I went into these movies trying to like them. I really did. I told myself the original was a cult classic. I told myself the new one would be visually pleasing with awesome cinematography. I told myself, you gotta like these, Paige; they seem like they’re a big part of the sci-fi community.
But damn, did I hate them.
The problems seem to be consistent between the two films: the rampant sexism, the slow pacing, the lackluster plot. I just couldn’t get into them. So, let’s dive in, shall we?
Why Are These Movies So Goddamn Long
Now, this particular criticism carries a lot of weight, especially for the first one. At a run time of 1 hour 57 minutes (which varies slightly depending on the version of the movie), this movie should not feel so endless. But it does. I think I got about 45 minutes into the film before I pulled out my phone to nonchalantly scroll through social media because it simply was not holding my attention.
As for Blade Runner 2049, the run time is practically a crime. This movie sits at a casual 2 hours and 44 minutes and does absolutely nothing to change up the pace in comparison to its predecessor. If anything, the movie almost feels slower. And the stunning settings and graphical triumphs do nothing to make up for it. At the two-hour mark, I was nearly asleep on the couch, internally begging for this movie to end.
The Plot Falls Flat
Loosely based off of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner tells the story of worn-out blade runner Rick Deckard. Deckard must hunt down and “retire” four replicants (highly humanlike androids) who have illegally escaped to Earth. The movie follows Deckard as he hunts down these replicants, starts a romantic relationship with Rachael, a replicant who does not understand what she is, and learns some things about humanity, I guess?
The sequel picks up thirty years after the last movie ended. Here our protagonist is K, a replicant blade runner who must investigate a concerning situation regarding a replicant who somehow got pregnant and gave birth to a half-human child (Spoiler alert: it’s Deckard’s and Rachael’s kid). It’s a race against time for K, who is hoping to discover the truth before a corporate CEO can use Rachael’s remains to his commercial benefit, while wondering if he may be the mysterious child.
Now, I said “race against time,” but don’t let that fool you into thinking this movie is fast-paced or gripping. I actually had to go read the Wikipedia descriptions of the plot to refresh my memory while writing this post. And just reading those makes you think the films are action-packed and thrilling. But quite frankly, they’re just not.
The aforementioned pacing does wonders to make the plot fall flat. What would otherwise be an interesting science fiction story and exploration of what makes us human is just a slow, dull, neon-flashing blob of boring. And somehow, despite there being plentiful minutes to fill in the gaps, you still manage to be confused about what’s happening as the films move along.
A Big Middle Finger to Women
And now for the biggest offender. The big, overarching reason I found these films thoroughly unimpressive: the women are treated like shit.
In the original Blade Runner, there are three women characters total. All three of them are replicants, one is a sex-bot, one decides to live her life as a stripper, and the other LITERALLY gets bullied into a relationship with the film’s protagonist. Of course, I have nothing against sex work as a profession. But when two-thirds of your female cast are used as sexual creatures filmed solely for the male gaze, and the other is a passive, one-dimensional love interest, I have a problem with that.
Deckard’s relationship with Rachael is particularly concerning. Their romantic plot starts with the typical “just keep pushing until her no’s turn into a yes” and he even gets physical with her, resulting in the most uncomfortable five minutes of the entire film. Later, when Deckard returns to his apartment to find the now-rogue Rachael at his apartment waiting for him, he leans over her in bed and asks if she loves him. While a gun is held in his hand, not far from her head. The symbolism there is just *shudders*. Yikes.
Blade Runner 2049, a movie filmed thirty-five years later, does not fare much better. Sure, we have two badass women (I do really enjoy Robin Wright in whatever she does) who serve to fight and hold positions of authority. But they both die. So we’re left with K’s love interest – a cheery advanced AI that is programmed to love and support him and nothing more. Wait, just kidding, she “dies”, too (in a moment that was so obviously coming that it was nearly painful).
Our surviving ladies consist of a handful of strippers, who we find out are part of some freedom movement – though this group is literally introduced near the end and then never returned to in the film. What’s up with that?? We also get Ana, Deckard and Rachael’s child, who I believe had about ten minutes of screen-time total, despite being the most important component in the entire goddamn movie.
Beyond that, both movies are rampant with sexually-charged imagery of women only. Flashing advertisements on skyscrapers and giant holographic projections of naked women are abound. But only women. (Where are my giant holograms of hunky men? Huh??)
I may have gotten a little long-winded there, but I worked myself up into a mild rage, so that’s what you get. Some feminists would probably call me too critical, others may think I’m not being critical enough. So, feel free to share your opinions with me about your experience with these movies.
All in all – would I recommend the Blade Runner movies? No. Absolutely not. Please be smarter than me, so you don’t end up wasting five hours of your life.
If you’re interested in some other thoughts I had regarding tech in this movie and the sci-fi genre, check out my post on my personal blog. And if you’d like a little something light-hearted to follow this post, check out our latest podcast episode about Hollow Knight!