So, I was up really late last night watching Blade Runner 2049 on HBO. I saw the movie when it was out last year and loved it, but hadn’t actually watched it again at home yet. Upon a second viewing I still really enjoyed it and feel it is a great successor to the original. The fact is, that I again can’t get it out of my mind. So, this morning I was looking over some reviews and write ups to get some examples of what other people thought of what some of the themes that play out in the film actually meant. Ultimately, I felt a lot of them were lacking or looking too much into it and came to my own conclusions. Here’s my review.
-WARNING!- SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
I could go on at length about what Villeneuve built throughout the major and minor arcs and subthemes throughout the film, but the main question(s) are whether any of us are real and ultimately what makes us real? Or, more simply, what gives a living thing not just autonomy but also agency/self control over their own autonomy?
Certainly agent K’s memories end up being false and leads him to a showdown/conclusion fabricated by the maker of his thoughts. Upon discovering the remains of the Nexus 6(7) replicant Rachel at the beginning of the film it is found she died in child birth. This leads the masters over agent K to ask him to wipe out this miracle bastard child so it doesn’t lead to another replicant uprising. The world building here is superb. The fact that a war could literally begin between humans and replicants over something as beautiful as child birth is telling at just how frightened humans are of replicants replacing them.
Anyways, the scene where K’s superior Joshi asks K to destroy all the ties and evidence (“Retire” Deckard and he and Rachel’s progeny) is telling:
Agent K: I’ve never retired something that was born before.
Lieutenant Joshi: What’s the difference?
Agent K: To be born is to have a soul, I guess.
Lieutenant Joshi: Are you telling me no?
Agent K: I wasn’t aware there was an option, madame.
Lieutenant Joshi: Attaboy.
[Agent K begins walking out the door]
Lieutenant Joshi: Hey! You’ve been getting on fine without one.
Agent K: What’s that, madame?
Lieutenant Joshi: A soul.
Bitch! I mean seriously, what an absolutely cold hearted burn. Honestly, the look on K’s face after she says that to him is a mix of self control, anger, wanton individuality, and even remorse to break free from the trivial type of ennui that the construct he exists to be apart of represents. Of course, he is to do as he is told... Or is he? This conversation above all else is what I think leads K on the mind bending journey and struggle behind his personal agency. Whether he knows it or not, it IS the Chekhov’s gun that begs to be fired at the very end of the film.
So, K sleuthfully tracks down Deckard thinking falsely that the evidence he uncovers proved that he is Deckard and Rachel’s abandoned son. This then leads him back to the memory maker, Dr. Ana Stelline, who actually ends up being their real daughter. She confirms that all of her real childhood memories were the ones implanted in agent K. Ultimately, K sort of ends up being kind of an odd stand in surrogate son and brother to Deckard and Stelline because of this.
I think this mental meddling really is the crux of what gives K his agency and leads him to the conclusion. Those feelings, the abandonment, the loss, and the want is all built within him all along, but what is he to do with those emotions whether they are his or not? Let me expound on that.
So, throughout the film there is this constant push and shove of who gets to benefit from or destroy the progeny of a human and a replicant. From Niander Wallace, to the LAPD, to the Replicant Rights Movement and so on... Ultimately, none of that matters to K and his agency comes from basically giving a huge middle finger to all of that. Fuck possibly escaping with all of this knowledge, fuck Deckard’s decision to abandon his daughter for the greater good of covering up her birth, fuck the replicant uprising wanting to use her as a martyr, fuck the LAPD wanting to covertly assassinate her, fuck Niander Corp’s need to have their IP back for further production, and fuck the man in general! Now the gun has been fired.
In the end, he has one conclusion... He personally wanted to meet his surrogate father and ultimately lead his surrogate father back to his real daughter/surrogate sister. That’s it. Everything else is window dressing... Albeit, a really beautiful and surreal window dressing full of subplots, subthemes, and a metric ton of world building. Again, I could go on at length about Rachael, Deckard, Niander, Luv, and especially JOI’s narrative in all of this, but they are all really just puzzle pieces that fit into K’s overall mystery that he as the detective must solve.
The fact that all of this realization comes so artfully and quietly by just simply following K through his personal journey without a lot of dialogue, exposition, and explanation is all the more reason why this movie really is a noir masterpiece and quite possibly (dare I say it) better than the original that I also hold so dearly as a favorite film. That against all odds, his programming, and the wants and needs of everyone else, the ultimate satisfaction for K lies in he alone wanting to make the personal sacrifice that allows two people to reconnect and be the family they could never be. It’s fucking beautiful how simple, rebellious, and unselfish his single act of kindness against everyone else’s avarice really is.
This thrusts K into the realm of a kind of anti-hero coming to terms with his own mortality and humanity in a way that really stands apart from the general martyr for the greater good that is so oft represented in modern cinema. I think it is all in how the story is told so intricately and intimately from K’s very personal point of view, and the interactions his character makes with those around him that lends the overall weight to his final demise. It isn’t one of those cheesy script mill Hollywood stories where the crowd gathers around the fallen hero, but an intensely personal one that only Deckard and Stelline will ever really know the end of. It is truly what makes Agent K a real hero, a real human being, a real son, a real brother, a real badass, and the real deal.