ALPERN AT LARGE--One of my favorite classes in college at UCSD/Revelle College was Freshman Humanities, a damned-hard writing/history/humanities course that (despite the demanding reading/writing requirements) forced its students to explore the recurring question civilized societies have asked since the dawn of recorded history: What makes us human, and what makes us special?
The French philosopher/mathematician Rene Descartes came up with the "I think, therefore I am" line that most of us learned in history (if history we chose to study, of course). He also came up with two other critical quotes that bear attention:
"It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well."
"If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things."
It is difficult to know if producer Ridley Scott, and writers Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, had Mr. Descartes in mind when they wrote this movie, or if the universal truths about "what makes someone human" guided their efforts, but this sequel to the first Blade Runner (itself a classic) has the hallmarks of a great movie and one that will (like its predecessor) be loved by those who saw it and ignored by those who don't "get" the real purpose of science fiction:
Which is, of course, to go beyond the genre of a fun and exciting story and which has bearing on our own society, and which might predict our own future in this Brave New World on which we live (an ode of gratitude to the late Aldous Huxley for that eternal epithet, and for his own critical masterpiece).
I understand how many of us just want to be entertained, and most of Harrison Ford's movies have been just that--entertainment. But THIS movie is Philip K. Dick/true sci-fi at its best. This will make you love the course of the movie, and if you so wish to delve into the recurring themes of the movie you will find some deep and fulfilling meaning of the purpose for which we have been given life.
Harrison Ford is but a supporting actor; it is a well-cast and at-his-best Ryan Gosling who dominates the movie, which is both violent in a violent world, and filled with sexual references in a world replete with wanton and loveless sexual access.
It is also a world that is forgotten and polluted by a humanity that has abandoned its birthplace for the stars, leaving only humanity's dregs and those who make android replicants (the original story that Blade Runner was based on was entitled "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?").
Ryan Gosling (Left in photo left) plays the noble, brave and caring Replicant "K", who is a blade runner that kills other, previous Replicant models who (between the first and second movies) established violent rebellions and are now hunted down to keep order in a chaotic world that is virtually devoid of animals but has no shortage of humans who behave like animals.
Gosling's character is shown to be kind, regretful in doing his job to those he must terminate, but yet loyal to the LAPD that is all too dismissive of his human capabilities: "K" is ultimately meant to obey, particularly after the aforementioned Replicant rebellion that led to a 10-day electrical blackout that virtually erased all of previous history.
"K" is also someone with innate kindness and the desire to give life to yet a more dehumanized but sentient being named Joi. "K" is somewhat of a puppet who wishes to create a puppet that has everything and more that he has, and the story of what influenced "K" to create Joi is revealed throughout the movie to be both sad and beautiful.
However, the Wallace Corporation that has replaced the Tyrell Corporation of the first movie in its goal to create Replicants is anything BUT sad and beautiful. The character of Wallace (played by a devilish Jared Leto who is among a host of supportive actors that makes this movie come to life) has a very different vision of what his Replicants are to ultimately be.
The "daughter" of Tyrell in the first movie was Rachel (played by Sean Young), who was meant to be as human and humane as possible. The "daughter" of Wallace in this sequel is Luv, who is as frightening, devilish and inhumane as her creator/father.
The plot turns and twists, and the "who's the good guy/bad guy" questions are as profound and gripping as any movie one could hope for, and this movie may just be one of those sequels who actually are better, and reached higher, than its predecessor. Of course, for a sequel to succeed it truly does need to reach higher, and be bigger, than the first movie in order to avoid being a mere "knockoff".
But for those who loved the Battlestar Galactica and the Star Trek universes that kept asking the question of "who ARE we?" and kept asking "are our creations capable of creating human, or at least thinking, life?" there is plenty to adore in this movie.
There are too many wonderful supporting actors in this movie to really give credit to (although Dave Bautista and Robin Wright come quickly to mind), and there are so many excellent tie-ins with the first movie, that it's a waste of time to say anything more other than "if you loved the first movie, you'll absolutely adore the second movie".
Much exists in our world that is both confusing and confounding. We are a divided world, and the ones most loudly screaming about how inhumane "the other side" is are often as much or even more guilty of being inhumane themselves. From Washington to Hollywood, there appears to be no shortage of callous and cruel behavior.
Yet despite it all, perhaps we can go back to what we were put her for, or at least to try to give ourselves a purpose to make our existence worth the while. We can think, we can love, we can question, and we can act.
And those lofty goals are perhaps--whether you see this movie or not--the main sources of both strife and happiness we can achieve in our all-too-brief existence.
(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at email@example.com. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)