Often, how a movie is reviewed says more about the reviewers than the movie itself. For example, the usual suspects are raving about Chocolate Charlie and the Wakanda Factory for all the obvious reasons. Rotten Tomatoes is literally enforcing a zero tolerance rule for reviews. Love it or else. You can be sure every reviewer will praise the movie as the next Star Wars, for fear of reprisal. Everything around the movie appears to be designed to confirm everything said about the modern age by the Dissident Right.
The new Blade Runner is not a social statement, but the reception does say something about the people who love it. I’m specifically talking about the alt-right, which has embraced the movie. The film critics generally liked it, because it is an extremely well done science fiction movie that is made for adults. Most of what passes for sci-fi these days is either made for kids, like Star Wars, or it is just not well done. The new Blade Runner is an exception, so the reviewers seemed to like it on artistic grounds.
Knowing that the alt-right embraced the movie, I watched it the other night expecting to see some pro-white subliminal messaging, but it is just a good movie. In fact, it is better than I expected, in terms of the video presentation. Like everyone, I’m conditioned to expect whiz-bang special effects in everything now. The cool thing about this movie is the special effects don’t impress you so much as convince you. The look and feel of the movie goes a long way toward transporting you to this alternative reality.
Remakes, of course, are usually terrible. The filming is updated, the story and characters are downgraded for stupid people. This is an exception. It is a movie for people who like thinking about the meaning of certain aspects of the story and discussing the overall significance of the tale. The original Blade Runner was like that too. It was a plot driven action story, but in the end, you thought about what Harrison Ford’s character had gone through and what it meant. It was a movie about what it meant to be human.
The remake is similarly a contemplation of what it is that makes us human. Unlike the first one, this version operates under the assumption that the audience is aware of the robot revolution going on just out of sight. In the first movie, Harrison Ford was a human charged with hunting replicants that had gone bad. In this one, Ryan Gosling is a replicant, a new model, who is designed to hunt down defective replicants. Like the first movie, this movie starts with our hero being set off on journey that will reveal himself to himself.
The thing about this movie, something you only ever notice these days when it is missing, is it is devoid of the sort of casual degeneracy we always see in pop culture. There are no 20-minute, soft-core porn sex scenes. There’s no grand chase where half the world explodes. That’s the thing about modern movies. They rarely treat the audience like an adult. It is assumed that everything has to be explained, the ending must be positive and, like horny teenagers, the audience demands extended sex scenes set to bad music.
That does not mean it is not a modern film. The original Blade Runner would not hold a modern audience, because of the slow pace and lack of plot spoilers. This film makes sure to keep the story moving. That’s to be expected. In this age, all of us have lower attention spans, mostly due to being bombarded by mass media. No one these days has the patience to let a story unfold. The new Blade Runner does just enough to keep an adult audience, with a three-digit IQ, interested in what’s happening on screen.
Now, the reason the movie is popular with the alt-right. It is entirely possible, if you are a young person seeing this film, that it is the first movie you have seen that is not overtly anti-white. Older people remember when movies were made to be good and would avoid celebrating multiculturalism. This movie does exactly that. It has white men acting like white men, not foils for the magic negro or as sidekick to the female star. In fact, the only black guy in the movie is a minor character who has a small role in the story.
The other big reason the movie is popular with the alt-right is the central message of the movie. If you hate spoilers, then look away at this point. The thing our hero in the movie learns is that being human is about making copies of yourself with another human. It is not what you do or how you feel. It is that ability to make more people who look like you that makes you human. Not even God can do that, or at least the character who imagines himself as God in the film. It also means you are who made you. That’s your identity.
That’s also what makes it work as a great sci-fi movie. This central question that gets resolved in the film is not in your face. Most movies with a message beat the audience over the head. That’s bad film making. Blade Runner lets you enjoy the story arc of the characters and when you get to that final denouement, it all makes sense. It’s not perfect and I think the ending could have been much better, but you don’t come away feeling like you just spent two hours in diversity training either. It’s a well told story.
One final thought on the alt-right angle. I’ve written before that the alt-right are romantics, but updated for the current age. Theirs is not a nostalgia for a forgotten era or just a rejection of the sterile, materialistic present. There is some of that, but it is more of a nostalgia for a future that will never come. There is a temporal disjunction in the way the alt-right frames the world. They talk about the 1950’s, for example, not as an ideal, but as the start of a descent down the wrong path that has led to this bad current.
In Blade Runner, that aesthetic is on display. The movie picks up where the old one left off and imagines how that world evolved. You get the sense that everyone in the movie wished the past had never happened, which is why the replicants are implanted with fake memories of a past that never happened. The movie seems to say that what happened was terrible and what comes next is not good either, but the green shoot, the bit of hope, is that fact that our people can make more copies of ourselves and make a different future.