Blade Runner 2049
Today I read the Hugo Award nominations. Blade Runner, by virtue of it starting with the letter B, was the first film listed in the category “Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form.” I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but I admit that I was.
I was looking forward to this movie. I posted back in May 2017 that I wanted to see it. In fact, I was really disappointed when I couldn’t see it on release day. I was terrified that it would no longer be in theaters when I finally got to see it on October 28th. And honestly, that fear was justified. It should not have lasted that long.
But I did enjoy it, sort of. I liked it but I also hated it. I liked it because it was an interesting and moving story about the perils of slavery and the dreams that slaves labor under, just like the original Blade Runner. I hated it because it was insanely sexist, just like the original Blade Runner.
Come on, Hampton Fancher and Michael Green (the writers), it’s 2017! You’re really going to show a film sequel with women who are little more than fantasy toys or murder victims as a reputable film?
Nearly all of the characters in the film were male. There was the protagonist, several antagonists, and a bunch of male buddies and supporting actors — including Harrison Ford reprising his role from the first film. There were women in the film, both living and non-living or inanimate. The living women in the movie held three roles:
1 His boss – tough talking, abrupt, almost masculine in her mannerisms. She was brutally killed by the antagonist.
2 The antagonist – tough talking, hard fighting, more sexy than the boss, but still fairly masculine. She was brutally killed by K, the protagonist.
3 Sex objects/slaves – every other woman in the movie. They were all either a sex object/prostitute or enslaved/caged or both. One of them was a naked woman who’s only role was to be first held up as a potential breeding tool (naked and pitiful) but then be brutally killed by the villains when she couldn’t breed. Another was a (thankfully not naked) woman who was kept in a cage her entire life. The rest of the women were replicants, and replicants were to be reviled or killed (“retired”) on sight.
Then there were the inanimate/non-living female figures. There was the hologram girlfriend, who, when she was boring her owner, could be shut off mid-sentence and who was also destroyed when she became inconvenient. There was the advertisement for said holo-girlfriend who stood in 200+-foot fully naked glory above a bridge in Los Angeles. And there were the multiple giant statues of naked women that were apparently in the ruins of Los Vegas. There were more, but those were the most memorable representations of woman in this movie.
For the most part, Blade Runner 2049 just expanded the atmosphere of the Blade Runner and kept the sensibilities the same. I’m sure that was the argument for the sexism and the generally poor treatment of women in this film. After all, Blade Runner had many of the same flaws. That is very true, but Blade Runner was made in 1982. We couldn’t get the same noir feel to a film while updating the content a tiny bit in 35 years?
And that’s ignoring the fact that the movie itself is set 30 years in the future from the first film. Never mind that there was a worldwide blackout that completely disrupted human society 25-or-so years before the start of this film. Apparently in the minds of the set designers, the world is static and never changes even when the plot and reality says that it does.
Now if you’re evaluating this movie from the standpoint of the SciFi “bros” who police the industry for any perceived change to “cannon” none of these things I mention would be bad. In fact, keeping the set design and women-as-playthings mentality the same would be crucial to keeping the “canon-police” happy. But they could have spent a couple seconds considering that there are straight (and bisexual) women who watch SciFi and maybe we want a little eye candy too. I mean, even Speilberg’s A.I. (2001) had a male gigolo robot. It would have been trivial to keep the tone and feel of the original movie while having a few less female victims/prostitutes/slaves and a few more male.
Some other questions I had:
• Why are the female replicants the ones blamed for the inability to get pregnant? Males are involved in pregnancy too. They could have had a scene where the villain literally emasculates a naked male replicant while complaining that they can’t reproduce. It would have been a LOT scarier for the men in the audience than him essentially disemboweling the female replicant (off camera, but you knew where his knife was going) in his effort to sterilize her before letting her bleed out.
• Why was it necessary to brutally kill the Rachel replicant? I start to wonder if the filmmaker is really just a misogynist who wants all women brutally murdered or enslaved.
• Why are nearly all of the extras with speaking roles men? I’d bet there are more women in menial service-industry jobs and yet whenever he interacted with a non-main character it was always another man.
• (SPOILER ALERT) Do the filmmakers think that women will be satisfied by having the mythical child of replicants be a woman? Especially when that woman turns out to have been kept in a cage for her entire life? And how did she really get into that cage if she was able to have the “real” memories of growing up in the orphanage that she then implanted in K? Or were we supposed to think that she was adopted by some “kind” billionaire who then conveniently dies before they could get off-planet as she said?
• What happened to Deckerd’s dog?
• Why did the filmmakers feel that making such a blatantly sexist movie would be okay? Alright that’s probably back to my original question. But I still wonder it. I keep wondering it.
After writing all this, It would seem that I disliked the film intensely. And as I mentioned, on one level, I did hate it. But I also loved it as an homage to Philip K. Dick and the original Blade Runner movie. Those aspects were fun and interesting. I didn’t walk out because the story itself was engaging, but wow, I wish the film industry could join the rest of us in the twenty-first century rather than wallowing in the grotesqueries of the twentieth.
But This Movie is NOT Hugo Material
If you’re voting for the 2018 Hugo Awards, please do not vote for this movie. There are many other movies that have been nominated that deserve this honor much more than Blade Runner 2049. And not all of them are misogynistic nostalgia-fests.
- Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele (Blumhouse Productions / Monkeypaw Productions / QC Entertainment)
- The Shape of Water, written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, directed by Guillermo del Toro (TSG Entertainment / Double Dare You / Fox Searchlight Pictures)
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Lucasfilm, Ltd.)
- Thor: Ragnarok, written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost; directed by Taika Waititi (Marvel Studios)
- Wonder Woman, screenplay by Allan Heinberg, story by Zack Snyder & Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs, directed by Patty Jenkins (DC Films / Warner Brothers)
I know which one I would vote for, and it might not be the one you think I would. But it definitely won’t be Blade Runner 2049.