The original Blade Runner (1982) was based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. Set in a dystopian future, the film imagines Los Angeles in 2019, plagued by overcrowded streets, darkness and incessant rain. the story centres on Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a police officer tasked with hunting down replicants—sophisticated androids with a limited lifespan that are virtually indistinguishable from humans.
The replicants are created by the Tyrell Corporation, a massive multinational conglomerate, to work as manual labourers in “off world” space colonies. Due to their advanced intelligence and tendency toward violence, they have been outlawed on Earth. When certain replicants go rogue and try to pass themselves off as human, specialized police units called “blade runners” are tasked with hunting them down and “retiring” them.
Blade Runner 2049 picks up the story 30 years after the events of the first film. A new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Deckard (reprised by Ford), who has been missing for 30 years.
The setting is once again a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, albeit one that spreads over much of the West Coast. “The climate has gone berserk—the ocean, the rain, the snow is all toxic,” notes Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Arrival). The bleak atmosphere is reinforced by monolithic skyscrapers, deserted wastelands, and a moody, synthesized score, inspired by Vangelis’ original from the 1982 movie. The corresponding moral decay of society earned this film its R rating.
There is a new villain at the Tyrell Corporation, milky-eyed CEO Niander Wallace (Jared Leto). “Every civilization was built off the back of a disposable workforce,” he states, leading a visitor through a hall of encased shells of replicants waiting to be “born.” He believes they are the future of the species, but laments, “I can only make so many.” If he’s to carry out his plan for world domination, he needs information that only K and Deckard can provide. And so the hunters become the hunted.
K’s superior, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), warns, “If this information gets out, we’ve bought ourselves a war.” Nothing less than the future of the human race is at stake.
Search for a Soul
The conflict between humans and replicants probes at some puzzling questions: What does it mean to be human? What distinguishes us from machines? If replicants can develop memories and emotions, do they become more “real”? What happens to us after we die? Is there such a thing as a soul?
In the Bible, we can find answers to those questions. The New Testament tells of Jesus—a miracle-worker, a teacher, a healer. Most importantly, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, the Saviour who would redeem us from our sins. He came to show us what it meant to be fully human.
This caused confusion for many of the religious leaders at the time. Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council, went secretly at night to question Jesus. “We know that You are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs You are doing if God were not with Him” (John 3:2).
But Nicodemus was puzzled about Jesus’ teaching, specifically about His instruction that people must be “born again.” He asked: “How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (verse 4).
Jesus was not talking about a physical birth, but rather a spiritual one. He is talking about being “born to eternal life” through a relationship with God. It’s an affirmation that humans are more than just flesh and blood—we have a soul and a God-given identity. What’s more, there is something greater waiting for us beyond this life. It’s the “good news” for all who would believe.
Nicodemus’ secret meeting with Jesus precedes the most well-known verse in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Like many science-fiction movies, Blade Runner 2049 is a cautionary tale. It reminds us that excessive pride and faith in human achievement can often be our own undoing. It’s a sin that goes back to the Garden of Eden: the desire to become “like gods.” Niander fancies himself the leader of an army of replicants, but he cannot replicate a human soul.
Technology and scientific achievements are meaningless if they lead to a soulless world. Neglecting our fragile environment, prioritizing profit over people, choosing selfish desires over altruistic love—all of these things threaten not just our planet, but our moral fabric.
Jesus came to show us a better way: respect for our Creator and love for our neighbour. Blade Runner 2049 reminds us that when machines become more human than us, it’s time to take a hard look at our souls.