I was excited to see Blade Runner 2049. I went to see it with my girlfriend, her mother, and a lifelong female friend of mine. I purchased the tickets for all of us. Many of my friends had said it was one of the best movies they had ever seen. Chris Stuckman on YouTube gave it an A+. Word was that Harrison Ford said it was the best script he had ever read.
So I sat down in the reclining seats of the theater ready to be dazzled. And it was dazzling. There are special effects throughout this movie, but they’re so flawless that I did not spend any time thinking about the CGI. The production design is incredible. Like the original, it looks like a lived in world full of casual amazing technology. Roger Deakins is the director of photography. He’s the best in the business and the way he makes this film look deserves an Oscar. Performances by nearly all of the cast feel grounded in reality and make for an engaging movie. There’s a plot element involving implanted memories that I think is genius. You can find plenty of reviews that will correctly go on and on about how great so many aspects of Blade Runner 2049 are. There is so much to love in Blade Runner 2049.
Sadly, Blade Runner 2049 also has a fatal flaw. The 1982 original Blade Runner had its own flaws. Any movie where your protagonist rapes someone is problematic, but part of the whole point of the original Blade Runner seemed to me to be an experiment in what you can allow the protagonist to do if you just say the people he’s doing it to aren’t ‘real’. It’s one of the things that makes Blade Runner so damn dark. And the culture of the world of 2019 in Blade Runner is fairly misogynistic. (There are literally no female characters in the original Blade Runner who aren’t fake people.) For whatever reason, the creators of Blade Runner 2049 decided that in the 30 years following the first movie that misogynistic side of their culture has been turned up to eleven.
Instead of scenes with women as prostitutes or strippers, BR 2049 chooses to have 200 foot statues of naked women in various sexual poses, it chooses to have giant nude hologram women enticing men. They have a protagonist who has a holographic girlfriend who merges with a prostitute replicant he finds attractive so that he can have sex with both of them at the same time. They have a scene where our antagonist views his latest creation, an adult nude woman who clearly appears afraid. He touches her belly and then he guts her. Some may say these scenes develop character or show off a world that is misogynistic, but sitting next to three women I care about watching these scenes I felt awkward and disturbed.
I am not someone who shies away from graphic scenes in movies. I recognize that some stories require graphic violence, rampant nudity, or even sexism and misogyny, but when these things are presented with no real negative judgment about them, when they are presented simply as a matter of course, when they are presented in such a way that none of the male characters die and most of the female characters die in graphic ways, it becomes something else. There is a responsible way to present unpleasant misogyny in a dysotopian future (see Mad Max Fury Road). Blade Runner 2049 fails to be responsible in this way.
It is really unfortunate that such an incredibly well done movie chose to be among the most chauvinistic movies of the 21st century. For some this won’t be a problem. There are those who are much more comfortable with misogyny than I am personally. Maybe I would have had a different experience if I had not gone with three women I saw cringing and bothered throughout the movie. What I know is that in the year 2017, there is little excuse for a movie that goes so far out of its way to degrade a gender.
– Jack Cameron