'The world is built on a wall' : deconstructing 'Blade Runner 2049' (2017)

Brooker, Will (2022) 'The world is built on a wall' : deconstructing 'Blade Runner 2049' (2017). In: McSweeney, Terence and Joy, Stuart, (eds.) Contemporary American science fiction film. Abingdon, U.K. : Routledge. pp. 160-176. ISBN 9781032039640


Blade Runner 2049 is a troubling film – and at the time of its release, it was, like its predecessor, commercially unpopular – because it unsettles our expectations and offers no easy answers. This chapter engages in depth and detail, through philosophical theory and political analysis, with the contradictions and complexities of this ambitious science fiction text. Blade Runner 2049 (2017) is based on boundaries: binary oppositions that need to be constantly policed to keep them in place. The differences between key terms – human and replicant, real and artificial, ordinary and special – are strictly enforced, but constantly under threat of erosion. The narrative begins with a troubling revelation – an artificial human or replicant, Rachael, apparently gave birth almost 30 years ago – and officer K (Ryan Gosling), a replicant cop, comes to embody this unsettling of boundaries as he discovers he may be the ‘miracle’ child, and hunts for his origins. We ultimately learn, as he does, that the memories he believes prove his unique status belong to someone else, artist-scientist Ana Stelline (Carla Juri), and that she, not he, is the miracle. Binaries are destabilised, historical evidence proves untrustworthy, and truth proves elusive. If there is any sense of relief and release – even joy – to be found at the end of Blade Runner 2049, it comes from the acceptance of aperture, not closure; from embracing uncertainty and fluidity. In this chapter, I explore these structures and the tensions around them through Derridean theories and concepts – différance, terms under erasure, and the ‘dangerous supplement’ – before asking whether the film and its concerns can be interpreted as a product of, and commentary on, our specific cultural and political moment of ‘post-truth’.

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