By Justin Snavely
The previews finally ended, and the theater was dark. One final bit of fanfare about the Imax experience before we are finally greeted with the awesome landscape of futuristic solar farms, and a world we have been waiting 35 years to re-visit.
As a lifelong film enthusiast, it was hard not to be in awe of this movie. Here is a talented director given full control over an intellectual property that ranks among the most influential in the history of science fiction and he is executing at the highest level (or at least I think so) that a filmmaker can. Each frame was packed with so much detail and world building that it required a second viewing from yours truly just to process all of the visual information being presented on screen.
This is a very long film. It is one that invites you to take your time, revel in its setting the way its creators must have, and luxuriate in a story that has been crafted to amaze and terrify you all at once. It is also not an easy film. There are challenges aplenty and no easy answers to come by for the audience or for the characters. And while there is a real plot with a real conclusion, ultimately I would encourage you to embrace the mysteries that aren’t resolved and let it give you something to think about.
Ultimately, your mileage may vary depending on your cinema preferences, but for me it was perfect, a masterpiece even. Full warning here. There is quite a bit of mature content that some viewers might find offensive. If you aren’t bothered by that, you should really see it (and come talk to me when you do).
Regardless of what the box office may or may not be for Blade Runner 2049, as a filmgoer, I was elated by this one. Movies like this don’t get made very often, and when they do it is cause for celebration. I was overjoyed (dazed even) while walking back to my car.
But as a Christian, my response was to feel shaken by the experience and what a world like that would mean.
With the exception of two quick biblical references spoken in a pretty self serving manner by a specific character, the world of this movie is devoid of anything spiritual. There is a lot of subtext about what makes something human, but it is never in the context of how our humanity is supposed to be informed by God’s purpose for us. Rather, in this world God is not needed as we have become our own terrible masters. It is no secret that the western world is moving towards a spiritual bankruptcy.The growth of Christianity in South America, Africa, and Asia has been wonderfully inspiring. North America and Europe, however, keep moving farther and farther away. BR2049 (as it shall be called from here on out) is the perfect statement about a society that has abandoned Christ (or the need for any higher power at all).
Technology is here now to meet all of your needs. There is almost nothing natural remaining in the world of BR2049. There is weather, but the trees are dead and all the animals are completely synthetic. Humanity has elevated itself to the status of creator and higher being, yet giant swathes of large cities are nothing but garbage dumps and landfills.
If we look at nature as a reflection of God’s majesty, what do we say about a world that is completely empty of anything natural?
Much like in C.S. Lewis’ book The Great Divorce (which you should definitely read if you haven’t), it’s less that God condemns us and more that we choose and accept our own damnation. In the movie, the many characters have chosen to meet their own needs with their own virtual devices (i.e. artificial intelligences and synthetic beings) instead of accepting the world more tangible than our own reality, GOD’S reality. If this seems implausible in our own world you have only to spend 10 minutes on any current tech blog to get a glimpse of what we are actually moving towards. As believers in Christ we should be terrified to action. The world is hurting and the love imparted to us is the greatest love. It’s the love that the Father has always had for His creation that we in turn must share to be the light in our dark times.
And there is always hope! We at least know how the story ends. There is a most beautiful redemption that we are racing towards even in the midst of technological upheaval and global uncertainty. The Lord triumphs and creation will be restored to what it was always supposed to be. It is our calling to invite as many that will answer to be a part of such a wonderful narrative.
- Justin Snavely
P.S. Further recommended reading by C.S. Lewis is his “space trilogy”. The first two books rank among the most affecting and imaginative fiction he ever wrote. The third book, while a big departure from the first two, deals with the exact themes that have been mentioned here. I hated it the first time I read it, but it might actually be the most important of the three. Sadly, this series isn’t as widely known as some of his other books. I would strongly encourage you to read it. Should you be interested, the books are as follows:
Out of the Silent Planet
That Hideous Strength