A lot has been written about Blade Runner 2049 and how the film treats its female characters. Among these voices, one critic dubbed Joi (Ana de Armas’ holographic home helper) as “a sci-fi fanboy’s wet dream,” while another noted Mackenzie Davis plays a “sex worker who is literally used as a puppet.” Director Denis Villeneuve addressed this criticism in a new interview, stating the portrayal of women mirrors a present day that “is not kind on women.”
“I am very sensitive to how I portray women in movies,” Villeneuve, who helmed Amy Adams in Arrival and Emily Blunt in Sicario, told Vanity Fair. “This is my ninth feature film and six of them have women in the lead role. The first Blade Runner was quite rough on the women; something about the film noir aesthetic. But I tried to bring depth to all the characters. For Joi, the holographic character, you see how she evolves. It’s interesting, I think.
“What is cinema?” Villeneuve continued. “Cinema is a mirror on society. Blade Runner is not about tomorrow; it’s about today. And I’m sorry, but the world is not kind on women.”
Blade Runner 2049 picks up 30 years after the events of the original film — which, as Villeneuve pointed out, also prompted discussions over certain scenes. Ryan Gosling plays a new Blade Runner, Officer K, who goes in search of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).
The film still earned wide acclaim from critics despite this discussion, even in the wake of underwhelming box office numbers. “Cinematographer Roger Deakins will get his first Oscar if there’s any justice,” a writer remarked, while others called Blade Runner 2049 “stunning,” “mind-blowing,” and “the most visually spectacular science-fiction film of the century.”
“There’s a sense in American cinema: you want to portray an ideal world. You want to portray a utopia,” Villeneuve explained. “That’s good — dreams for a better world, to advocate for something better, yes. But if you look at my movies, they are exploring today’s shadows. The first Blade Runner is the biggest dystopian statement of the last half century. I did the follow-up to that, so yes, it’s a dystopian vision of today. Which magnifies all the faults. That’s what I’ll say about that.”