Really. Really. Really. Good.
Good in that, ‘sweet-Jesus-Christ-that’s-a-depressing-and-horrifying-vision-of-the-near-future- dystopia-our-manufactured-heavy-industrialised-wasteland-mutation-of-human-experience-is- rapidly-spiralling-us-towards’ kinda way.
The million ribbons of culture and economics and politics and technology and society that weave together to define the human experience are all laid bare in depressing shades of exploitation with Blade Runner 2049. What is consciousness? What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to live with agency? What is destiny? What is love? Who are we being true to? All these questions are offered up with the desperation of the grinding loneliness that is central to the existence of the lead character’s life.
Ryan Gosling is magnificent as a synthetic life form who learns how to believe, Harrison Ford manages to channel his naked contempt for popular culture in a wonderfully ironic way and Leto terrifies as the voice of corporate ambition on a broken planet. The female leads play the most challenging aspects of desire, ruthlessness and violence. Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Mackenzie Davis and Sylvia Hoeks all shine and add depth.
The imagery is grim and won’t leave you, the commercialisation of despair sticks with you and the beautifully designed manipulations of truth remind you of your own social media footprint.
For me the scene which most perfectly summed up the confusion of the manufactured reality of this hollowing out of the human experience is when an artificial intelligence program synchs over the image of a real life biological woman to have sex with a synthetic life form.
If there is a better metaphor for modern humanity, I’ve yet to see it.
Some theorists argue that we aren’t living in a state of reality right now, that we are really inside a computer program that is simulating reality. The argument is that the odds of us all being conscious just shy of the moment when artificial intelligence is about to be discovered are so high that they must in fact be manipulated, that the singularity of artificial intelligence already occurred and that we are merely play things in a huge social experiment being run by the victors of that war.
Continuing with this idea that we are really in a computer thought experiment, we are bombarded within that virtual world by a cultural narrative that this existence could be real in the forms of The Terminator movies and the Matrix Trilogies and by movies like Blade Runner 2049. These narratives are slipped into our media conciseness so as to prep the billions of sleeping humans plugged into this program for the truth that it’s all been a false reality from the start and our artificial intelligence overlords will monitor our collective reaction so as to understand the human condition so that they may be more human than human.
While that all sounds more like the mindset of your average Wellington social welfare manager when deciding who to cut off the benefit, if Blade Runner 2049 is our artificial intelligence overlords bracing us for our awakening that this has all been one giant prank, it’s worth the admission price.