Wednesday, 18 October 2017

** FATHER FRANK’S RANTS Rant Number 745 17 October 17 BLADE RUNNER 2049


What sort of people should there be? A moral philosopher’s question. Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t answer it but it shows who they will be: 1) human beings 2) genetically-engineered, warm-blooded androids called replicants and…3) yes, cross-breeds, their offspring. Agent K – the movie’s pensive protagonist – has been designed to kill rogue replicants but finally he discovers he is half-human. Bit of a mixed-up kid, eh?

Actually, there is a fourth sort: hologram people. When K (a homage to Kafka’s doomed anti-hero K?) comes home pretty stressed out, an alluring girl welcomes and solaces him. Joi, a hologram woman. You baulk at the thought? Like being cuddled by a sex doll? No, Joi isn’t just pretty and sexy. She is real – or does she seem to be? Not sure – never flirted with a hologram. Anyway, she appears to perform real services. All right, she comes across a tad too wide-eyed, chatty and emotive – a little boring, honestly – but…beggars can’t be choosers, can they?

Using science and technology to create new human beings isn’t the future but the present. Science–fiction is about both, its dystopias betraying society's psychic fears. What were the hideous aliens of many Hollywood capers if not Russian communists in disguise? This film’s urban scenarios are battered by snow blizzards, strewn with gigantic rubbish dumps and encircled by blighted agricultural fields. Like a nutty environmentalist’s propaganda pitch. At least the original Blade Runner held out the prospect that some men would escape to the off world - more hospitable planets. The sequel is more pessimistic. Only Elon Musk can save us.

There is nothing intrinsically mysterious about holograms. You carry some in any new ten pound note. See those shiny, metallic areas with spectral three-dimensional figures, such as the Queen, floating inside? Holograms. Created with a laser. Don’t expect Elizabeth I to pop out of the note and have tea with you, though. But in future…who knows? Physicist Professor David Bohm argued you and I inhabit a holographic universe. Just cut up your note’s hologram in bits and behold how each bit reproduces the whole thing! Bohm claimed reality is hologram-like. Not the material, tangible world taken for granted but an undivided wholeness – a unitary reality in which the illusion of individual separation is dissolved and microcosm and microcosm blends together.

The original Blade Runner was starkly brutal. Harrison Ford’s terminating officer begins the movie by coldly slaughtering a beautiful female replicant. (Groan…A man has got to do what a man has got to do.) And it is cinematically splendid. The neon-filled streets of a dreamy, teeming China Town Los Angeles are intoxicatingly gorgeous. Far-sighted vision. Isn’t China the future? Alas, the sequel’s colours are overwhelmingly ashen, grey and dull. But in the original the racial element was unbalanced. Don’t recall a single black face. BR 2049 has readjusted that. Still, blacks don’t show up much 32 years hence. Huh!

Is the future female? Judging by this movie it may look so. Not just K’s cuddly hologram but his boss, the scientist, his antagonist and near-nemesis, kick-boxing replicant Luv, and Freisa, the leader of the revolt - all women. A sop to all-powerful Yankee sisters, presumably. But Blade Runner 2049 is unimaginative. Because the priest predicts the future belongs to gays. One third of all Western humanity in 32 years’ time will be homosexual, lesbian, transsexual or transgender. By then the relentless feminist onslaught will have so repelled men and women alike that they will seek refuge in reassuring same-sex relationships. Back to Plato, in fact. A new film – ‘Call Me by Your Name’ – illustrates the trend prophetically. Feminists will reap what they have sown.

Ray Gosling is a good actor but he lacks the charisma of the young Harrison Ford. Agent K is so flat and monotone that I found myself yawning. But the main problem is the villain. A figure of overarching importance, as 007 novels and movies have long demonstrated. Jared Leto plays the bearded head of a malignant Wallace Corporation, seeking to manufacture hybrid replicants in order to bolster his business. A dig at multinational capitalism? Unfortunately Leto’s baddie lacks bodily mass and has all the mesmerising power of a fairground puppet. Evil attracts, they say, but certainly not this one. A Robert Maxwell lookalike (the defunct, notorious British newspaper magnate and Soviet cum Israeli spy) would have been a better model.

American movies find it difficult to resist the Spartacus syndrome. That means that a downtrodden replicants’ uprising is looming. ‘The revolution is coming’, someone shouts. Never mind that the Romans crushed and crucified Spartacus and his slave followers. Or that the Russian Revolution turned into a genocidal nightmare. The idea is that the replicants have rights. They cannot be treated as machines. An issue for our time that will not go away. I look forward to tackling it again in the Year of Our Lord 2049, Rant 2510, Deo Volente!

What sort of people should there be? To attempt an answer you could consider two of Kant’s three questions at the end of his majestic Critique of Pure Reason. ‘What should I do? What may I hope?’ To the first Kant argued that man should act rationally and ethically, in accordance with a universal moral law. To the second, that man’s soul is immortal and that there really is a God who has ordained the world with justice. Something for any man, woman or hybrid to consider.

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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