Blade Runner 2049 is one of my favorites and seems like a good movie to analyze in terms of its predictions of the future. Set in a not-so-far-away future, it focuses on the humanity of humans versus AI.

Miniature of the Tyrell Skyscraper used in Blade Runner, from the Museum of the Moving Image. Photo by Mackenzie Kidwell.

Blade Runner 2049 is an extension of the original Blade Runner, which set up a dystopian future for 2019 that was semi-accurate compared to our current time. The director of 2049 decided to extend the moods and themes of the first movie, rather than develop a whole new future based on today’s culture. Arguably, Blade Runner depicts a post-modern cityscape, while Blade Runner 2049 draws on 1950s-inspired Brutalist forms as a futuristic city.

Blade Runner 2049 is predicting a future that should worry us. In this world of collapsed ecosystems, the Wallace Corporation controls synthetic farming and subsequently the world’s food supply. Synthetic human replicants are hunting down other replicants. Real humans are being relocated “off-world.” This is all taking place in a dark, smog-filled city of imposing forms. Neon advertisements light the skyline aiming to grab the consumer’s attention. The cinematographer was inspired by brutalist architecture in London. But it is not the same form of brutalism that developed from a need for stripped-down architecture in a post-war era.

Much like our current cities have brutalist architecture woven in, so should the future cities. Blade Runner is more about futuristic set design and less about the reality of the future. However, it is interesting to think about the future in terms of movies that have already predicted it.

There are some films and shows that depict the future in a more positive light. For example, Black Mirror tackles themes of experimental technology, post-apocalyptic scenarios, and psychological mind games. It also gives us a glimpse into a bright and clean future with modern architecture and minimalist design. We see that while technology could lead us down a dark path, not all aspects of our society have to follow.