Inevitably, everyone who watches Blade Runner 2049 compares it to the original Blade Runner. Some find the new film “almost superior” to the original, because it gets closer to describing the world as it is today or as it soon may be . This is a common misconception about science fiction: that it has to predict the future accurately; but science fiction is not about that: it is a way to deal with today, with our fears or hopes, with what we find disturbing, by projecting it onto the future. The best works of sci-fi actually deal with themes that have been with us for a long time, and that is the case with Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner: unlike the novel it came from, it wasn’t about social issues such as control or about environmental devastation. It was, like its true literary antecedent Frankenstein, about humanity and responsibility. It is about freedom and self-determination, which replicants don’t have, and about being sentient, which they are. Roy Batty, the titanic Nexus 6 who leads a band of replicants in a desperate attempt to gain freedom, and more life, quotes Paradise lost (through Blake), and by doing that he establishes a connection with Frankenstein, in which the Creature learns to read (English – a little unlikely, yes) by reading the miltonic poem he conveniently finds in a wood in the Alps.
Fiery the angels fell (I do not own the rights to this clip or to the photo)
The replicants in the original Blade Runner, Mary Shelley’s monstruous creature and Milton’s Satan are tragical figures who wish to be granted life and freedom – and the love of their creators, their fathers. Blade Runner’s script was so well conceived that it managed to work, narrative-wise, without becoming repetitive or clumsy, even though it had several figures sharing Batty’s fate and suffering similarly, while not being as articulate: the two female Nexus 6, one a prostitute, one a strip teaser; Rachel, with her realization about what she is, and Leon. Whether Deckart is or is not a replicant I believe must be left to each of us to decide. He is human as far as I am concerned, as he was human for the ten years that went between the first and second release of the film. Being human, he works as a mirror to Roy: like him, blue-eyed and moody, but unlike him, fragile and disillusioned. A 20th-century noir hero opposed to a truly epic one, as rebellious as Satan, as handsome and doomed as Siegfried.
As I have already written, I consider Blade Runner 2049 a great film; not in the same league with its predecessor , though, but very few films equal it both in quality, and in the power to enter our collective imagination.
For one thing, Villeneuve’s film derives from Scott’s, so all the core motives were devised in the latter and rewrought in the former. Besides, Blade Runner had the very rare merit for a science fiction film to give its characters and plot depth, and in that depth the themes resonated as profound. That was thanks to the privilege of a director who was maybe expected to repeat Alien’s success, not to produce a masterpiece, which he actually did. Expectation for Villeneuve’s film were very high, and the Canadian had to walk a thin line between being complex and deep enough not to seem shallow in comparison to Scott’s film, but easy enough for large (American) audiences whose standard Sci-Fi- entertainment is Transformers .
The result may not be an absolute masterpiece but it is a great film all the same.