By Guest Reviewer: Donna Ledbetter
In 1968, author Philip K. Dick penned the novel titled Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which in 1982 became the basis for the movie Blade Runner. Since that time, both the book and the film have become celebrated works in science fiction in both literary and cinematic canons. But the accolades alone aren’t what make the story great. It’s the realism of artificial intelligence that enchants us.
In a world of self-driving cars, Google glass, and digital assistants like Alexa and Siri, the thought of a world where androids are nearly indistinguishable from humans is not so far-fetched. In Blade Runner and its newly released sequel, Blade Runner 2049, androids walk among humans and function in many ways just as humans do but on a much more superior level. Aside of from their displays of physical agility and superintelligence, they are otherwise indistinguishable from humans. That is, except for their lack of emotional response. It is believed, both in fiction and in today’s real world, that computers don’t have emotions. So they don’t feel the sadness of separation, the longing of love, or the instinct we have to avoid death. Or do they?
What makes a man human is an age-old and rather dangerous question that mankind has been facing since the dawn of time. We’ve seen it play out in numerous ways with a variety of social implications. When Descartes declared, “I think, therefore I am,” he showed us that it is our thoughts that make us alive. When Shylock asked in the Merchant of Venice, “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” he showed that sometimes the things we use to turn against each other are the very things that show we are alike. When Sojourner Truth asked, “Ain’t I a woman,” she showed us that humanity is a construct not bounded by sex and gender. And sometimes, when we stop to answer those questions, bad things happen. It happens in real life and it happens each time in the Blade Runner series.
However, Blade Runner 2049 does not attempt to engage you in any thought about the complexities of what it means to be human. It’s just that amid all the engaging, action-packed scenes, those ruminations are there for the taking. For an entertaining bit of futuristic escapism, Blade Runner provides all the action, guns, and beautiful-looking people that any blockbuster movie fan could ask for. The film continues the storyline of the original Blade Runner movie, and does so elegantly (complete with cameos from story references from Blade Runner past) without alienating moviegoers who may not have seen the first film.
For die hard Blade Runner fans, though, director Denis Villeneuve collaborated with several contemporary filmmakers to develop creative shorts that fill the gap between 2049 and where the past Blade Runner left off. You can view them all on YouTube, catching equally stellar performances from Jared Leto (Niander Wallace) and David Bautista (Sapper Morton). These performances are so well done, in fact, that they rival the actors’ performances in the full-length film. This is because the actors are given the time to own the screen, to draw you carefully into the Blade Runner world from their own perspective. 2049 primarily follows the roles played by the blade runners new and old, which are Ryan Gosling (Officer K) and Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) respectively.