Is Villenueve's 2049 closer than we think?
The challenge that Dennis Villeneuve set for himself when directing the Blade Runner sequel, Blade Runner 2049, was undeniably huge. To have the courage to take a cult film made in the 80s and set it thirty years later within the same ‘Film Noir’ inspired, dystopian world is commendable to say the least. Therefore I believe it is accurate to say that there were high expectations for this film. Something which intrigued me in the original Blade Runner which is also prevalent in Blade Runner 2049 is the focus of technology in a dystopian setting and the way in which it reflects our society today.
Blade Runner 2049 is set in a polluted, dark Los Angeles which looks more like urban China, with towering billboards and suggestion of mass poverty. It is a world that is coming to an end but also acts as a futuristic, dystopian parallel of our world where most of the characters have, “never seen a tree”. It is difficult to avoid the obvious environmental connotations that Villeneuve uses as a reflection of the the effects of global warming that we are feeling in 2017. It is no lie that this a recurring public topic, and with the American political giant’s strong, opposing opinions on global warming it feels frustratingly out of our control. Perhaps this part of Villeneuve’s science fiction film is not far from reality.
Prior to the release of Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, I was particularly intrigued to see how technology would play a part. Our world has seen such huge technological advances since the release of the original Blade Runner where Ridley Scott subtly points towards the potential dangers at a time where it was new and exciting. I think Villeneuve does a fascinating job of taking us by the hand and showing us the potential damage that our dependance on technology may cause while in the midst of an exquisitely filmed, emotional epic.
I’m not suggesting that we are heading to a place with replicants, androids almost indistinguishable from humans, and flying cars. However, we are living in a world where artificial intelligence is no longer a far-fetched figment of science fiction movies and our dependance on technology is somewhat concerning. In Blade Runner 2049, artificial intelligence is not only present amongst the replicants but also in the character, Joi.
Joi, played by Ana de Armas, is a holographic woman designed and sold commercially to the masses. Ryan Gosling’s character, K, begins to form a serious relationship with her, a relationship which echoes the complex relationship in Her. I think the issues raised with Joi’s character are much more scary and uncomfortable than that of the moral issues surrounding the replicants. Everything about Joi’s character conjures fears of the power and limitations of technology and the bizarre sex scene between Joi, K and a “pleasure model”, Mariette is a memorable and disturbing example of this.
Themes of dystopia and apocalypse are currently dominating the science fiction genre in film and television. If you just take a look at the past two years of new releases you can see the recurring themes emerge. We have seen Passengers where Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are aboard a space ship on a mission to populate a new planet, also the release of the ninth ‘X-Men’ film, X-Men: Apocalypse. But of course not forgetting the popular Netflix series, Stranger Things. The state that our world is in right now and people’s anxieties towards it are a rooted cause of this and Blade Runner 2049 is following suit.
I hope Villeneuve’s film encourages people to think about the direction our society is heading. Though K’s world in Blade Runner 2049 is not literally our world, I think it could be an important catalyst in the conversation that needs to be had our current situation. That said, the film is also an exciting, vibrant and deeply moving adventure and I would urge you to go and see it!