The sequel to the best science-fiction film of all time lives up to its predecessor. I might even add that it’s—in my opinion—the greatest film of the decade. It is a film that talks about us, humans, and our ability to create and respond to works of art.
What makes us human? Procreating. Yes, but the film rapidly waives that off when Office K (Ryan Gosling) finds the remnants of a pregnant Replicant. Being a Replicant himself—of the latest generation—designed to be a Blade Runner and “retire” his own kind, Office K doesn’t show many emotions. He is assigned to retrieve the child of that Replicant and retire him as well. To what Officer K responds that he never retired someone born before—someone with a soul. Does having a soul makes us human?
We might be going with that for now, but the Madam (Robin Wright)—K’s superior—quickly adds that K also has a soul. K quickly finds in Wallace’s archives that the pregnant Replicant was named Rachael, an experimental Replicant designed by Dr. Eldon Tyrell, who had romantic ties with former Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). During his further investigation, K will come across a memory designer. She states that emotions are drawn from our memories. And thus designing memories for Replicant is to design their emotions.
All those Memories Lost in Time
Emotions play a major part in the universe of Blade Runner. In the 1982 Blade Runner, Rick Deckard used the Voight-Kampff test to determine whether an individual is a Replicant or not. The test measures bodily functions such as respiration, blush response, heart rate, and eye movement. In short, emotions. Officer K, as I said earlier, is very stiff. He regularly undergoes a baseline test designed to measure any emotional deviance, in the same fashion as the test from the first film.
He easily passes the first two, which doesn’t surprise considering he is a Nexus 9. As the story progress, K will experience two breakdowns of emotions. The first when he learns that he very well might be the child he is seeking, and thus born of love. K subsequently falls the baseline test. He is questioning his very existence. The second breakdown occurs when he learns that he had false hope, and that he’s just a Replicant like any other. He’s back where he started. And gives in to anger.
Like Tears in Rain
Emotions are therefore almost absent of the film, where most encountered characters are, in fact, Replicants. The human characters also show a lack of emotions. The Madam is a Lieutenant of the LAPD and has learned on the job to control hers. Wallace (Jared Leto) is the blind CEO of Wallace Corporation, designer of the Replicants. I believe his blindness is a physical representation of the fact that he is mentally blind to the beauty of his achievements. Wallace is only seeking what he can’t achieve: self-procreating Replicants.
It is interesting that the only character that expresses love is Joi, the A.I. designed to display what we want to see or hear.
He is cold, unafraid to do bad deeds to achieve his ultimate ambitions, because he gave up his emotions long ago. It is therefore interesting that the only character that expresses love is Joi (Ana de Armas), the A.I. designed to display what we want to see or hear. The emotions in Blade Runner are solely designed. Both the director Denis Villeneuve and Academy Award winner cinematographer Roger Deakins chose to convey their ideas in immaculate cinematography: characters are kept in the shadow of brightened backgrounds.
Time to Die
I like this idea because the only character to step into the light when he appears is Rick Deckard. He effortlessly gives in to anger when he meets K and fights with him until a song—a work of art—calms him down. Deckard’s first line is taken from Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1993 Treasure Island. A quote from the character Ben Gunn. Another work of art. Ben Gunn has been stranded of treasure island like Deckard has been cut off from the world in Las Vegas.
More importantly, Ben Gunn is the only character that has knowledge of the treasure location, indicating that Deckard is the only person that knows of the child’s existence. Deckard then expresses sadness when Wallace plays him an audio recording of his first meeting with Rachael, a relic of then another work of art. Music, literature, and film. The ability to create art from our past memories and future beliefs, from our emotions. That what’s—again, in my opinion—makes us humans. We design emotions, very much like a director is designing the emotions that actors must display on set for the camera to capture on film.