Are Audiences Too Lazy to Appreciate ‘Blade Runner 2049’?

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Blade Runner 2049 is something of a miracle—a sequel to a 35-year-old science fiction classic that feels urgent and necessary and which actually improves upon the original in some ways. Writer Sara Lynn Michener is thrilled with the new movie.

“It passed the piss test,” Michener says in Episode 277 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It’s 2 hours and 45 minutes. Both my partner and I had to pee halfway through, and neither of us could go to the bathroom, because we didn’t want to miss any of it.”

Science fiction author Matthew Kressel is a massive fan of the original Blade Runner, and appreciates that the sequel replicates its mood and pacing.

“A lot of today’s Hollywood films don’t have a lot of patience,” he says. “They sort of expect the audience to get bored really quickly, so they’re like, ‘We’ve got to have an explosion every 10 minutes.’”

But the slow pace of Blade Runner 2049 is proving a challenge for many viewers, and so far the movie hasn’t attracted an audience that extends much beyond fans of the original. Michener thinks it’s appropriate that the film, like its predecessor, is a box office disappointment. “They made a sequel to a cult classic,” she says. “It was not designed to work with the Fast & Furious crowd.”

Bestselling author Daniel H. Wilson thinks the movie will pick up steam over time due to its many ambiguities, which compel discussion.

“If your friend hasn’t seen it, well then they damn well better go see it, so that you can talk about it, because I’ve got things I need to talk about,” he says. “That is how this virus spreads.”

Listen to the complete interview with Sara Lynn Michener, Matthew Kressel, and Daniel H. Wilson in Episode 277 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Sara Lynn Michener on Silicon Valley:

“In 2017 the ‘radical visionary’ is a kind of villain and a kind of hero at the same time. Like, we’re not sure whether Elon Musk, for instance, is ever going to go evil. Is he going to just always be altruistic and always be humanistic, or is he at some point going to do something really scary? And so I feel like, especially living in Silicon Valley—you know, the TV show Silicon Valley, I actually can’t stand watching it, because it’s too realistic. It’s not satirical enough to be funny, so it just makes me uncomfortable. … So that’s why when I watched this, when I saw Jared Leto’s character, I was like, this is totally a believable Silicon Valley visionary who’s so caught up in his own way of thinking and his own prejudices that he is a truly terrifying, powerful individual.”

Daniel H. Wilson on AI:

“AI [will] gain the ability to communicate with us like people, to pull those levers of emotion and gesture. … And as human beings, we are completely un-innoculated for this. We have spent maybe 300,000 years—as homo sapiens—interacting via speech and gestures only with human beings. Never in the history of evolution, never in the history of humankind, has there been a moment where we spoke to an artifact in the environment and it spoke back to us. So when that happens, we are going to be completely unable, I think, to defend ourselves, at least for a little while, and that may involve people buying a lot of products because they’re in love—because they’re literally in love—and that scares the shit out of me.”

Sara Lynn Michener on feminism:

“I am not going to be one of those feminists who has a problem with this movie, because I think that the goal of Blade Runner—if it’s going to be true to Blade Runner, which it is, thank goodness—is to show the world as it is. And I think that a lot of feminists have a hard time with that. They had a hard time with it in Game of Thrones, where Game of Thrones is designed to be a very patriarchal society, because it’s reflecting on and talking about patriarchy. Blade Runner is the same. … To me what makes Blade Runner prescient is its bleakness, and I think, as a feminist, I want science fiction to show us a mirror, I don’t want it to break the fourth wall and tell us, ‘Oh by the way, this is bad.’”

Matthew Kressel on dystopias:

“One of the things about the first film that I think is part of the reason it was copied so much is that you have this visual appeal. Even though it’s a dystopia, it’s sexy. There’s something about that world that is appealing. The new film, I do not want to live in that world. … But I like that. I think they really showed that this was a dystopian world 30 years before this film, imagine what happens after that. Things got worse. There’s blizzards all the time, they have to have these giant sea walls to protect them from the water coming in, they have these massive garbage dumps. … It’s gotten so much worse, and kudos to the director and the set designers for not being afraid to take it to that conclusion.”

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