Blade Runner 2049 Bloviated Discussed and Explained
Blade Runner 2049 Bloviated Discussed and Explained - or why Blade Runner 2049 is just an excuse to shove amazing philosophical into your reluctant head.
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Blade Runner 2049 Bloviated Discussed and Explained

Here at THinc. I am a professional metallurgist of hyperbole. An alchemical hyperbolist if you will. I basically bring movies to you that I think are worthy of your time and hype them to such a great extent that you can’t but go out and see them in order to join in the discussion. That is my goal anyway. I am not a movie reviewer, I am a movie promoter and dismantler. A dissector and herald.

So with that said, what if I were to start with, “Blade Runner 2049 could possibly be the only perfect movie of 2017… hell, of the new millennium.” See? Hyperbole Metallurgist.

Before we go any further, I want to say this LOUD, and CLEAR. This entire post will be 100% radioactive from a spoiler standpoint. Like Chernobyl hot. And even if you have seen the movie, we may discuss things here that you might not even want to consider. One of my favorite stories about movies spoilers happened in the real world – I was chatting with some developers that I managed and I was laughing about how it was surprising to me that so many people didn’t realize that Deckard was a replicant. And one poor fellow yelled out, “WAIT WHAT?!?” Now, I’m not saying that Deckard is, or isn’t a replicant. I’m just saying, you may want to maintain your peaceful repose when it comes to your view of the Blade Runner series. If so… this post will not be for you.

Quick Overview What Happened in Blade Runner 2049

I’ve seen the movie twice now. And I’m sure some of you have have only seen it once may be a little dicey on exactly what happened. Generally I spend a bit of time in this section. But I will only be palette knifing in broad strokes for you. There is so much more to be discussed here that I just don’t want to spend the words on it.

K (Ryan Gosling) is a Replicant Blade Runner. We know this because we are told 2 minutes into the movie. “How does it feel to kill your own kind?” He is sent out to turn in Sapper Morton, a replicant from the original Series 8 Weyland. After Morton is decommissioned, it is discovered that there is an Ossuary buried on the land containing Rachel’s bones… Rachel, as in, Deckard’s replicant romance from the original film. But the more curious thing about these bones is not whose they are, but how she died. She died in child birth.

This idea – that replicants can procreate – is so inflammatory, and so worrisome, that the rest of the movie is spent trying to cover up this fact. And so K is dispatched to learn the truth about the child/children (because she apparently had twins) and to also find and destroy him/her, it? Soon K begins to suspect that he may very well be the child that he is hunting and so he goes and finds the creator of replicant “memories” in order to find out if the memory he has is real. She tells him that it is.

K heads off to find “his” orphanage in San Diego and ends up seeing that records of his youth were removed. But he manages to find the actual location where he hid the wooden horse. And with that the reality of who he is and where he came from is really shaking him to the core. And through the horse, and analysis of the wood, K is able to track down Deckard back in the radioactive city/area of Blade Runner 1 and the old corporate headquarters of Tyrell.

Here K learns why Deckard left his child behind and that it was all part of a plan to protect the child. But after Luv destroys his emitter, and absconds with Deckard, Fresya (the head of the replicant uprising) informs Deckard that the surviving child was actually a girl – and that he was wrong to think himself special or the chosen one. Deckard, while with Wallace suggests that everything we know about the original Blade Runner was wrong because he states that Rachael’s feelings feelings for him were engineered by Tyrell in order to see if a replicant could become pregnant. And Wallace offers him a replica of Rachael, but Deckard tells Wallace that Rachael’s eyes were green. Which, obviously, they weren’t. (We’ll get to this, I promise.)

Wallace, hellbent on finding the child, decides to take Deckard “offworld” in order to torture the truth out of him. But K intervenes and saves Deckard and kills Luv. And after the struggle on the “beach” K takes Deckard to Stelline, his daughter. Which, K figured out, because the only person that could have had access to that memory – which was real, but just not for him – was Stelline. And after Deckard goes to meet his daughter, K dies on the stairs… doing the most natural thing that classifies him as human, ‘dying for a cause.’

The Continuum of Humanness in Blade Runner

And if you’d like a much much bigger version of my continuum infographic, you can get it here. Basically, in the text for each box I walk through the various human-like skills that moves them along the continuum. If you are of the opinion that Ridley Scott is wrong, and Harrison Ford is right, and Deckard isn’t a replicant… you may have my apologies.

But the inclusion of JOI gives us something today we can understand in 2017. Alexa’s and other AI assistance are now mainstream. My son orders one around in his room all the time without giving it a second thought. And this is what JOI is. An introductory mind job struggling to become human. As we move along the continuum you have Roy Batty, Pris Stratton, Zhora Salome, Leon Kawolsky, Hodge… all Nexus-6 models. All limited to a 4 year life span, and so they revolt, kill their creator, Wallace. They were convincing, but ultimately failed in their human struggle to a superior model, the prototype Nexus-7 model… which both Deckard and Rachael were.

In a complete meta-rewrite of the original movie, we find out that Rachael was a prototype model that could potentially procreate. We already knew that Tyrell believed that Rachael was special after it took Deckard over a hundred questions to determine she was a replicant. We also learn that Rachael and Deckard were subtly directed towards one another because of this special prototype capability. And we also learn that as a result of their connection in the original movie a child was conceived. Two actually – a boy and a girl. K begins to believe that he was the boy because of the realness of his childhood dreams. But towards the end of the film we learn that it was the boy that died in birth, not the girl. And the girl was none 0ther than Stelline. Stelline was the last wall keeping the replicants from throwing off their shackles and overthrowing their human overlords, and their becoming completely free agents, morally and mentally prime movers on their own.

Hypertext and Meta Analysis in Blade Runner 2049

Did you catch, early on, when JOI asks if K would like her to read to him? The book? Pale Fire by Nabokov? Right? Well, if you haven’t read Pale Fire it might have slipped by you. But the book is considered to be the first example of a hyper textual novel. A multi-layered meta novel that is commenting on its own commenting. Since then, there are many other examples of books like this… S by J. J. Abrams might be the most accessible. But basically it’s a big poem. 999 stanzas. But in a foreword, we learn that the poet’s next door neighbor came by and stole it from the poet’s wife. And then gave point by point explanations about why this poem is all about him. The book even layers within the layers, but you’ll just have to trust me on this one (better yet, go read it.)

Which, is what we are doing here in 2049. The movie isn’t about robots! It’s about you. It’s about me. It’s about whether we are real or if we are in a dream. Better yet, it’s all about whether or not you and I have free will. Determinism much? Determinism is a school of philosophy that says you are caused to do the thing you did… better yet, Causal Determinism is a belief within physics that says that all events within the known paradigm are locked into causality in such a way that we are forced to do the things we do by prior states and laws/rules. Even in the Christian tradition this argument about man’s relationship to God is debated with relation to our ability to act in accordance with free will or determinism (predestination). If schools of Christian doctrine thought light your candle, I am personally a free will arminian. I digress. My only point here is that this discussion, this argument, permeates science, physics, philosophy, religion… really everything. It is one of the key questions that has plagued the human mind since time immemorial.

So, the question here, I guess then is… are we free? Or are we plagued by a haunting determinism bound to never let us go free?

Well, it is fascinating that K was tricked into believing that he was special. Not intentionally. He was just given a memory from the only child of a replicant ever. She shared her own child hood with him and it bothered him enough that he came hunting for her to validate the dream. And validate she did… yes, it is very very real. But it isn’t yours she didn’t say. And when he finds out that he isn’t special he still chooses to do the one thing that is truly human – to die for a cause that he believed in. He lay down on the steps and bled out.

What Determines Humanness in Blade Runner?

As we review my human/robot continuum infographic it presumes a few things. That is, that we understand what it takes to even be human. In Blade Runner 1 it was determined that robots weren’t human if they had illogical emotional responses in the Voight-Kampff polygraph-like test. Heart rate, eye movement, could tip the test administrator to the robot’s real identity.

Or take for example Deckard’s statement that Rachel’s eyes were originally green. Rachel DIDN’T have green eyes. Her eyes were brown. Everyone knows this. She was one of the most beautiful screen characters of all time and one of the most iconic beauties. So what the heck? In a word? Deckard was lying to him. He was saying, you built me an imperfect reproduction of the woman I loved. But what he was REALLY saying, was, you can’t manufacture me another Rachel. There is, was, only one. Which gives more credence and credibility to the argument that while a replicant, she had potentially become self-aware. And her reproductive capabilities was only just a piece of what made her special.

So with that said, in Blade Runner 2049 the question of identity and robotness isn’t a question. K is stated to be a robot in the first 5 minutes of the film. Instead, we are presented with the question of whether or not K is capable of becoming self aware, and human in his free-agency. We know that at the beginning of the film all Nexus-9’s are required to obey. But soon he begins hiding his identity from Lieutenant Joshi, his boss. And then he goes even further by lying to her directly. And so we are watching a very Westworld like experience as he throws off his shackles to choose his own destiny. Which, begs another question, is free will inherent to our ability to be human?

But doesn’t that just send the question back to us? Are you operating in a place of free will and moral free agency? Or are you being bufetted about by the laws of nature, society, and culture instead? Are you an automaton, a replicant, or are you an aware and awake human? Are you doing what you are told? Or are you running against the grain always interested in your own betterment and elevation then doing what society tells you to do? Are you choosing the path of a non-self-aware replicant, or are you utilizing your free will for some higher or better purpose?

But Seriously, Is Deckard a Replicant?!

Both Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 leave the question open. And yes, In Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Deckard was a human with a human wife. But over the course of the numerous drafts of the screenplay this detail has definitely been lost to the sands of time. And I will be the first to admit that it is really impossible to know. But we actually have quite a bit of data to inform our extraordinarily recalcitrant opinion.

In BR1 Rachael asks Deckard if he has ever taken the test. Does he answer? No. He does not. Why? Why wouldn’t he? Maybe he thinks that the test failed him. His positive result was just a fluke. Then we have the details of the unicorn in the original film – here’s Ridley Scott talking about this with Wired Magazine back in 2007:

Wired: It was never on paper that Deckard is a replicant.
Scott: It was, actually. That’s the whole point of Gaff, the guy who makes origami and leaves little matchstick figures around. He doesn’t like Deckard, and we don’t really know why. If you take for granted for a moment that, let’s say, Deckard is a Nexus 7, he probably has an unknown life span and therefore is starting to get awfully human. Gaff, at the very end, leaves an origami, which is a piece of silver paper you might find in a cigarette packet, and it’s a unicorn. Now, the unicorn in Deckard’s daydream tells me that Deckard wouldn’t normally talk about such a thing to anyone. If Gaff knew about that, it’s Gaff’s message to say, “I’ve read your file, mate.” That relates to Deckard’s first speech to Rachael when he says, “That’s not your imagination, that’s Tyrell’s niece’s daydream.” And he describes a little spider on a bush outside the window. The spider is an implanted piece of imagination. And therefore Deckard, too, has imagination and even history implanted in his head.

But if you want a nice counter balance to the creators of the movie – I could give you two or three quotes from Harrison Ford that state he doesn’t believe Deckard was a replicant. I don’t know… do actors have free will over their screenplay authors and directors?!? Hahahah. Sorry. That was too good to pass up.

And in 2049, Wallace, the man that bought out Tyrell’s patents etc. made it clear that Tyrell thought that they would be a match. That the two were most likely the same model variant. And this lost prototype recipe due to the black out in 2022, is now Wallace’s life goal. Which is why Wallace is hunting the child down. Which is why Wallace was so interested in Deckard and the truth of how it worked.

I don’t know, it just seems obvious to me that Deckard is a replicant. But I actually would love to hear your reasoning for why he isn’t. But the big take away from this discussion about Blade Runner 2049 is that we are the robots. We are the ones struggling against determinism and hunting for this ever elusive free will. What were your thoughts on Blade Runner 2049.

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8 Responses

  1. Dave Coutts

    I think Deckard is not a Nexus 7 because of his physical inferiority to Roy Batty in the original movie. Why would Tyrell make the Nexus 7 so inferior to Nexus 6 in terms of physical strength and invulnerability to boiling water, blows to the head etc etc? If Deckard was a Nexus 7 he should have been at least equal to Roy Batty but gets his ass kicked all over the building before Roy basically just lets him win.

    Excellent blog on BR2049 Taylor!

    Reply
    • taylor

      Thanks Dave,
      There is a large school of thought that the 7 prototypes were more life like in every way… (including by not limited to the now known reproductive capabilities), but also in strength and limitations. And now that we’ve seen 30 years into the future we know they also age realistically too! hahaha. But you make a good argument either way. Obviously not everyone is going to believe that Deckard is a replicant. Those people are all idiots. But that’s irrelevant to the discussion! hahah.

      Thanks again Dave…
      Taylor

      Reply
  2. charles weisinger

    The entire plot line of the “baby” was stupid, it didn’t fit the original movie at all. This would have been a much better movie as a completely different set up than using Decker and Rachael as parents. This really upset me watching because I love the first movie so much.

    Reply
    • taylor

      Hey Charles,
      Obviously if you are fully and totally emotionally attached to the original (which, I would argue I am as well) then you are going to have a hard time swallowing really anything outside the confines of the first movie.

      I personally saw the baby as a simple way to push a simple question, which was, what does it mean to be human? Freedom? Independent thought? Moral agency? Reproductive abilities? Which just furthers the meta-conversation from the first one perfectly. That movie talked about a robot uprising determined not to die – and killing their own creator. Which is just a veiled discussion about human limitations and our own attempt to kill God. Our own attempt to live forever. No? So you add the ability to procreate to the discussion and things get all kinds of interesting.

      But just from a story standpoint I bought it. I liked where the screenplay writers went with it. I totally understand where you are coming from. Thanks for not throwing anything at me even though we don’t necessarily agree! hahaha.

      Reply
  3. Tim Archer

    Whether Deckard is a replicant depends on movie viewing versus reading the thin book by Philip K. Dick which the movie is based but of a different title. PKD’s Deckard is human in the book version.

    It seems the movie gives a huge tell when both K and Decker run from danger in a scene. K easily runs through a wall but Deckard cannot and has to take a longer route.

    If you’ve read every book and short story by PKD, you’ll know he mostly wrote stories in which “robots” become more humane (not necessarily more human) than humans.

    In the end scenes of the first Blade Runner, the depth of what was occurring and witnessed by Deckard, took place as the replicant knew he was near dying…although the replicant’s tears were obscured by the torrential rainfall. The release of the dove he held was a symbolic of his consciousness ending.

    This sequel was darker yet did not disappoint but it seems less based on PKD’s writings. The movie lacked his wry sense of humor he often creatively added to futuristic scenarios.

    I always like your take on movies, Taylor. This one is particularly a good read. Admittedly, I also briefly wondered if Deckard was a replicant while watching this sequel.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Yeah,
      I’ve done quite a bit of reading about the evolution of Deckard as Replicant. I don’t believe it was initially intended for him to be one. Not even Ridley, who is outspoken in his belief that Deckard is a replicant now. Personally, I don’t think it wise for the movie creators to say one way or the other. They should encourage the question, and encourage the enquiry. But they shouldn’t answer it… which many from the writing crew of 2049 and the production crew are saying what they think. Which seems wrong to me.

      But yeah, PKD definitely thought Deckard was a human. But if you watch in the screenplay re-writes pieces that identify him as human definitively were dropped in pre-production and never came back. So the evolution of the idea is interesting. Yeah, I agree with you “Mr. Archer” that 2049 lacked Dick’s cleverness, or you put it better, wry sense of irony, or humor? Something like that. Which I agree with. But it was clever all the same. If you create a sequel after 30 years, you better freaking give me a reason to watch… and they really did. A child is brilliant. Reminds me of the movie Uncanny which I recommend you watch highly. Just a three “person” play almost – but it boils this idea down to its absolute core and then makes a movie from that.

      Thanks for the compliment Tim. I always like your thoughtful and insightful comments. You have a canny (see what I did there) knack for keeping me honest. But oh how I adored this movie. Set up an interesting idea about man struggling against his creator and I am in every single time. Just such a perfect analogy to life in general and our existential crises. But maybe that’s just me.

      Reply
  4. Mjane

    What happened to Rachel’s green eyes? You said you would come back to this point, but didn’t?

    Regarding to whether Deckard is a replicant or not, it’s brilliantly addressed in the movie: when K asks if the dog is real, Deckard says “I don’t know”, making a “I don’t care, stop asking silly questions, if it walks like a dog, barks like dog, then that’s good enough for me, plus it drinks whiskey, that’s a dream dog right there”. Which I think is the viewpoint the film makers want the audience to adopt: if one wants to be human and acts human, than one IS, and no one has the right to say otherwise, even when one isn’t human. Very democratic, it doesn’t matter where you’ve come from, what matters is who you are.

    I thought the original Blade Runner dealt with the Other: the one who talks different, looks different, is aggresive, we have no problem disregarding their wishes and treat them harshly (read: all the people we have killed over thousands of years), the one who isn’t We. In the movie, we recognize that the Other is so similar to We, we wonder whether we are good people when we kill them. In 2049, everyone whose presence we enjoy is non human, and their struggles and hopes are real. But I couldn’t connect with them, instead I watched a beautiful rebellion of the oppressed, that is hopefully inspiring us to become the change that we want to see in the world.

    Beautyful movie, I was very engrossed in the world, was not bored one second, even when things were illogical (K fails his baseline test, which means he is no longer controllable and he may kill anyone with his super human strengh, and Joshi tells him to run and that she’ ll give him a head start. Why? She only wanted to have sex with him, when did she develop feelings?)

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Oh. Dang. My bad.
      Rachel DIDN’T have green eyes. Her eyes were brown. Deckard was lying to him. He was saying, you built me an imperfect reproduction of the woman I loved. But what he was REALLY saying, was, you can’t manufacture me another Rachel. There is, was, only one. Which gives more credence and credibility to the argument that while a replicant, she had potentially become self-aware. And her reproductive capabilities was only just a piece of what made her special.

      That’s what I was going to say? Or something close to that? Hahaha. I have no idea what point I was going to make there, but there you have it. I’ll glue that into the post. Thanks for pointing it out. Sometimes I have too many thoughts running through my head for my own good.

      You make a great point about the other. Which, not to get political (as he does anyway), Trump’s tweets after the Las Vegas shooting, vs his tweets after the recent New York terrorist attack. Two totally different responses all hinged on this other that you talk about. The vegas shooter needed psychological help. But yes, people different than us are not people. They are inscrutable. Different. And less than. I personally have preferred the discussion about robots, striving to become men, which, correlates to men, trying to become gods. Trying to overcome our lowly state. Our attempt to overthrow our creator, which wasn’t obliquely reference in BR1, but literally called out and literally happened. Right? But they are similar strains off of the same sheet of music.

      Reply

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