Blade Runner: Must-Know Philosophy Before 2049 – Wisecrack Quick Take
Blade Runner is one of the richest sci-fi films in cinema history, so following up on such a classic is a daunting challenge. Luckily, the new anime that bridges Blade Runner and its forthcoming sequel flexes all the brains that made the original so legendary. On this Wisecrack Quick Take, we’re gonna break down the core symbolism and philosophical ideas of the original film and see how they also manifest in Shinichiro Watanabe’s new anime, Blade Runner Blackout 2022.
Directed by: Robert Tiemstra
Written by: Leo Cookman & Jared Bauer
Edited by: Andrew Nishimura
Produced by: Emily Dunbar & Jacob Salamon
Blade Runner: Must-Know Philosophy Before 2049 – Wisecrack Quick Take
Hey, Wisecrack! Jared, here. And we’ve got a special quick take to prime you guys for the release of Blade Runner 2049. As you might guess, we’re BIG fans of the original Blade Runner and are super excited to see how the sequel not only continues the plot, but develops the themes that made the original so legendary. To whet our appetite even more, Crunchyroll has a first look on a 15-minute Blade Runner anime directed by Cowboy BeBop mega-director Shinichiro Watanabe that bridges the original and the sequel. And it’s REALLY good. Not only does it carry on the same visual style and the Neo-Noir, pitch-black tone but it reflects on many of the same themes and symbols present in the original. So, big thanks to Crunchyroll for giving us an exclusive sneak peek at the short and making this video possible.
Blade Runner is a really dense, profound film full of symbols that also make an appearance in Black Out 2022. So, let’s unpack how these symbols give us a better understanding of what it means to be human, and perhaps derive a sense of what we can expect from Blade Runner 2049. Welcome to this Wisecrack Quick Take on Blade Runner and Black Out 2022. And heads up: this discussion will spoil some key plot points of the anime, so if you want to watch it right now for free, head to crunchyroll.com/Wisecrack. So, let’s get to it! First a quick recap of Blackout 2022. Two replicants, Trixie and Iggy, go on a mission to destroy a database that holds a registry of all replicants on Earth. One of the primary themes of the original is interrogating the line between human and automaton. Both Blade Runner and Blackout 2022 explore this dynamic using three key symbols: The Eye, The Doll and The Dove.
Number One: Eyes
The original Blade Runner places significant emphasis on eyes. The Voigt-Kampf test examines to detect if someone is a replicant or not. Roy and Leon meet the designer of their own eyes. And Roy even kills his own maker by giving him an extreme bit of eye-cupuncture. Similarly, in Black Out, the characters’ right eyes are coded with a mark identifying them as replicants. The eye is also relevant in how replicants AND humans define themselves- through images and symbols. For example, the replicant Leon is obsessed with finding photos because these visual symbols reinforce the idea that he has a history, proof of having existed. There’s actually a pretty interesting postmodern commentary, here. Many philosophers, including Wisecrack favorite Jean Baudrillard, have discussed how ALL of us now think of our past as a series of images — photo albums, instagram, facebook photos, etc. Our past, like the replicants, have become just a series of photos, symbols, or video images. Similarly, the main drive of the protagonists in Black Out is to destroy a database registry that lists them as Replicants. By removing these signs that define them as not human, they destroying the one thing separating them from humanity.
Number Two: The Doll
In Blade Runner, Pris, a ‘pleasure model’ just like Trixie, disguises herself as a doll amongst other non-sentient toys; while in In Black Out 2022 Trixie carries a stuffed doll. In both cases, The doll indicates how humans distinguish themselves from Replicants. They are largely considered to be as doll-like ‘lifeless’ automata, but why? Philosopher David Hume argues that the only thing that distinguishes us from dolls is our experiences. He says that Mankind “[is] nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions.” This ‘Bundle’ Theory says that all we are is just collections of our experiences and memories held together in a sack of meat, and this is how we define ourselves as human. But as the film points out, replicants define themselves in the same way. Even though her memories are artificially implanted, Rachel is convinced of her own humanity and even carries a photo of herself as a child. Implanted or not – what’s the difference? Utilizing their experience, both Trixie and Pris challenge their prescribed fate, shedding this idea of the doll and asserting their humanity. This is why Trixie leaves her doll behind as she goes into ass-whoopin’ mode. So, who is to say they’re just lifeless dolls?
Number Three: The Dove
This final symbol has caused oh-so-much debate since the release of the original Blade Runner, and it’s appearance in 2022 makes it all the more significant. In the original movie, Roy gives his famous speech whilst holding a dove and releases it just as he expires. Similarly, In 2022, Trixie observes a dove as she sails through the air before coming to a crashing end herself. Because of how briefly the doves are seen — and importantly when they are seen — it is easy to interpret them in a number of ways: as a symbol of life departing, or alternatively as life continuing, or even just as another automata; as Blade Runner suggests most organic animals no longer exist. However, our favorite interpretation of the Dove is that it represents a certain kind of Freedom. The sort of freedom the characters yearn for, can be found in what Soren Kierkegaard refers to as ‘Despair’. Kierkegaard defines Despair as the tension between life and our inevitable death and the search for meaning therein. While for Kierkegaard this was solved by aligning yourself with God, for the Replicants: So, like a lot of people living in our more secular age, we free ourselves from this tension or ‘despair’ by being conscious of, then understanding and defining, our self. Which is exactly what the Replicants do.
Roy spends the film fighting this tension by searching for more life beyond his 4 year expiration date. Until, when he feels his body begin to degrade and his end is near, he chooses to fight his programming as a ‘combat model’ and spares Deckard. He then delivers the speech that brings tears to the eyes of nerds everywhere, referring to the bundle of experiences that he has seen throughout his life. Perhaps this indicates that he has finally defied his programming by defining himself and, thus, is free of his existential despair, even if he didn’t get “more life”. Unlike in the original movie, Cygnus and Trixie are seeking the power to allow them to define themselves – by destroying the registry that the humans use to define them as replicants. In doing this, we see Trixie break away from her programming as a pleasure ‘doll’ and become a back-flipping badass, thus liberating herself from her predetermined role. In both cases, freedom must be fought for and claimed.
If a 15 minute prologue by the same studio can pack all this sexy stuff, then 2049 sounds promising. And we didn’t even get into the whole ‘Is Deckard a Replicant’ debate! But that will have to wait for another time. For now, be the first to see Black Out 2022 FOR FREE at crunchyroll.com/wisecrack. And if you want to watch it ad-free, sign up for a 30-day free trial on us. And while you’re there, check out more great anime like My Hero Academia, Dragonball Super, and Cowboy BeBop. So, a big thanks to Crunchyroll for making this video possible and giving us a sneak peek at Watanabe’s new anime. Catch y’all next time. Peace.