Before I even start this, Don't read it if you haven't watched the movie. There's all the spoilers. Every single one.
Blade Runner 2049 is a really good movie, it’s visually striking, it’s impeccably acted and directed, the world in which it takes place is fascinating, the sounds of it (especially in a big theater) seem to go beyond just an audible experience and you can feel most of them. It’s a movie that’s well worth watching but I’m not surprised that it has stumbled in the box office. I mean it’s the sequel to a cult hit from the 80s and it doesn’t feature of the cliche “homages” to the 80s that Guardians of the Galaxy or apparently Thor:Ragnarok does. In any case that’s not what I want to talk about in this piece instead I want to focus on how this movie to me is a devastating movie.
Ryan Gosling’s character K is a detective in the LAPD, he’s a Replicant. I loved that this movie got this right out of the way at the beginning. Still even if we didn’t get that we’d know just by the way K lives his life. The other police men in the unit mistreat him, his neighbors hate him, harassing him as he walks up to his apartment and he literally has no friends. No one to talk to, no one to hang out with except for his artificial digital companion, Joi. The only thing we ever see him spend money on in the entirety of the film is in buying his Joi an “emanator” which will allow him to carry her with him wherever he is. The first thing he does with Joi in her free state is go to the roof and have a moment where she experiences rain for the first time, she’s about to pull him into kiss him when her system is overridden by his superior at the LAPD who is urging him to return to work ASAP.
It’s a good noir movie, it’s the best noir movie in modern cinema not named 'Zootopia'
K is his work. That’s all he is literally. He is a Replicant who is built for this purpose and he exercises it without any free will. He’s a “new” model Replicant which is incapable of disobeying. This is why he’s the perfect Blade Runner and he’s able to destroy runaway Replicants with such ease. At the beginning of the movie Dave Bautista who plays a Replicant who is as big as his glasses are small tells K that he doesn’t understand him because he has never “seen a miracle.” We are led to believe that the miracle that SmallEyes is referring to is the natural birth of a Replicant. The rest of the movie is a noir tale of a detective who goes rogue and traces down this case that goes “all the way to the top” and ultimately cost the detective his life. It’s a good noir movie, it’s the best noir movie in modern cinema not named Zootopia . Still I don’t think the miracle is that of reproduction of a Replicant. The miracle is that a Replicant has the belief that it could have a greater purpose than what it was created for.
K confirms that the earliest “memory” he has implanted in him is in fact real. He first reaches this conclusion himself by discovering the physical reality of and he can also use this memory to link himself to the miracle birth of the Replicant he’s hunting down. This is a fantastic moment in the movie, Ryan Gosling just about looks like he’s going to poop himself as he pulls the wooden horse from the furnace and the music is just perfect. Suddenly K sees himself as a potential miracle, when the dream is confirmed by the person who creates dreams for Replicants this sends him entirely for a spin until he is crushed by the harsh reality that he is not the chosen one. He is not the miracle.
It takes the possibility of being the one in a million miracle to jolt K out of his programming and go rogue but it is the crushing reality that he is NOT special that makes him human. When he is confronted with the truth he is told that the choice lies in him to do what is right, to die for something bigger than him. “Knowing” that he was the miracle almost broke K’s brain, realizing he wasn’t is what compelled him to go on. The ability to make a choice to be a hero isn’t what makes K “more human than human” what makes him that is that even though he realizes he is not special that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t exist.
K is first freed of his programming by the idea of being a miracle, but he is only able to do what he feels like when he discovers he isn’t. Ultimately K’s sacrifice is real because it’s the sacrifice of an unexceptional being. That is why this movie is devastating. I believe this is a journey all humans must take, when we realize that we are not in fact special. No matter what the Jois of the world tell us, or what our dreams tell us, or what we desire the simple fact is that we are not special but that’s what make us human. The going through with life after that realization is the most human thing of all. Indeed the miracle of Blade Runner is that it’s not required to be “The Miracle” in order to break out of what we’re programmed to do and can make a choice.
Ultimately K’s sacrifice is real because it’s the sacrifice of an unexceptional being
A quick word on the ending...
I don’t believe the ending of the film is one in which Ana will lead a Replicant uprising to march down and cut the head of the system. Ana’s not the Messiah the Replicants look for instead she points to the miracle by her work.
It’s very fitting that she is named Ana as in the Book of Luke there is an Anna who “never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.. she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” Anna through implanting the memories in the minds of many Replicants is prophesying of the coming Messiah to them. Their salvation is a collective awakening of her people.