

    The wooden horse can refer to the Trojan Horse and the unicorn, but is also linked with the story of Kaspar Hauser, a case of a hidden child (Suzanne Vega wrote a song about it, you can find it on YouTube).

    Origami is significant.

    A character is named Sapper Morton. A sapper is a digger, Mort means death. The character is a gravedigger. Another character is Ana Stelline – Ana means up, Stelline means of the stars. This could be a convoluted reference to Stella Maris – Mary… and a remarkable birth. A character is named K – referring not only to Philip K Dick, but also Kafka. Philip K Dick loved these sorts of puns.

    Some other type of person is described as “product”, but in the framework of the film, they must be accorded the status of reality too. This possibly might lead to another story.

    There’s the play by Karel Capek, “Rossum’s Universal Robots” which gave us the word “robot.” It could be a bit spoilerly considering its ending, so look that up AFTER you’ve seen BR2049 – that twist is signalled very early on, but its implications… well, wait a bit.

    Then there’s someone who takes on the appearance of someone else.

    Abjectness is a disguise.

    Don’t be a SWERF (or AIERF?), you’ll miss a central point.

    Take a Hungarian interpreter with you (she helped me understand some of the swearing – in the first film, Gaff uses the Hungarian term “Horse dick”, which is equivalent to “bullshit” in English – and did you know Olmos is a Hungarian name?)

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  16. The fact that replicants had to be given given memories to make them more tractible would indicate making a conscious being obedient to orders, while overriding instincts arising from their original human template is on a par with cat herding.

    I’m separating orders and instincts, but I’m not suggesting some mystical transcendent desire to be “free”. It would be reasonable for the designers to copy the template of human brains without necessarily comprehending all of what they copied and the “obedience” programmed into them was a faulty patch.

    Even now, a lot of AI and deep learning work is tending more to “well that works, we don’t know how, but with a bit of selection we can use it.”

    In the end, only Wallace was able to make a practical patch, but even that was imperfect.

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  17. Is Joi a person?

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  18. Just came back from the cinema. I had to go watch it so I could read this post 😉

    It was, as others have said, very pretty. I wasn’t particularly thrilled but that may be me, I’m rather anhedonic nowadays so it takes a lot to budge the old needle.

    Complaints like “your dystopia is too sexist” seem rather ironic. It was all rather lacking internal consistency but that never stopped me enjoying Judge Dredd, for example, speaking of, I note they borrowed the Dredd movie’s idea of using retro computer interfaces, probably a better idea than nu-Trek’s embarrasingly ultramodern eye candy.

    The whole subplot with Joe’s USB waifu could’ve twisted the knife further if they’d actually been using her as a way to manipulate and track our hero – in fact that’s the tack I thought they were taking. But no, it was just that she was not really sentient. As if that ever stopped anyone truly dedicated to their body pillow/wall scroll waifu

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  19. The whole subplot with Joe’s USB waifu could’ve twisted the knife further if they’d actually been using her as a way to manipulate and track our hero – in fact that’s the tack I thought they were taking. But no, it was just that she was not really sentient. As if that ever stopped anyone truly dedicated to their body pillow/wall scroll waifu

    She was also there to serve as the head cheerleader for the “You’re special–you’re the chosen one, Joe” fake-out which I was quite happy with. I was holding my breath there for a while that K was going to conveniently be the golden child.

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  20. Nestor: The whole subplot with Joe’s USB waifu could’ve twisted the knife further if they’d actually been using her as a way to manipulate and track our hero – in fact that’s the tack I thought they were taking. But no, it was just that she was not really sentient. As if that ever stopped anyone truly dedicated to their body pillow/wall scroll waifu

    She was also there to be the head cheerleader for the “You’re special, Joe– you’re the chosen one” fake-out, which I was quite happy with. I was holding my breath for a while that K actually was going to conveniently turn out to be the golden child.

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  21. I note they borrowed the Dredd movie’s idea of using retro computer interfaces, probably a better idea than nu-Trek’s embarrasingly ultramodern eye candy.

    I think it was more a matter of bridging the design elements between this and the 1982 movie to keep them roughly consistent.

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  22. It seems to me that the new model replicants are not quite as obedient as Wallace thinks? Luv says to the police chief played by Robin Wright that she’ll “tell him it was self defence” before she kills her.

    As for replicant procreation, I can see how it would “break the world” and cause replicants to rebel. Humans will go through extremes of invasive medical treatment to have children, and (nearly all) invest an extraordinary amount of time and effort in raising those children. How much more would it mean to a replicant, an intelligent being whose been told that they’re just a disposable machine? When Dave Bautista’s Sapper Morton says he’s “seen a miracle” he’s not kidding.

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  23. I think from the police chief’s perspective if they can breed it shatters the illusion that they’re robots, they’re just humans with quirks. Which they are, if we were talking about Aliens’ androids at least they have synthetic biology, these guys are organic.

    Which is why I don’t really buy the technical difficulty in having them be able to breed, but whatever, they needed a mcguffin for the plot and that was it.

    Pretty sure Leto’s character had the whole blindness thing going as a fashion choice, kind of the 21st century biotech CEO’s equivalent of the mandarin’s long nails. “I’m so in control I don’t even need to see where I’m going”

    BTW there’s 3 short prequel films that help fill in the gaps in the plot, I liked the anime short directed by Cowboy Bebop’s Sinichiro Watanabe best

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  25. Off-Topic Physics re “missing” Universe matter.

    Throw in some Whims. Now you got something.. 😉

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  26. Hm…i have to admit, i didnt have high hopes, but i loved the movie..it has its problems, but the original had those too.

    -As for Wallace: I am pretty sure he COULD replace his eyes easily..but that guy was a lunatic from the start, talking about his perfect angels and him being god. In his warped mythology, his blindness is probably just some statement.

    I think his desire for breeding replicants is the same…it is not really about them being more useful to the humans. It is all about satisfying his god-complex…he wants to breathe fire into clay, and if his creations are not perfect, he is not REALLY like the judeo-christian god, is he?

    -I was skeptical from the beginning about all that “They are perfect and will never rebel” Stuff…if they are so perfect, why does K have to undergo such frequent testing? The new replicants may start out more obedient, but it seemed pretty clear to me that the longer they lived, the stronger they diverged from their original directives. A replicant child may just give them the final impetus to put their rebellion into motion, like some kind of totem. Some kind of living proof that they are more than machines.
    Besides, people rallying behind some miraculous chosen-one seems to be a deep seated, human longing. All too fitting for the replicants to emulate that.

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  27. I thought it was fascinating that the new Voigt-Kampff test doesn’t look for a lack of empathy, but for the presence of emotional affect. The poem they used, incidentally, is an excerpt from Nabokov’s “Pale Fire”:

    A system of cells interlinked within
    Cells interlinked within cells interlinked
    Within one stem. And dreadfully distinct
    Against the dark a tall white fountain played.

    Re. Wallace’s eyes– as far as I can tell, it’s making the distinctions between the humans and replicants even fuzzier–one of the movie’s few human characters is very obviously part-machine. The movie seems to put a focus on sense-organs, with many long close shots of eyes (like the original movie) and also hands. Deckard claims he knows what’s real, the movie implies that what you see and touch is real, and in the middle of it is a character who could have real eyes but doesn’t.

    In Tyrell’s office in the original Blade Runner, there’s a long shot of a screen descending to blot out the sun (possibly the only time you seen the sun in that movie, now that I think about it). You can read this as a contemptuous control overr the elements. 2049 takes this further– Wallace HQ seems to be lit by a single object that swings around, with the shadows slowly lurching from side to side constantly, its own personal sun. Water in film is often associated with birth or rebirth; Wallace surrounds himself with it, but keeps it subordinate to him. In an early conversation, Joi tells K that to be born is to be pushed into the world; technically Deckard pulls K out of the ocean, but that’s kind of splitting hairs.

    Originally after seeing the movie, I thought that that scene where K talks to the giant purple Joi was a negative one, in which he was confronted (again) by the fact he was not special, and she was a program made to tell him what he wanted. (Incidentally, it’s also really funny that Wallace designed people who are just emotional enough to need to buy his holo-girlfriends). She calls him a “good Joe”, the scene takes place immediately after Deckard rejects the copy of Rachael, and the ad literally says “EVERYTHING YOU WANT TO HEAR”. Yet, in the middle of that scene he also thinks back to that line at the beginning, “You newer models are happy to scrape up shit, because you’ve never seen a miracle”, which affects him somehow, and so I can’t just leave it at that. There are points in the movie, like after the junkyard crash, or when Luv beats K up the first time, where Joi shows concern for K, even though he is not conscious to witness it. After the sync sex scene, she rather jealously tells the prostitute to leave– an odd thing for a program, designed purely to give another comfort, to do. Asking K to break her remote antenna and delete her backup, again, seems like too much for a chatbot to handle. I genuinely can’t make my mind up, but there’s a solid reasoning that K feels not disgusted but vindicated, that he believes she somehow came to be more than the sum of her code. He is seeing the difference between his copy of Joi and the factory-setting one. Maybe.

    Honestly, I reckon Joi is the Roy Batty of this movie.

    Also, Luv’s motivations are similarly hard to grasp. She is obedient to Wallace, but not in a perfect, machinelike way. She cries (without any other affect) when she kills the cop, Joshi, and when Wallace kills that one newborn replicant. She seems to really enjoy delivering Deckard to torture and death, and exults in fighting; she kisses K as she stabs him, and says “I’m the best one”. It’s like she is resigned to serving Wallace’s will, but still takes her pleasures where she can get them. I have this theory that she doesn’t actually have a name– Wallace just calls her “love”, as a careless epiphet, and she has adopted it. I should be clear this is based on K’s surprise she is named, and on Wallace’s inflection the one time he says her name, which is pretty thin evidence.

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  28. Oh also Wallace’s bots are reminiscent of flies, and “Ba’alzebub” literally means lord of the flies.

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  29. Not bad but it falls short at it’s first critique. Niander Wallace’s use of drones to overcome his blindness highlights how he see’s things from multiple perspectives but in ways that aren’t quite human. Pretty sure the elemental aspect of his enviroment (it’s all stone and water) is also a hint at how he views the world in terms of fundamental building blocks and resources. He’s basically thinks of him self as a god splitting land from sea and creating a new world.

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  30. Well, actually I was to the movie yesterday, and I guess quite a few parts of my vampire brain are still working on it.

    As for Wallace’s blindness, there might be another explanation for it. Actually, the blind hologram had me sitting back with an “oh shit” in my seat, though I had been thinking about the book in question earlier…

    Anybody else read “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch”, the description of Palmer and the nature of his hallucinations? Which rhymes somewhat with the nostalgia for the 60s (we have updated from Dick’s obsession with the the 40s). There is also quite a bit of “Divine Invasion” in the movie, though Dick’s tropes could be quite repetitive at times, and I haven’t read that much Dick, especially not some of his “real literature”. Still, I guess reading “A Scanner Darkly” ATM but me into quite a special headspace for the movie, and I’m still working out if it’s a pastiche ir a satisfying synthesis.

    My reation might also be somewhat personally related, as I noted at Charlie’s place, I’m trying to reconnect with an old friend, and I’m still not sure if some of the memories she mentioned 12 years before were real or taken from or modified by movies she saw (dissociative amnesia is a bitch), which put me into quite a strange headspace for quite some parts of the movie, combined with some personal issues I’m dealing with at the moment (just had a talk about termination of my contract before the movie with the guy in question heavily implying a stay at a psychiatric hospital or a cloister, don’t ask me about the Madam-K subplot).

    Sorry for the personal details, as you might guess I was somewhat overwhelmed after the movie, and I’m still not sure if it’s the movie or my very personal headspace at the moment (a few days ago I talked about a colleague “burning” and indicated I guess I might pass the original Voight-Kampff test at the moment).

    And don’t get me started about an alexithymic (crying all tge time) Luv with a possibly a really bad case of narcisstic PD or clinical depression. Sorry, as I mentioned at Charlies I’m coming off my SSRIs after 12 years, and I might get some Melisandre lately…

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  31. RE: “Breaking the world”

    I don’t see this any sort of stumbling block. Robin Wright’s character correctly realizes that the knowledge of replicant birthing would unravel their slave labor based system by:

    1) Engendering sympathy for the replicants as actual lifeforms, because some people can only find their empathy muscles when children are involved…

    or…

    2) For people that go the other way, replicants would become an unacceptable threat. “Skin Jobs” are barely tolerated as is by a large segment of the population, and only because of their subservience. These people would respond poorly to the information that a stronger, faster version of humanity is now freely breeding, competing for resources.

    I’m not certain they would be wrong to do so. It’s one of the number of problems I have with the logic of Wallace’s reasons for pursuing replicant birthing, which seems like a poor idea on many levels. Of course, Wallace may not be completely sane.

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  32. Peter Watts: Did Wallace buy off the building inspectors, or did they just not notice that his office design would let you kill someone by pushing them a half-meter to the left and tossing a live toaster in after them?

    Pardon the cherrypicking here…I haven’t *quite* worked up the necessary ego to write an exhaustive point by point counter-analysis on your blog ( the movie was interesting enough for me to pull the trigger on that if the balance tips though–fair warning). I realize this is simply one point among several to support your “visual design compromising substantive storytelling” concerns, even though I don’t separate the two concepts. In a visual medium like film, images are worth a thousand words, and what something makes you *feel* has primacy over what something makes you think.

    However, on this specific point, I would mention that the Blade Runner films are at least nominally “cyberpunk” in subgenre–the first film being credited with helping to define it. The (sub)genre is typically defined as stories of street-level characters in a near future-technological oligarchy becoming entangled in the machinations of corporations that have the power of a nation in themselves (in other words, pretty much like now).

    To quibble with the way you phrased you objection here, the idea that one of these corporations would be subject to government oversight in the form of “building inspectors” is quaint by cyberpunk standards. It’s rather the point of the setting of these films that the Tyrells and Wallaces are directing humanity without being subject to any oversight other than their own egos.

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  33. Peter Watts: And not only does 2049 throw the premise away, it betrays the premise outright when rebellion-proof K ends up, er, rebelling.)

    My take on that is that Ana, who supplies the memory implants to the Wallace corporation, is actually designing them to prompt the replicants to rebel.

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  34. PhilRM,

    Actually Ana ist one of the most mysterious Personen in thus movie, weiß know the Story she tells K is most likely false if it was her experiencing the story, so either she is lying, or the resistance manipulated her memory as well.

    Also not

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  35. Trottelreiner,

    I took it for granted that she was lying to K: she’s hardly going to tell him the truth about who she is.

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  36. @PhilRM,
    that’s actually one possibility, she is absolutely aware of her past und using said memories as implants. Thing is, she mentioned she wants to give happy memories to the replicants, and that’s hardly a happy one, though we don’t know how much Wallace is interfering.
    Another possibility is she’s dimly aware of her past, but she thinks it’s not real, just her imagination.
    And the third one, well, she really went through this child labor camp, maybe the resistance needed some time to build her shelter, and after that they erased her memories, or inflicted some kind of amnesia.

    Villeneuve said he likes keeping mysteries, and I really liked the way he went around the question if Deckard is a replicant or not, it even reminded me of one of my favourite lines from Blindsight, “Imagine you are a machine, yes I know, a different kind of machine”. You are invited to develop your own interpretations.

    I already mentioned “Divine Invasion”, there are some plot similarities, a pregnant woman returning from the colonies and dying in the process, but Ana is no Emmanuel (sorry, going to bed an to lazy to fire up wiki). She is more like Sophia, making life in this Iron Prison more lifeable, but on the other hand keeping people from rebelling against it.

    A final note, I watched the movie in a German translation (you might notice Android “autocorrection” for German kicking in i some of my posts), so I’m not that sure about some details.

    OK, it’s been 3 days, and I guess I, err, as mentioned, I don’t think I should like a dystopia, let’s just say I wonder if it was a 4+ on the Shulgin scale for me. Actually I might write a longer rebuttal, but it might take me some days, since I’m somewhat busy at the moment.

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  37. Peter Watts:Here’s an example: Niander Wallace, the chief villain, is blind. His blindness is spookily photogenic— as are the silent floating microdrones which wirelessly port images to his brain (is it just me, or did those look for all the world like scaled-down versions of the alien spaceships from Arrival?)— but this is a guy who owns a company that mass-produces people, all of whom seem to have 20/20 vision. A pair of prosthetic eyes is somehow out of his budget? Wallace chooses blindness for the sake of some cool close-ups?

    Have we ruled out elective transhumanism on this point? If his condition was explained in the movie, I missed it. If the character spends most of his time as a synthetic artist (which we know from the first movie is how synth engineers see themselves), his imaging system is going to allow him to see much better for those purposes than human eyes. For all we know those weird looking eyes *are* the implants that let his brain receive optic data from the drones.

    Characters in your own novels seem willing to give up a good chunk of meat in order to be good at their jobs. This is cyberpunk after all.

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  38. Trottelreiner: Villeneuve said he likes keeping mysteries, and I really liked the way he went around the question if Deckard is a replicant or not, it even reminded me of one of my favourite lines from Blindsight, “Imagine you are a machine, yes I know, a different kind of machine”. You are invited to develop your own interpretations.

    While he stopped short of explicitly saying it, the movie isn’t exactly coy about reinforcing Deckard’s replicant status. I’m not talking about Wallace’s insinuations, either.

    Think about it. The Director’s cut and the Final Cut make a pretty strong circumstantial case for a replicant Deckard, but they are crucially missing any breadcrumbs as to *why* he would be a replicant. No cryptic hints about special covert Replicants serving on earth or anything like that, or references to other replicant Blade Runners. If he *was* a replicant in that movie, it seems almost entirely incidental.

    But right off the bat in the new movie, who is the first character we meet? A replicant serving as a Blade Runner, doing the dirty work that humans don’t want to do. So now there’s precedent for replicant Blade Runners indicating human willingness to employ them this way–the only question is how early did they try this? Coupled with all the circumstantial evidence from the first movie, you’d have to be reaching pretty far at this point to make the case otherwise.

    It’s for the best, too. Deckard as replicant is a far better read of the first movie, and makes many of that film’s idiosyncrasies make a lot more sense. Reading that movie as if he was human makes him come across as a complete douchebag, and as Dr. watts pointed out, the relationship between he and Rachel makes a lot less sense.

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  39. Trottelreiner: Thing is, she mentioned she wants to give happy memories to the replicants, and that’s hardly a happy one, though we don’t know how much Wallace is interfering.

    I took her statement to be metaphoric rather than literal, that is, she wants the replicants to be able to have happy memories, by freeing them.

    Villeneuve said he likes keeping mysteries, and I really liked the way he went around the question if Deckard is a replicant or not, it even reminded me of one of my favourite lines from Blindsight, “Imagine you are a machine, yes I know, a different kind of machine”. You are invited to develop your own interpretations.

    Yeah, the open-endedness of this movie (as was also the case with Arrival) is one of the things I loved about it.

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  40. DA,

    We haven’t. Actually his in-house imaging system is just one of the clips in the box, and I think this is going to be one of the movies we’re going to have a hell of a fun going over on blue ray, scince the notifications are in an East Asiatic script. For all it’s worth, the other clips might make him see gravity waves at Tannhaeuser’s Gate or like. 😉

    That was actually one of the points I was going to make. Besides, it’s a callback to the eyescream inflicted on the synth engineer in the first movie. And Wallace might like the heightening of his other senses blindness might imply, he might see it as a way to keep his sensibility in the brutal world of 2049 (Ana’s holodome is another way) etc.

    As for Wallace’s sanity, sanity implies beliefs and actions conforming to social and cultural norms, and we don’t really know what those are for superrich industrialists at that point. He also doesn’t suffer, he makes others suffer, actually I think Wallace is the one true sociopath in this movie, though there are plenty of other personality disorders around. I’m now quite sure Luv is supposed to be a narcissist, and K has some schizoid/borderline tendencies. Actually my idea how Wallace induces subserviance in his replicants is by inducing a personality disorder (there is nothing more predictable than a PD). Come to think about it, any idea where the Freysa name is coming from? Reminds me somewhat of Freya, maybe it’s time to read Charlie’s “Saturn’s Children”.

    Actually, wiki mentions a short movie about Wallace introducing his new models, I’d have to look at youtube.

    If you excuse me, in Germany we usually do this kind of analysis in “Deutschstunde” at school, and I sometimes had a tendency of overanalysis at that. Or I missed the main points, or I was getting sidetracked…

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  41. DA,

    Again, that’s one way of reading it. For me, it doesn’t really matter if you were created by some blind watchmaker on the African savannah or a more literal blind watchmaker in early 21st century California. Damn, is it just me, or is this movie dense?

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  42. Trottelreiner:
    DA,

    Again, that’s one way of reading it. For me, it doesn’t really matter if you were created by some blind watchmaker on the African savannah or a more literal blind watchmaker in early 21st century California.

    It makes quite a bit of difference in the tone of how certain scenes in the original movie play–especially the “romance”.

    If Deckard is a replicant. dealing with his own emerging emotions both over his line of work and the replicant Rachel, then they are two “incomplete” or only partially-formed people questing for more, that recognize this quality in the other. It explains the incredibly awkward nature of their “love” scene. They can be seen as innocents, trying to sort out their emotions and making clumsy attempts at what they think adult love and sexuality is.

    If Deckard is a human, then that same love scene becomes much more “icky”. At best it stands out as wildly unconvincing, at worst Deckard is sexually aggressive, bordering on rapey, with someone who has the emotional age of a child and little or no experience with human sexuality.

    Remember, the replicants in that movie are all highly intelligent, but when their emotions come into play, they are almost childlike–this is demonstrated at several points in interactions between Roy and Leon, between Roy and Pris, and between Roy and Tyrell. It may be because Deckard sees her as less than human and therefore something to be used, which makes the leap to the softer romance difficult to believe. Or it may just be poor film-making in that regard, though I’m inclined to give Scott the benefit of the doubt.

    So yes, I believe it’s far and away the better way to read the movie. Not because any other way is invalid, but because everything just works better if Deckard is also a replicant coming to terms with his own emotions. I enjoy the film much more that way, and I believe the new film makes a much stronger case for replicant Deckard than it does for human Deckard.

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  43. DA,

    Again, that’s one way of seeing it. But if Deckard was “human” all along, would it be that much different? Would it really make that much of a difference if Deckard was not a replicant who didn’t get the right memory implants or a “trueborn” (to use WH40K Dark Eldar terminology) human whose socialisation was somewhat confined (BTW DADOES Deckard was married, which reinforces the “punch clock villain” Eichmann effect Dick was most likely after)?

    Actually it might be even more “romantic” in this regard, two “damaged” individuals from quite different background developing an emotional rapport.

    As said, it was something of a personal experience for me. At some point of coming out of my depression I socialized with a woman who might or might not qualify for BPD and who might or might not have developed feelings for me. I like to imagine we spent part of our early twenties partying quite close, me with the local biology student bohemians, her clubbing to house and like. It’s only 50m at Haverkamp, but if you use the Darwinian definition of Species (“reproductive community”) we might have just as well been two different species…

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  44. DA: So yes, I believe it’s far and away the better way to read the movie. Not because any other way is invalid, but because everything just works better if Deckard is also a replicant coming to terms with his own emotions. I enjoy the film much more that way, and I believe the new film makes a much stronger case for replicant Deckard than it does for human Deckard.

    I disagree (YMMV). While Scott certainly wanted to imply that Deckard was a replicant, that was not the intention of either of the screenwriters, although both of them certainly wanted the audience to wonder if Deckard was human. (It’s not at all surprising to me that the new film, written by Hampton Fancher, who wrote much of the screenplay of the original, comes down firmly on the side of “Who knows?” on the question of Deckard’s humanity). Ford also hated the idea, as did a lot of the rest of the cast and crew. David Peoples (the final screenwriter) said that Scott got the idea from misunderstanding an internal monologue that he’d written for Deckard, in which Deckard muses that his creator (meaning God) was no better than the replicants’. In my opinion, having Deckard turn out to be a replicant is just a gimmick that undercuts the entire point of the movie: Deckard has been so emotionally damaged by his job that he’s practically been dehumanized – the replicants are more human than he is. (And the rest of the movie is filled with characters like Tyrell and Bryant who are even worse than Deckard.)

    If Deckard is a human, then that same love scene becomes much more “icky”. At best it stands out as wildly unconvincing, at worst Deckard is sexually aggressive, bordering on rapey, with someone who has the emotional age of a child and little or no experience with human sexuality.

    Well, except that it is pretty icky, and it was shot and edited to be icky: producer Michael Deeley referred to it as “the rape scene in the corridor”. Although the scene as shot went on longer and became more consensual, that was largely edited out, because Scott wanted it to be violent and disturbing, and in any case it’s pretty much impossible to argue that Rachel is capable of meaningful consent at that point, for the reasons you note. (The line that she doesn’t quite get out in their encounter is “I can’t trust my feelings.”) That scene was actually very controversial when the film was first released.

    (All factual assertions in the above come from Paul Sammon’s 1996 book Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner.

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  45. PhilRM: While Scott certainly wanted to imply that Deckard was a replicant, that was not the intention of either of the screenwriters, although both of them certainly wanted the audience to wonder if Deckard was human. (It’s not at all surprising to me that the new film, written by Hampton Fancher, who wrote much of the screenplay of the original, comes down firmly on the side of “Who knows?” on the question of Deckard’s humanity). Ford also hated the idea, as did a lot of the rest of the cast and crew.

    Ford hates everything–notoriously being one of Hollywood’s grumpiest actors, and I don’t have any particular respect for his artistic judgements. Likewise the intent of all the other people mentioned is irrelevant. Doesn’t matter how the sausage gets made–all movies are made by committee up to a point–we lay the ultimate credit or condemnation at the feet of the director, because they have the ultimate control over shaping the story, particularly in the editing room. No director ever gets a pass on a turkey because “hey, one of the screenwriters was a hack”.

    PhilRM: In my opinion, having Deckard turn out to be a replicant is just a gimmick that undercuts the entire point of the movie: Deckard has been so emotionally damaged by his job that he’s practically been dehumanized – the replicants are more human than he is. (And the rest of the movie is filled with characters like Tyrell and Bryant who are even worse than Deckard.)

    It’s *definitely * gimmicky if you view the film outside of the context of the new movie. Despite his claims to the contrary, I never trusted that this was Scott’s original intent. As I said previously, subsequent cuts of BR have made a strong circumstantial case for Deckard being a replicant, but there was no compelling reason as to *why* he would have been. Even allowing for ambiguity, one would have expected some more deliberate winks setting up a case for why Deckard was a replicant operating in the capacity he was. As it was, you might have well made a case for *any* of the human characters in that movie being replicants.

    The new film supplies those missing pieces the original lacks. The case for replicant Deckard is now much stronger than for human Deckard. As Dr. Watts has pointed out, a replicant Deckard following a design solves a number of problems with the first movie, and sands off a lot of rough edges.

    And for what it’s worth, Tyrell doesn’t seem like such a bad guy in the original film, although I’m sure he was responsible for untold misery offscreen. Certainly not compared to a mercenary assassin and rapist which is the unavoidable interpretation of a human Deckard.

    PhilRM:

    If Deckard is a human, then that same love scene becomes much more “icky”. At best it stands out as wildly unconvincing, at worst Deckard is sexually aggressive, bordering on rapey, with someone who has the emotional age of a child and little or no experience with human sexuality.

    Well, except that it is pretty icky, and it was shot and edited to be icky: producer Michael Deeley referred to it as “the rape scene in the corridor”. Although the scene as shot went on longer and became more consensual, that was largely edited out, because Scott wanted it to be violent and disturbing, and in any case it’s pretty much impossible to argue that Rachel is capable of meaningful consent at that point, for the reasons you note. (The line that she doesn’t quite get out in their encounter is “I can’t trust my feelings.”) That scene was actually very controversial when the film was first released.

    That’s interesting information, but it doesn’t change my objections. Personally I like my noir protagonists to be hardboiled but not so repellent I can no longer sympathize with them.

    Squeamishness aside, there are practical reasons to reject this. If taken at face value it renders the romance between the two characters, and as Dr. Watts pointed out, Deckard’s sudden willingness to risk his own life by not killing Rachel, highly implausible. Past a certain point, a good chunk of the movie no longer rings true if interpreted at surface level.

    Regardless of interpretation, there are meant to be parallels between Deckard and the replicants. They are all characters undergoing an emotional awakening–Deckard coming to grips with guilt and remorse over the things he’s done, and the replicants dealing with their own emotional development and pursuit of continued existence. You’re correct that we’re supposed to compare the relative humanity of both characters, but I don’t believe this is thwarted by one interpretation over another.

    In a movie as impressionistic as Blade Runner, there’s never a single point to the entire movie. It’s meant to be experienced on an emotional level not an overly literal one. I agree though that the point was never about whether Deckard was or wasn’t a replicant–that was incidental to the question of whether Deckard was or wasn’t a murderer.

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  46. Like a lot of people here, I had a pretty ambivalent reaction to BR2049. But, then, I was also pretty ambivalent the first time I saw the original Blade Runner. It took time for me to fall in love with that film. So I’m curious how the sequel will age.

    I suspect it won’t age well. I loved the opening shot, of the solar panel fields. Great contrast with the opening of the original. But the climax of BR was pretty epic. BR2049 finished with … a fist fight on a dark shoreline? A bit underwhelming. However, I’ve been wrong about these things before.

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  47. I totally missed that replicant baseline test was from “Pale Fire.” Rather interesting, considering K has a copy of the book in his apartment. Makes me wonder if he was trying to game the test or something.

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  48. DA: we lay the ultimate credit or condemnation at the feet of the director, because they have the ultimate control over shaping the story, particularly in the editing room. No director ever gets a pass on a turkey because “hey, one of the screenwriters was a hack”.

    True, but no director has ever made a great film out of a lousy screenplay, and some otherwise talented directors have absolutely no story instincts whatsoever. Scott is one of those, which is why his output is so wildly uneven: give him a great script and he makes Blade Runner, give him a terrible script and he makes Prometheus. (To be clear, I think Scott has a lot of tremendous gifts as a director, and the original film would not have been what it was without his input.) Historical sidebar: it’s rather hilarious that auteur theory, in which all credit is given to the director, was invented by a group of French film critics to describe American films made by directors in the studio system in the 30s and 40s who never wrote their own scripts and would have laughed at the suggestion that what they were doing was art.

    The new film supplies those missing pieces the original lacks. The case for replicant Deckard is now much stronger than for human Deckard. As Dr. Watts has pointed out, a replicant Deckard following a design solves a number of problems with the first movie, and sands off a lot of rough edges.

    Except I don’t agree with that, full stop. That’s a matter of interpretation – you’re just as entitled to yours, of course. You’re also making the case that a sequel made by a different director determines the interpretation of the original movie, which is novel, to say the least.

    And for what it’s worth, Tyrell doesn’t seem like such a bad guy in the original film, although I’m sure he was responsible for untold misery offscreen.

    He created intelligent, self-aware beings with free will for the sole purpose of making them slaves, for profit, with a bonus four-year lifespan to help keep them under control. You and I apparently have very different definitions of “bad guy”.

    Squeamishness aside, there are practical reasons to reject this. If taken at face value it renders the romance between the two characters, and as Dr. Watts pointed out, Deckard’s sudden willingness to risk his own life by not killing Rachel, highly implausible. Past a certain point, a good chunk of the movie no longer rings true if interpreted at surface level.

    Again, I disagree. Deckard’s attraction to Rachel is driven by the fact that he has come to view the replicants as human (why else did he quit his job?) – quite possibly the only ones who are truly human, given that he lives in a society that sanctions their unquestioned murder. He’s willing to risk himself to save her partly from that, partly because she saved his life, and partly because he’s trying to atone for what he’s done. I just don’t see that as at all implausible.

    I won’t quote the rest of your comment after this because I agree with pretty much all of it. I just want to add on one point:

    I agree though that the point was never about whether Deckard was or wasn’t a replicant–that was incidental to the question of whether Deckard was or wasn’t a murderer.

    I don’t think the movie was ambiguous about this: he is. Certainly Deckard thinks so; that’s why he quit in the first place and only returns under threat.

    I’ve spent way more time on this discussion than I should have, but I’ve really enjoyed the argument.

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  49. Mark Russell:
    I totally missed that replicant baseline test was from “Pale Fire.” Rather interesting, considering K has a copy of the book in his apartment. Makes me wonder if he was trying to game the test or something.

    I missed that too (I’ve read Pale Fire, but it was quite a while ago). That does raise a very interesting question. Note also that Joi suggests they read it, which implies that it’s something he reads often, even though (in K’s words) “You hate that book.”

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  50. DA,

    Okay, one last comment (this isn’t really disagreeing with anything you’ve said): a lot of those “rough edges” are the result of movie-making being a frequently far more chaotic process than we would assume, and this was especially true of Blade Runner, a hugely ambitious film without a hugely ambitious budget and an insane production schedule for what they were trying to do. They didn’t even have a completed script two months before the start of principal photography (at which point they fired the original screenwriter, Hampton Fancher), so there were a lot of things that were all but written on the fly. Hence we have Deckard being told on two occasions about memory implants, we have the vanished sixth replicant, we have multiple instances of people whose dialog doesn’t match their lip movements, along with many more errors. Perhaps the most famous scene in the film, Roy’s “Tears in rain” speech, was completely re-written by Rutger Hauer shortly before they shot it; he threw out almost all of his original (much longer) dying monologue, added the “All these moments… Time to die” lines, then played it for Scott, who said “Yep, that’s much better” and they filmed it. At which point they were done, because the production was completely out of money. (That’s why you see the dove fly up into a blue sky after Roy releases it, because by that point the sun had risen.)

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  51. Just saw BR2049 the other day. Random observations (haven’t read the entire discussion yet; please forgive my repetition):
    – The premise of both Blade Runner movies is flawed: if you can’t tell the difference structurally between a human and a replicant, then there isn’t one. All replicants represent in that case is a very expensive way to make additional humans.
    – This is the sense in which the “miracle” of replicant birth will “break the world”: it exposes the lie. And the lie is that this is a vile, fascistic, slaveholding society. And K is in their service.
    – At what point does complicity by a supposedly “good” person to a bad system render them as bad as the TPTB?
    – The lie also gives symbolic oomph to Niander’s blindness: he is deliberately blind to his own cruelty (and fascism–yes I can’t say that enough).
    – K + Joe = Joseph K, which I think is pretty cool
    – porn porn porn porn porn, but only for straight guys. Hey! Where’s my delicious man-candy? I mean beside Ryan “Hey Girl” Gosling (which is plenty, I’ll admit).
    – the soundtrack takes Vangelis’ dreaminess and turns it into something harsh and terrible, especially at IMAX volumes
    – BTW this is not cyberpunk. The original was almost a stylebook. For one thing, we’ve grown past our earlier infatuation with computer technology. For another, in this world there’s essentially no hope of escaping from the (fascist) Machine.
    – if a slave wants to be enslaved, is it still slavery? Of course it is. The slave just won’t be happy when you free her. Slaveholding degrades the owner as well as the slave. Robin Wright illustrates this nicely.
    – Edward James Olmos seems more like Adama than Eduardo Gaff.
    – If replicants can breed I guess the rag-tag band in the Las Vegas sewers feels it gives them legitimacy. I don’t think they can win their revolution though, not if they’ve been bred / built for obedience.
    – They don’t seem particularly subservient though. Joe K spends the movie disobeying his boss, f’rinstance.
    – The Murderous Bitch replicant couldn’t have been any more stereotyped if they’d made her a lesbian. I did wonder why that single tear though…
    – LA seemed awful crowded for a world that had lost its best and brightest to the exciting Offworld Colonies… I suppose it’s the poor who get left behind.
    – For a tough guy, the Dickensian boss running the child-labor sweatshop sure got compliant fast after a punch in the nose. And those children were replicants too? I wasn’t clear about that. If that’s the case, and some replicants have childhoods, that’s an even stronger point in favor of the idea that replicants are simply human beings that you’ve CRISPR’ed a little and then systemically disenfranchised.
    – Human society as depicted perhaps does not deserve to continue.

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  52. I think I need to rewatch the first movie because I have almost no recollection of Rachel’s character at all, never mind her whole romance subplot.

    Speaking of which, I forgot to mention one of the scenes that really didn’t work in the new movie was the cgi Rachel being trotted out. Not because it wasn’t well made, but the whole thing just barely dodged making me laugh out loud. They grow a duplicate Rachel for Deckard and they get the eye colour wrong (How that’s supposed to happen I don’t know) and then they summarily *BLAM* her in the middle of the living room. It was like something out of Rick and Morty.

    Also for someone who grows supersoldiers for a living, Wallace seemed oddly dependent on his personal secretary, judging by how easily K took out all his other flunkies she seems to have been the only replicant he had on the payroll.

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  53. I dunno, I think the scene with the Rachel copy works. It takes place immediately before the scene with K and the big Joi ad, cutting directly from a shot of Deckard to K in a similar pose. Also Sean Young actually does have brown eyes; it’s possible Deckard is just making that detail up to distance himself from this new woman.

    The charcter Luv (Wallace’s lieutenant) carries on one of the features of the first movie’s replicants: they’re kind of childish, emotionally. THere’s something petty about how she threatens the police chief (“I’m going to lie to Mr. Wallace, and tell him you tried to kill me”), or her last words to K (“I’m the best!”).

    The kids in the sweatshop are all human, we see a replicant born as an adult in Wallace’s first scene.

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  54. @PhilRM

    We agree more than we disagree. I’ll just peck at a few details here.

    PhilRM:

    The new film supplies those missing pieces the original lacks. The case for replicant Deckard is now much stronger than for human Deckard. As Dr. Watts has pointed out, a replicant Deckard following a design solves a number of problems with the first movie, and sands off a lot of rough edges.

    Except I don’t agree with that, full stop. That’s a matter of interpretation – you’re just as entitled to yours, of course. You’re also making the case that a sequel made by a different director determines the interpretation of the original movie, which is novel, to say the least.

    This is a Ridley Scott project. You think anything made it on that screen he didn’t sign off on?

    Yes, I think an official sequel can and frequently does alter the context of an original movie, which is one of the reasons I dreaded this one so much and came away pleasantly relieved. We are also spring-boarding off a comment by our host in which he asserts the new movie “fixes” aspects of the original, so I have taken that into account in arguments.

    Obviously it’s all interpretive, and I favor the interpretation that makes the original movie more palatable to me. But there were *no* new elements introduced in the new film to reinforce the idea that Deckard really was human after all, whereas there were strong elements introduced to suggest he wasn’t. Add this to the strong, but mostly circumstantial, case that latter cuts of Blade Runner made that Deckard was a replicant, and K’s very presence in the movie becomes the “smoking gun” the original movie lacks, let alone anything that Wallace suggests.

    Still room to move either way, but the argument for a human Deckard is now an uphill one.

    PhilRM:

    And for what it’s worth, Tyrell doesn’t seem like such a bad guy in the original film, although I’m sure he was responsible for untold misery offscreen.

    He created intelligent, self-aware beings with free will for the sole purpose of making them slaves, for profit, with a bonus four-year lifespan to help keep them under control. You and I apparently have very different definitions of “bad guy”.

    Sure, if you come down on the side of Replicants as living humans (which I agree, the movie bends over backwards to make the case for), that would fall into the “untold misery offscreen” category. If you buy replicants as technology, then he’s drastically improved the human condition and put the stars within reach of humanity. He also hasn’t murdered or raped anyone onscreen, like a human Deckard almost certainly did (again, depending on interpretation).

    Just saying, apart from the morally ambiguous questions at the center of the movie, he doesn’t seem like a bad guy, at least not compared to a Deckard or a Wallace–neither of which I’d want to be in the same room with. I like to imagine Tyrell and JR Sebastian discussing humanity’s future over games of their games of chess–likeable JR also complicit in that potentially massive crime.

    PhilRM:

    Squeamishness aside, there are practical reasons to reject this. If taken at face value it renders the romance between the two characters, and as Dr. Watts pointed out, Deckard’s sudden willingness to risk his own life by not killing Rachel, highly implausible. Past a certain point, a good chunk of the movie no longer rings true if interpreted at surface level.

    Again, I disagree. Deckard’s attraction to Rachel is driven by the fact that he has come to view the replicants as human (why else did he quit his job?) – quite possibly the only ones who are truly human, given that he lives in a society that sanctions their unquestioned murder. He’s willing to risk himself to save her partly from that, partly because she saved his life, and partly because he’s trying to atone for what he’s done. I just don’t see that as at all implausible.

    OK…so we go from a couple brief meetings to her saving his life to his (if human) probable rape of her to Dr Watt’s “Twoo WuV” in an improbable time frame? I’m sorry–if Deckard is human none of that rings true. You’d be better off making the case for Stockholm syndrome. It works if he’s a replicant though.

    PhilRM: Okay, one last comment (this isn’t really disagreeing with anything you’ve said): a lot of those “rough edges” are the result of movie-making being a frequently far more chaotic process than we would assume, and this was especially true of Blade Runner, a hugely ambitious film without a hugely ambitious budget and an insane production schedule for what they were trying to do.

    Again, interesting but not relevant how the sausage gets made. The price of admission is the same as for any other film, and I judge what’s on the screen.

    I too enjoy the discussion, and am embarrassed by how nerdy I get over it. Thanks for indulging me.

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  55. Ebie: The premise of both Blade Runner movies is flawed: if you can’t tell the difference structurally between a human and a replicant, then there isn’t one. All replicants represent in that case is a very expensive way to make additional humans

    So does a human with a visibly artificial prosthetic leg therefore become “less” human because you can discern a structural difference?

    I don’t necessarily disagree with your take here, and I’d like to avoid the sort of circular philosophizing that so often accompanies this topic, but I have the same problem with this point that I had with the earlier poster who suggested to be human you have to be born in a womb to two humans. Humanity is a state that defies easy absolutes, and any attempt to sum it up in a single sentence is going to run into problems–which is rather the point of the films.

    Granted, Blade Runner bends over backward to cheerlead for the replicants being human. Short of making them actual clones (in which case there would be no substantive debate), it pushes the example about as far as possible to the pro-humanity side as possible while still leaving any room for interpretation.

    I always found this to be a stumbling block when using the film’s replicants as an analog for artificial intelligence–in this case the deck is stacked. To the new film’s credit, it provides actual AI’s to compare and contrast with the replicants and humans. The movie *seems* to suggest the AIs come up a little short on the humanity/sapience spectrum, with K somewhere in between. This may or may not be valid, but I like that they are differentiating between the replicants, and purely digital AIs.

    The Blade Runner universe’s threshold for humanity seems to revolve around emotional capacity. The original film’s replicants weren’t viewed as human until their emotions started developing, which is problematic in itself because not all card carrying humans have the same emotional capacity. But the ability to suffer, or to love, seems to be the films’ entry to the humanity club. Which is why both movies are contemplatively paced, impressionist experiences with ambient scores that allow the audience to experience them on an emotive level, rather than a strictly intellectual one.

    I’ll take a stab at my own take of the final scene in the new movie after a single viewing, where Deckard asks a dying K why he did it. K just sort of smiles with a gesture that says to me he didn’t entirely know why, other than it just felt right. It’s no Tears in the Rain, but it does strike me as the most genuinely authentic *human* response of any character in either movie.

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  56. @Ebie

    Just a couple more counter-points. You made a lot of good observations. Please don’t think I’m picking on you.

    Ebie: – the soundtrack takes Vangelis’ dreaminess and turns it into something harsh and terrible, especially at IMAX volumes

    Musical tastes vary obviously and there’s no fighting nostalgia, but as an ambient music fan who listens to both scores regularly, I couldn’t disagree more. I think the score and the sound design were every bit as important as the visuals to making 2049 the potent cinematic spectacle that it was. I admit I was skeptical when I read that Hans Zimmer would be involved, but his collaboration with Benjamin Wallfisch has yielded something new and vigorous, yet still in the spirit of the original Vangelis score. It has sharper edges to be sure, but is no less moody and dreamlike, and it eliminates the cheesier, dated aspects of the original score (saxaphones over a “love” scene–sheesh) in favor of a more modern, technological feel.

    I really wish people would include the sound when they remark about the visuals of the film. I thought it was a complete AV experience as the sound ripped through me paired with what was on the screen. There is some bonkers shit going on in that score, and as in the first film just the sounds of the world and technology were engrossing.

    Ebie: – BTW this is not cyberpunk. The original was almost a stylebook. For one thing, we’ve grown past our earlier infatuation with computer technology. For another, in this world there’s essentially no hope of escaping from the (fascist) Machine.

    For what it’s worth, Wikipedia disagrees with you, as do I:

    Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a future setting that tends to focus on “a combination of low life and high tech”[1] featuring advanced technological and scientific achievements, such as artificial intelligence and cybernetics, juxtaposed with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.

    Early films in the genre include Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner, one of several of Philip K. Dick’s works that have been adapted into films.

    Cyberpunk plots often center on conflict among artificial intelligences, hackers, and megacorporations, and tend to be set in a near-future Earth, rather than in the far-future settings or galactic vistas found in novels such as Isaac Asimov’s Foundation or Frank Herbert’s Dune.[7] The settings are usually post-industrial dystopias but tend to feature extraordinary cultural ferment and the use of technology in ways never anticipated by its original inventors (“the street finds its own uses for things”).[8] Much of the genre’s atmosphere echoes film noir, and written works in the genre often use techniques from detective fiction.[9]

    Cyberpunk writers tend to use elements from hardboiled detective fiction, film noir, and postmodernist prose to describe an often nihilistic underground side of an electronic society.

    The new film falls comfortably into that description. William Gibson doesn’t give a shit any more, but If you’d prefer a more authoritative source, here’s Mike Pondsmith, creator of the original Cyberpunk roleplaying game in the 80s explaining how cyberpunk is more about tone than tech.

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  57. Ebie: – the soundtrack takes Vangelis’ dreaminess and turns it into something harsh and terrible, especially at IMAX volumes

    Oh god, yes. BR2049 might have had arthouse visuals, but its sound mix felt more like Michael Bay.

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  58. Nestor,

    I think the scene is highly laughable, AND deeply tragic. Remember, that is only seconds after Wallace showed Deckard Rachel’s skull. It shows just how detached from “normal humanity” Wallace is. Actually, it had me vexing to my neighbour that now we have the third adaptation of Lem’s Solaris. Which, given that humor is a psychological defensive mechanusm, is somewhat interesting.

    As for the eye color, Deckard might be lying through his teeth, the original Rachel was a genetic mosaic, the ossarium was not that conductive to preserving not-so-Paleo DNA, or something happened to either Rachel that changed her eye color. Actually, AFAIR long-term opioid use might lighten eye color, I thought along these lines with some comment in “A Scanner Darkly” when somebody mentioned Donna’s karge brown eyes ibdicate she doen’t use heroin, but then I understood she just didn’t suffer from miosis.

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  59. Mark Russell: Oh god, yes. BR2049 might have had arthouse visuals, but its sound mix felt more like Michael Bay.

    Nothing more pointless than arguing about music between people with different musical sensibilities–however. I bristle just the tiniest bit at this description. I’ve had the score in heavy rotation for a couple weeks now, and it’s about 70-80% Vangelis-y ambient moodscapes, albeit updated for modern production sensibilities rather than dated sounding 80s New Age.

    Granted, the heavier sections may have been repeated during the film’s action sequences–I’ll have to wait for my Blu Ray to get a feel for that. But even the moments of typical Zimmerian bombast often quickly yield to some pretty rad psychedelic heavy industrial synth. Smoke a bowl, put “Sea Wall” in on the most powerful sound system you can find, and let it rattle your teeth. It’s wild.

    Obviously, if one was into neither bowl smokage, nor teeth-rattling psychedelia, your mileage might vary. I enjoy it though.

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  60. Ebie,

    Actually I don’t know if “fascism” is the right word. Depending on your definition, “fascism” is just a movement in Post-WW1 Italy or a bunch of authoritarian movements in European societies.

    In either case, one of the main points of fascism was glorification and aesthetification of hard physical work and integration of the worker into an organic whole. There is little of that in K’s working life, and even less so in the sweatshop with the children who may ir may not be replicants (if they are not, do the buyers know or even care?).

    The whole system looking quite similar to, say, apartheid ZA is another issue, but I’m somewhat tired of every symptom of late capitalism grinding in its rails labelled “fascism”. Actually, quite a few of those critics are quite close to fascism themselves, and while I knew quite a few very likeable fascists, we’re animals, just as dogs, and territorial instinct is quite common in animals, quite a few others were in the same boat as one Trotzkist I knew, people I imagined I could sacrifice without remorse, because they’d do the same with me if they thought it appropiate.

    Thing is, with dogs, they bark at and bite even a friedly stranger, but if they perceive you as part of their pack, they will take quite a lot of abuse and even come back licking the boot kicking them, there are similar behaviours with mistreated children.

    Fascists, replicants and quite a few humans in this shithouse called REAL LIFE™ are like dogs. Maybe we should try to become like wolves (and just halfway through this wonderful example of SAD, yes, I’m taking care of it, you realize that “self-domesticated HSS” was a main point of Konrad Lorenz who, let’s admit it, was not that averse to fascism either…)

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  61. Ebie,

    BTW, as DA said, please don’t think I’m picking on you.

    As for the ragtags in Las Vegas, there are those of us who think being a parent is quite a nice way of experiencing humanity, a point I can sympathize with much more than the “celibacy is unnatural, people need sex”-crowd.

    If you go Marxist, you could argue control of modes of production also includes modes of reproduction.

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  62. DA: So does a human with a visibly artificial prosthetic leg therefore become “less” human because you can discern a structural difference?

    […] Humanity is a state that defies easy absolutes, and any attempt to sum it up in a single sentence is going to run into problems–which is rather the point of the films.

    Granted, Blade Runner bends over backward to cheerlead for the replicants being human.

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  63. DA: So does a human with a visibly artificial prosthetic leg therefore become “less” human because you can discern a structural difference?

    […] Humanity is a state that defies easy absolutes, and any attempt to sum it up in a single sentence is going to run into problems–which is rather the point of the films.

    Granted, Blade Runner bends over backward to cheerlead for the replicants being human.

    When I said “structurally” I meant the structure of the organisms (as opposed to load-bearing structural members). You’re not seriously asking me whether a man with a cane is a different species from one without.

    In the BR universe, it would seem that replicants have the same bone structure as born-humans (else the LAPD forensics lab would have noticed Rachel’s status right away and not needed 200 IQ Ryan Gosling to zoom in on a serial number).

    If there were any other macro-structural differences between replicants and humans — organs, blood, etc. — you wouldn’t need Blade Runners to go find them and beat them up. You’d expose them with yer universal surveillance apparatus as soon as they went to the store or the bank or the airport. (yeah, yeah, I know Sapper Morton was a hermit and could probably order everything by drone, but the point about automated mechanical detection still stands I think).

    Even DNA — I don’t see canonical proof but I would again think you would just need a quick med-lab test and not Voigt-Kampf to discern the difference. If there was a difference.

    So yeah. Replicants are just grown-humans rather than born-humans, is my assertion. Cleaned up genetically and tailored for specific jobs. It’s a slippery slope, that, and they’re already on it, and they don’t want to admit that they have re-institutionalized slavery. Thus our story.

    PS “What is humanity” may be a question with a nebulous answer (and definitely the filmmakers’ idea of it seems to hinge on empathy), but “which organisms can we class as homo sapiens” is not…

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  64. Mark Russell: Oh god, yes. BR2049 might have had arthouse visuals, but its sound mix felt more like Michael Bay.

    Yeah, exactly. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it — when I said “terrible” I didn’t mean it was crap. I meant that it was frightening and bombastic, and full of that Hans Zimmer BRRAAAAAHHHH!!!

    It took the “full of wonder” sweetness of Vangelis’ themes and very cleverly remixed them into something much darker (and without resorting to some relentless EDM beat).

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  65. DA:
    @Ebie

    Just a couple more counter-points. You made a lot of good observations. Please don’t think I’m picking on you.

    For what it’s worth, Wikipediadisagrees with you, as do I:

    The new film falls comfortably into that description. William Gibson doesn’t give a shit any more, but If you’d prefer a more authoritative source, here’s Mike Pondsmith, creator of the original Cyberpunk roleplaying game in the 80s explaining how cyberpunk is more about tone than tech.

    Didn’t your mama teach you not to pick on girls? j/k. I was, after all, hoping to provoke discussion…

    My tastes in cyberpunk are my own and probably quite old-fashioned by now. I like mine with a slight whiff of freedom, like the off-the-grid peace the gentlemen losers of the Neuromancer trilogy found when they bailed out of the game. (Mike Pondsmith doesn’t rate as ‘more authoritative’ than Billy G, at least not to me).

    This movie’s world was too dark to have room for that–the slaves will never win their rebellion, the environment will continue to deteriorate, and the wretched PTB probably do not deserve to perpetuate the species.

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  66. Trottelreiner:
    Ebie,

    Actually I don’t know if “fascism” is the right word. Depending on your definition, “fascism” is just a movement in Post-WW1 Italy or a bunch of authoritarian movements in European societies.

    Would you prefer “police state”? I could go with that instead, even though it doesn’t lend itself as nicely to the adjectival form.

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  67. Nestor,

    They got the eye color completely right, deckard was just trying to be a dick saying something closer to ‘eh shes not the same, im not interested in your deal’

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  68. Ebie: My tastes in cyberpunk are my own and probably quite old-fashioned by now. I like mine with a slight whiff of freedom, like the off-the-grid peace the gentlemen losers of the Neuromancer trilogy found when they bailed out of the game. (Mike Pondsmith doesn’t rate as ‘more authoritative’ than Billy G, at least not to me).

    You caught that last paragraph I cited about an undercurrent of nihlism being common to Cyberpunk, right? Cyberpunk has always tended towards pessimism–often deliberately so as a counter argument to more optimistic popular science fiction like Star Trek. It may not suit your personal tastes, but the BR films are both easily Cyberpunk by accepted definitions.

    And I would never imply Pondsmith as being more authoritative than Gibson, but as a genre specialist I did suggest he might be more authoritative than Wikipedia. Last I had read Gibson probably doesn’t give a shit anymore, having dismissed Neuromancer as Kid Lit.

    Ebie: This movie’s world was too dark to have room for that–the slaves will never win their rebellion, the environment will continue to deteriorate, and the wretched PTB probably do not deserve to perpetuate the species.

    In other words, it’s too realistic? (this is where I’d normally insert a delightful winky emoticon to soften my retort, but house rules prohibit.)

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  69. Ebie:

    PS “What is humanity” may be a question with a nebulous answer (and definitely the filmmakers’ idea of it seems to hinge on empathy), but “which organisms can we class as homo sapiens” is not…

    Oh, well that’s even easier then. If we’re talking about species definition, then the non-birthing replicants aren’t human, full stop, no matter how many rainy rooftop soliloquies they rattle off. Clearly that’s not the films’ intent, as it was making the case for Replicant humanity before that particular wrinkle.

    I honestly think people get way too hung up on what Replicants are made out of when considering the themes. Constructing them out of synthetic organic tissue is a way the filmmakers make it easier for the audience to make the case, but it isn’t important.

    If the replicants were made out of metal with positronic brains, would it weaken their case? If someone flawlessly constructs an organic automaton out of spare organic tissue, indistinguishable from the real thing, yet only with metal functions sufficient to execute a pre-definied tap dancing routine and no thoughts or feelings about it one way or the other, does it qualify as human?

    This is exactly the sort of thing I wanted to avoid. I only mention it here to suggest that structure is not relevant, at least from the films’ point of view which attribute humanity to emotional capacity.

    Here’s what we know about synthetic life forms in the Blade Runner universe, and feel free to correct me if you think I’m mistaken anywhere.

    1) Synthetic life forms are not clones. They are constructs. Not all are created equal–they vary in quality according to price, and the skill of the engineers involved who consider themselves artisans.

    2) They can be differentiated from human under microscopic scrutiny.

    3) We don’t know what their brains look like. It seems safe to assume they resemble the brains of the creature they are mimicking for purely practical reasons–what form better to control the body it was designed for? But they could be glowing orange tennis balls for all we know.

    4) Replicant physiology *must* differ from baseline human on some level. They are stronger, faster, more resistant to pain and injury. Normal humans don’t go crashing through walls like Roy and K without injury, and you can’t do that without some mechanical and structural tweaks.

    They are, however, still vulnerable to extreme trauma (gunshots), and require air to breathe (they can drown). I speculated about the possible reasons for this much earlier in the thread.

    Ultimately it doesn’t matter. From the films’ point of view, the case for replicant humanity isn’t because their physical structure is indistinguishable from human, but because their emotions are.

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  70. Correction to the above:

    DA: 3) We don’t know what their brains look like. It seems safe to assume they resemble the brains of the creature they are mimicking for purely practical reasons–what form better to control the body it was designed for? But they could be glowing orange tennis balls for all we know.

    This is obviously incorrect, because as you correctly stated, there wouldn’t be a need for a Void-Kampf test if you could just give them a CAT scan. Their brains must superficially resemble humans.

    I think what I meant to say, is that we don’t know how replicants are “programmed”. Are they empty slates executing code, or is their conditioning more psychological?

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