In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters now including, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.
What is Blade Runner 2049?
A 35-years-later sequel to a sci-fi cult classic, Blade Runner 2049 takes place in the same world as the original, just 30 years later. Replicants sentient clones, basically are used for everything from labor to police work. They’re looked down upon by humans as “skin bags.” One cop replicant, known simply as “K,” works as a blade runner, hunting down old models of replicants and “retiring” them (a euphemism for killing them).
K’s world gets turned upside down when he and his commanding lieutenant find the bones of a replicant who apparently died in childbirth. Considering replicants aren’t supposed to be fertile, the news sends Lieutenant Joshi into a tailspin, demanding K find and kill the resulting child. Meanwhile, replicant creator Neander Wallace wants to study the replicant-human hybrid, and sends his strongest associate Luv to find it by any means necessary.
Who’s in it?
Ryan Gosling plays K, bringing all the steely silence he first harnessed in Drive. It’s his best performance in years, and the first time I can recall him cutting down on his New Yorker accent affect in ages. Jared Leto plays primary villain Neander Wallace, but the movie spends far more time following his henchwoman, Luv, played by Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks. Robin Wright gets plenty of time to look caring-but-icy as Joshi, while Harrison Ford does indeed show up as his character from the original Blade Runner, retired cop Rick Deckard.
Why should I see it?
A word of caution before we get into why Blade Runner 2049 is great: The trailers sell this as as much Ford’s movie as it is Gosling’s. That’s a major misdirect; Ford is on-screen for maybe a fifth of the film’s massive two-and-a-half hour running time. If you’re interested in Blade Runner 2049 just for Ford, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
That said, there’s a ton about Blade Runner 2049 besides Ford that makes it a must-see. Gosling is in top form here, while director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) and cinematographer Roger Deakins (No Country for Old Men) craft some hypnotizing images. As long as the movie is, it’s easy to get lost in the dystopian world they’ve rebuilt. It’s thrilling and action-packed, but also quiet and meditative when it needs to be. Additionally, it’s forgiving to those unfamiliar with the original, with plenty of gestures toward its backstory to keep newbies aware of what’s happened in the past.
But how gay is it?
Sadly, not very, unless you count the very presence of Ryan Gosling as gay.
Jared Leto is doing a kind of femme-Disney-villain thing, all robes and long hair signifying that he’s bad. Fresh off Wonder Woman, Robin Wright serves gruff, vaguely queer energy and gets an intense, intimate fight scene with Luv but Joshi also suggests she and K hook up, so that’s a wash. Beyond that, everything’s pretty heteronormative, which makes the year 2049 look even more dystopian to us.
I don’t like Jared Leto after his Dallas Buyers Club performance and subsequent Oscar win. Will he put me off in this?
There’s definitely something unappealing about his performance here. It feels too broad or cartoonish for the rest of this world. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in his big scene with Ford (which makes up the majority of both of their screen time). Ford is revisiting a character he first created over three decades ago, and remains grounded in Deckard’s quiet, rugged humanity. Leto seems lost in a concept. The two scene partners never really connect.
That said, as I mentioned, that scene is most of Leto’s time in the film. He’s really a shadow antagonist, and the movie wisely lets Hoeks as Luv do the heavy lifting.
This movie looks really Straight Boy will I like it?
I certainly did! And while the movie does have a strong Straight Boy streak, it also presents a coterie of really distinct, fascinating women characters. Hoeks and Swiss actress Carla Jurl as mysterious memory artist Dr. Stelline are particularly great.
It’s a long, oddly paced film, with an action bent and lots of long periods of silence. It will not be for everyone. But it might be for you! This is one case where a pretty hetero movie is worth your time.
Blade Runner 2049 is in theaters now.