IT WAS THE ORIGINAL Bladerunner film , released in 1982, that laid down the template for many of the dystopic films that have followed it. Director Ridley Scott’s interpretation of the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? to the big screen, created a world that had been hollowed out by a predatory capitalism. The rich meanwhile, have abandoned the Earth for more habitable planets elsewhere, leaving the rest of humanity to exist among the rubble, squalor and the acid rain.
The collapse of capitalism into dystopia has been a path since followed by other movies such as The Matrix trilogy and the Mad Max series. Elsewhere it has been a theme mined in television shows, novels, and graphic novels.
But some three decades later, the sequel to Bladerunner has arrived at our cinemas. While many feared the worst, Bladerunner 2049 is well and truly worthy of the original. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (The Arrival) it is a stunning tour de force, exploring again a world where such cuddly terms as 'social capitalism', 'green capitalism' and 'post capitalism' have been rendered obsolete.
This a world where corporate monster Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) talks about 'great civilizations' being built 'on the backs of a disposable workforce'.
It is a film that is a million light years away from the light escapist fare of the Star Wars franchise. It is a movie that demands our intelligence be brought to bear. While it is has been universally critically lauded it appears that small clutch of critics can't get past the fact that Bladerunner 2049 hasn't been presented and edited as an extended music video and they have bagged it for being "too slow".
I accept though that the depiction of women in Bladerunner 2049 is problematic. The female characters are little more than appendages to a narrative dominated by the central male characters - which was a flaw that also evident in the original Bladerunner.
Bladerunner 2049 reminds us that it is easier to imagine the end of world than to imagine the end of capitalism. There is a danger, as writer and activist Naomi Klein has observed, to see dytopic movies like Bladerunner 2049 not as a warning and a clarion call for political action, but as the depiction of a future that is inevitable. While some right wing critics have attacked the film as anti-capitalist, it is an anti-capitalism that doesn't raise the possibility of an alternative future. Ultimately, the prognosis of Bladerunner 2049 is gloomy and downbeat. Somewhere along the line the class struggle, as the motor of history, has been sidelined.
It is worth recalling the words of Rosa Luxemburg who wrote in 1915 that humanity was faced with the choice between socialism and the end of civilisation. Luxemburg described it as barbarism.
Bladerunner 2049, like the original Bladerunner, depicts such a barbaric world.
It might be difficult to conceive of another world to win because the power of capitalism appears inevitable and inescapable. But so once was the divine right of kings.