Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Being Human in 2049 - and at Other Times

Our recent trip to the High Plains had a science fiction underside - sort of. During much driving time, on often deserted string-straight roads, we listened to an audio version of a volume of short stories by famous sci-fi master, Arthur C. Clarke. One of my favourites, History Lesson written in 1949, can be read in a pdf file HERE.

On the last afternoon of our trip, with a storm threatening, we hopped into a cinema in northern Oklahoma to see Blade Runner 2049.

The original Blade Runner movie, now thought of by many sci-fi fans as "iconic" has melted from my memory, almost completely, apart from the fact that its lead actor was Harrison Ford. I'm not too sure I enjoyed that movie, back in the 1980s, otherwise I'd recall it more easily. The 2049 sequel/update movie might prove to have better staying power in the old memory banks. The new story picks up some 30 years after the original ended.

Were the 2049 movie one of those big, pretentious coffee table volumes, I'd love to wander and linger through the photographs, again and again, ignoring most of the text. The visual interest of the movie far outshone the story-line, for me. Fascinating, yet chilling and easily imagined views of what the future might bring, came one after another, and were made somehow beautiful, while remaining also heartrendingly sad.

Flying vehicles, imagined by the 1980's original story's author Philip K. Dick should have been flying overhead right now - as I type. As in the case of so many early sci-fi writers' flights of imagination , they pre-supposed a much faster rate of progress,in certain areas, than has actually happened. Driverless cars are on the drawing board now, but still will remain earth-bound. Philip K. Dick's ashes, by the way, were buried in a cemetery in Fort Morgan, Colorado, one of our two-night stop-overs.

We both thought there were several iffy assumptions going on in 2049 - unless we'd missed something crucial in the dialogue that is (not at all unlikely!) Ryan Gosling, as I've probably written before in these pages, is not a favourite of either of us, though in this leading role he did....alright. I can't think of anyone who would have better fit this particular character and story-line.

No detail of the plot here from me - spoilers would definitely spoil this one. A quick read through the synopsis of the original Blade Runner, before seeing 2049 wouldn't go amiss, however.

Apparently the deeper layers of Blade Runner 2049, and its predecessor, are meant to relate to the question: what does it mean to be human? Perhaps so... perhaps. For me though, a movie we saw on TV back in the hotel room, later that night, offered another way of seeking the answer to that particular "what?" - Monster's Ball. Wow! There was some really first class+ acting going on in that one, by Halle Berry, Billy Bob Thornton, and the lost, lamented Heath Ledger. All our human faults, failings and yes - our better sides - were on show, and in-yer-face. Some scenes were hard to watch, but all worthwhile. Monster's Ball is an excellent movie, a no nonsense look at our all-too-human frailties!

As I finished typing that paragraph an old post of mine from way back popped into my head - from 2008 - a post about a song. I recall it easily because, at the time, it gathered lots of comments. Are We Human or Are We Dancer? It was memorably performed by The Killers. I don't think the theme of Blade Runner was in the mind of many listeners back then, but maybe now....?

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