I can’t say I was a big fan of the first movie, but watching this train wreck of a film makes the first seem like a masterpiece of metaphysical depth and subtlety. I watched the film and literally remember no names, so I won’t use them. The characters, world, and story were uninspired, and according to film buff Hyperion, the cinematography and music (he hated Hans Zimmer’s intrusive score) were just as uninspired. As he says, “Every shot save for one was tasteless or derivative. This should not be mentioned in the same breath as Tarkovsky.”
Three hours and literally the only memorable sequences were the scenes with the protagonist’s AI girlfriend and the moment where you’re made to think he is the special miracle android Jesus child which the other replicants worship. If the aim of the film was to make us think about what exactly makes us human, the AI girlfriend was far more telling of this problem than the replicants in general were. I mean, what are the replicants in the end other than a way over complicated and overpriced modern black slave reskinned to be whites—the director must have been scared to seem ‘racist’ if that connection was too obvious—at best, and a really dumb over complicated clone trope at worst?
The evil businessman and white colonial mastermind of the film is clearly symbolic of the common first world white guilt that, as always, leads nowhere concrete. A one-dimensional character put there to give explicit exposition to the little subtlety there is in the film, his dream of a mass of self-reproducing slave androids in order to conquer the universe is somewhat laughable and simply makes more explicit the comparison to the chattel slavery Africans were subjected to due to the hunger for labor which early colonial capital had.
It is made very clear that the replicants are self-conscious beings that deserve and demand freedom, so the question of their “humanity” is nothing but an arbitrary question of biology, an already outdated metric in the modern day. The real measure of the question regards Joi, the AI girlfriend of our main character. If anyone should have caused questions of what exactly it is to be human it is her. The relationship they have is meant to be off-putting. The main character seems caught between fantasy and reality: he ‘knows’ she is not real and does not really love him, and yet he also cannot help to fall into the illusion that she is as real as he in everything but flesh. She pushes him forward, feeding into his desire to be real despite her own seeming self-consciousness and awareness of how ‘unreal’ she is too. She aids him in running away at the cost of losing her own existence—just like a real girl. While we do not get to see any other AI with any extensive interaction, this kind of interaction is beyond formal AI and edges into real cognition and relation. Ironically, the most realistic character in the film is the one that from the get-go is posited as definitely the most unreal. She is the most expressive, the most thoughtful, the most aware of what it is to be human and finite.
All in all, why the hell wasn’t this movie about Joi? Would have made for a far more intriguing and satisfying theme, that although already done in quite a few movies, is nonetheless far less of a trope than the miracle Jesus child and the uprising revolution of the unrecognized. Not that the theme does not matter, but this is not one of the better incarnations of this theme.