Blade Runner 2049
More human than human
This post contains spoilers.
Genre: Science-fiction film #film
In Blade Runner 2049, K is a replicant — an android virtually indistinguishable from humans — who discovers his implanted memories are real, which suggests he may have been born rather than manufactured (an inversion of the original film in which Rick Deckard's own true nature is left ambiguous).
But after a long, emotional search for his literal humanity, K learns he is only a replicant after all. The Chosen One trope is thus turned on its head and for K, it's a crushing letdown — one that can also be difficult for the audience because BR2049 takes such great care to humanize the character.
Indeed, when K begins to believes he might actually be human, it's easy for us to go along despite evidence to the contrary. K can read a million words a minute, perceive microscopic details, and withstand (as well as inflict) tremendous amounts of physical punishment. How could one see him as anything but a machine? Yet K is utterly, convincingly human.
Outside of those physical abilities, there's truly little to differentiate him from anyone else. He eats, sleeps, and works for a wage. He lives among people. He bleeds. He cherishes his memories and shares them in private. He longs for companionship and nurtures the only relationship he has, however artificial. During his journey of self-discovery, his gradual loss of emotional control — culminating into something like a full-blown breakdown — only serves to humanize him further.
From the beginning, K's rich human experience seems to support his possibly unique origins. Even before he has any reason to believe he could have been born, K displays a plethora of human traits in BR2049's wonderfully crafted opening scene: He falls asleep in transit, a small yet relatable thing; he shows respect for Sapper Morton's property, even though Morton is a replicant he has been tasked to retire; and he displays genuine curiosity about Morton's cooking before imploring him to cooperate, hoping to avoid the “hard part of the day” that clearly makes him queasy.
Joi also hints that K has long engaged in self-contemplation prior to that encounter. And who hasn’t? The movie's initial revelation — that a replicant has given birth — is likely little more than the catalyst for K’s long-brewing existential crisis, one driven by his very human need to be special. Having so dearly desired for a different reality, he eventually allows himself to believe in one. And when it crashes down upon him like a hurricane, his distress and ensuing depressive state once again only make him seem more human.
It's all too easy for the audience to deceive itself, along with K, into believing he is. Indeed, faced with someone whose experiences are so incredibly human, how could one perceive K as anything less? And in the end, does it really matter that he's not? The revelation that he isn't human only crystallizes that he never needed to be. Like Roy Batty before him, he's already “more human than human.”