Science Fiction Film & Television

Blade Runner 2049’s incongruous couplings

Living and dying in the Anthropocene

Science Fiction Film & Television (2020), 13, (1), 37–58.

Abstract

This essay examines how the intervention of Anthropocene theory into the Blade Runner storyworld comes into conflict with the aesthetics of the franchise. On one hand, the world of Blade Runner 2049 is ravaged by climate change, creating an inhospitable environment. On the other, the film profoundly disavows this new anthropogenic condition by foregrounding the iconic designs of the first film to counterintuitively produce a neon world of technological consumption, reproductive futurity and human perfectibility. The economic franchise logic that demands uncritical repetition of elements directly derived from the much earlier original film in order to build brand continuity for its core audience produces a fundamental tension between the franchise storyworld (a known narrative past that leads to a predictable narrative future) and the Anthropocene world (an unseen and unsettling event that has resulted in an unpredictable present and unknown future). The logics of inheritance and reproduction that fuel both franchise and 2049’s plot thus intersect, producing a narrative drive and visual register that actively disavows the conditions of catastrophic climate change that the film’s worldbuilding otherwise makes visible. And it is this contradiction that makes 2049 truly of and for the Anthropocene as we know it; it is hard built into its ontology yet ignored at the level of human action.

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Author details

Hamblin, Sarah

O’Connell, Hugh C.