The human psyche can be fragile and understanding it can be complicated. But this is much of what Blade Runner 2049 tackles. Ryan Gosling plays K, an android cop who is searching for clues in a case. As we follow K, we get a look at his life and the difficulties he faces as an android in a human world. He struggles with the idea of not having a soul. An idea his higher up Lieutenant Joshi, played by Robin Wright, confirms when she says to him, “you’ve been doing just fine without one.” Like it is no big deal to be human.
The “one” she is referring to is his soul. K does not know how to take it. He believes not having one is a huge difference from him and a real human and he is merely attempting to find his place in the world, just like everyone else is, but is stigmatized for being different.
Which bring us to K’s relationship with Joi, his AI girlfriend. Their relationship is a heartwarming look at love, despite the relationship being between two AI. It asks the question: is their love real? Or is it programmed? And I’ll retort with: why does it matter? Love is love and love is what you make it. Understanding that love is out there for you is all that matters. K loves Joi and wants the best for her, as he sees her trapped inside a program that is limited to the confines of his home. So he upgrades her and affords her the ability to explore outside. He cares for her just how a human cares for their significant other. Despite the fact he does not have a “soul,” he still has a place in his coding for love.
However, this realization comes crashing down when he confronts an add for Joi that essentially explains why he loved her. Joi is programmed to say what K wants to hear. This is a turning point for him, as he then seeks out another cause to be human: to die for a cause.
But let’s go back to this whole love idea. Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace also discusses the idea of programmed love with Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard. He explains to Deckard how it is entirely possible he fell in love with Rachel because she was designed that way. Designed for him to immediately fall for her. But then, isn’t that what love ultimately is? A bonding between programs? Love is a tough element to explain to someone not in love, or not in a relationship. The chemistry can seem fixed and orchestrated.
But that is the element one tackles when in love. So perhaps K’s doubts on love can be chalked up to the fact that he is mourning. He thinks it was a lie. He doubts because he is not human and tries to find another way to feel human. But all along, he was as human as a human could be.
And finally we come to the slogan “more human than human.” An eerie slogan that first appears in the original Blade Runner. On the whole, it is one that attempts to glean the best aspects of being human and cements these elements in artificial intelligence. The slogan connects well to Blade Runner 2049, as it presents a fascinating exploration of what it is to be human. K understands he is an android and definitely not a human, but when presented with the slight possibility he was “born,” he reevaluates his situation. If he is born, perhaps he might have a soul. Perhaps that fundamental action of being created by two beings is enough to feel human.
So, with that knowledge he pursues the truth in hopes he is that miracle. Unfortunately, he is not the miracle he was searching for. He was still created the standard android way and feels as though he did not live.
But in the end, K was defined by his actions and judged by how he handled himself in trying situations. He was able to let go of his insecurities and appreciate the life he had lived, soulless and all. A lesson all of us humans could learn from.