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Blade Runner 2049: What Does It Mean To Be Christian?

Screenshot taken from Official Trailer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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What does it mean to be human? That was the question at the heart of Ridley Scott’s neo-noir science fiction masterpiece Blade Runner (1982). It’s a question further explored and dissected in Blade Runner 2049, with French-Canadian film director Denis Villeneuve now in the driver’s seat.

In the first Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) was tasked with hunting down rogue human-like androids called Replicants, who were on a mission to extend their built-in four-year lifespan. It was against this backdrop that he wrestled with his own humanity as well as his feelings for a replicant, Rachael (played by Sean Young).

The sequel has us following the exploits of Ryan Gosling’s Officer K, a latest-version Replicant who has not only been built to live longer but also programmed to be more obedient than his predecessors. K, too, is tasked with hunting down rogue Replicants, but stumbles upon a revelation that causes him to question the very meaning of his existence.

Villeneuve’s America of 2049 is an immersive experience. It draws you in with stunning visuals and landscapes, with towering pyramids and monolithic structures that fill the majority of the screen and engulf the characters. Then there’s the soundtrack, both evocative and transfixing, which pulls you into the tumultuous world of K. But they never distract from the narrative, which centers on K’s personal turbulence. For it is this ultimate mission to find significance and purpose in his existence, that drives the unfolding plot.

The film grapples with this issue through the juxtaposition of humans, who come into the world through birth, and replicants, who are manufactured. As with the first film, the lines are blurred. And with the sequel being told from the perspective of a replicant, their plight begins to seem all the more human. For K, to be birthed carries consequences beyond the obvious biological implications; birth imbues an individual with a significance and purpose that K craves.

In reality, we too crave significance. Everything about our culture is geared towards telling us that we are special, that there is more to life than mundane existence. From the media we consume to the experiences we seek, we’re encouraged to dream of a purposeful, exciting destiny.

However, as Christians, we recognize that our purpose is very different from the one that mainstream culture tries to sell us. As one of Blade Runner 2049’s most poignant lines suggests, purpose and significance is born out of a cause worth dying for, rather than what gains we may manufacture in this life.

The Christian existence revolves around the gospel. Our purpose is very much tied to it and never manifested apart from it. For it is through the gospel that we are brought from spiritual death to life, as described in Ephesians 2:4-5. And it is for the gospel that we are called to suffer for—and ultimately, if need be, to die for. For Christians, the gospel is the cause worth dying for.

The theme of dying for a greater cause is a big thing in Blade Runner 2049. The opening scenes feature the replicant farmer Sapper Morton (played by Dave Bautista) telling K that he, K, is settling for a mundane life because he’s never witnessed a miracle. Morton himself has found the meaning of his existence and a cause worthy of death, because of a miracle that lies at the center of the film’s plot.

Similarly, the miracle of Jesus’ death and resurrection should radically change the way we live and our perception of life on this earth. In light of what the new creation has in store for us, material pursuits should lose their shine. The miracle of the gospel should shape the way we approach our daily tasks, and the way we prioritize our time.

If there is one thing about Blade Runner 2049 that might discomfort, it’s the notion that the grand scheme of things is not really about us. We like to feel special and noteworthy, and we like to put ourselves at the center of the known universe. To hear the gospel saying differently grates against our instincts.

The cause and purpose of the gospel is far greater than our ambitions and dreams. It is an opportunity that God presents to us to be a part of His great redemptive plan, which is something infinitely larger than anything we could ever possibly accomplish on our own. We play our role by living out the gospel and proclaiming it, but in the end, the real star is Jesus Christ. As Colossians 1:28 says “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.” Jesus is the cause worth living and dying for.

Blade Runner 2049 asks what it means to be human. But there’s a bigger question: what does it mean to be Christian? As we consider the purpose and significance of our existence, a good starting point would be to take cues from the Gospel and the way that it radically and intrinsically reshapes our existence.

Logan: There’s no living with killing

Photo taken from Official Trailer

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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Written By Simon Moetara, New Zealand

Logan is a far cry from the other superhero actioners in the X-Men franchise. Unlike 2000’s original X-Men, rated PG-13 in the US, where the blood-letting was kept to a minimum, this final R-16 instalment is a far darker and more brutal film, gut-wrenching in its visceral violence and profanity.

(Spoiler alert) It is 2029, and the mutant gene has been eradicated. Wolverine is drinking heavily and clearly sickly, working to support an ailing Charles Xavier (Professor X). A woman approaches Logan and asks for his help. Big, nasty corporation Transigen have cloned mutants to be super soldiers, but these mutant kids have escaped. Long story short, Logan ends up reluctant protector to a young girl named Laura, cloned from his DNA. He sets off on the road with Laura and Professor X with heavily armed bad guys in pursuit.

Following in the footsteps of violent anti-violence films like Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1994), this is no cartoonish portrayal of violence without consequence: innocent people suffer, and those who deal in violence bear the consequences.

Logan draws on the classic 1953 western Shane (watched by Professor X and Laura in the hotel, and quoted by Laura over Logan’s grave). In Shane, a gunslinger tries to live a peaceful life, but in the end has to don his guns once again to protect the peaceful folk against the bullies. In the film’s finale, he says to the young farmer’s son who idolizes him: “There’s no living with a killing. There’s no going back from it. Right or wrong, it’s a brand, a brand that sticks.” For Logan director James Mangold, the film reflects the philosophy of Shane’s final words, in that Shane/Logan can never have a life, because they have taken life.

In one particular scene, where Laura explains that she has nightmares in which people hurt her, Logan says of his nightmares, “Mine are different. I hurt people.” Laura admits that she has hurt others, but they were bad people. Logan retorts, “All the same . . . ” His hanging, unfinished reply speaks volumes. The justification that “they deserve it” doesn’t mean much for Logan. It’s still killing, and it leaves its mark on the soul, a “brand that sticks”.

In the end, Logan chooses to care and sacrifices himself to save Laura and her friends. With his final words he says to Laura, “Don’t be what they made you.” Laura has the ability to make choices; she doesn’t need to be a feral killing machine.

Jesus taught, “Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matt 5:39). American Baptist minister and leader in the civil rights movement Martin Luther King said, “Violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.” As American priest and author Barbara Brown Taylor points out, the main purpose of turning the other cheek is “to disarm the violence in us”. In following Christ’s example, rather than taking life, we seek to lay down our lives for others in loving service.

Logan also highlights the importance of hope and forgiveness. The film hints that Xavier’s dementia led to a telepathic seizure that caused the death of a number of mutants in the past. One night while on the run, Xavier, Laura and Logan spend the evening with a family. That night, lying in bed, Professor X says, “This was, without a doubt, the most perfect night I’ve had in a long time.” Then, remembering the tragedy he caused, he says, “I don’t deserve it, do I?”

Xavier’s words reveal his deep sense of shame and regret, and his need for something this world cannot offer. Alongside Logan’s guilt and struggle to connect, it shows these previously heroic figures to be all too flawed and human.

This is a wonderful thing about the gospel: we don’t deserve it. We don’t earn God’s love and forgiveness by working hard or being good, but rather, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith . . . not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8a-9). Philip Yancey describes grace in in the following way:

Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more . . . And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less . . . Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.

This human longing for forgiveness and peace is universal, and as one reviewer writes, Logan is a parable of “the hope that can be found in what we do not deserve.” We are loved and accepted. No matter what path we have walked, no matter what darkness we have encountered, grace and love, forgiveness and hope are available to us because of what God has done through Jesus Christ.