Milla Fedorova reviews Blade Runner 2049 for Tetradki.
Photo: Olga Meerson.
However, it is still stylish, bleak, retro-fitted, and the famous rain sometimes turns into snow. It studies what it means to be human at different new levels, and deals with various forms of doubles and simulacra. The question you might have had after the first one — whether the replicants are made as adults and whether they are capable of having children is in the center of this one.
If the first Blade Runner movie (film, 1982, wiki) was centered around a Christ-like figure, and it was oriented towards accepting death as criterion of humanity (trampling death by death: Roy Batty transcends his replicant nature when he saves Deckard and accepts his own death), while in the center of the second one there is a Mary-like figure, and it is oriented towards birth (trampling impossibility of life by a miraculous birth).
The new definition of humanity — the replicants’ innermost desire — is "I was born, therefore I am a human." For replicants, the miracle is to be conceived and born in a natural way, it is the opposite of immaculate conception. However, this definition does not exhaust the question of who is human in the film: even the simulacra are able to demonstrate human qualities.
The mystery of who Deckard is, a human or a replicant, is still unsolved. Alas, the authors of both films did not consider Aristotle’s characteristic of humanity: none of the characters laughs.
The world is even more post-apocalyptic, demonstrating the effects of an ecological catastrophe, so there are even less people than before: it seems that the world is mostly populated by the replicants. The Russian presence in LA has become rather prominent: we hear police conversations on the radio in Russian, and the protein farm is ironically named “Целина”.*
The erotic scene where a hologram tries to fit the body of a real woman is a masterpiece, however, frightening: it is literally a dream of sleeping with one person, while imagining another.
The idea "to love someone sometimes means to be strangers" applied to the children-parents relations seems very problematic to me.
But in general — it is quite a gripping and beautiful film with several layers, including the references to Nabokov's Pale Fire.
Milla Fedorova is a Russian academic working at Georgetown University, Washington, DC. Her Georgetown page is here.
• Целина, or Virgin Lands, refers to the vast area of undeveloped steppes between the Southern tip of the Urals and the Caspian sea that was targeted for rapid boosting of grain crops by Nikita Khruschev in the late 1950s. Nobel prize-winning Mikhail Sholokhov wrote an epic novel "Поднятая целина" ('Virgin Soil Upturned', wiki about the 1958 film) depicting the collectivisation of Russian individual farms at the end of 1920s - beginning of 1930s.
Official trailer for the Blade Runner 2049 —