Review of Blade Runner 2049

The beautiful Blade Runner sequel, Blade Runner 2049, poses many deep  moral dilemmas, psychological puzzles, and other complex conundrums. Yet most of my fellow fans have overlooked a simple but key question: who owns the replicants? From a property rights perspective, the fundamental problem with the dystopian world depicted by movies like Blade Runner 2049 and the original Blade Runner is not that the genetically-engineered androids depicted in these films have limited lifespans or are relegated to degrading or dangerous jobs. After all, the new and improved “Nexus 9” replicants in Blade Runner 2049 now have extended lifespans, and one could easily imagine a reverse-Blade Runner world with the replicants in charge. Rather, the main problem is that the replicants lack self-ownership or property rights in their own minds and bodies! (FYI: here is Wikipedia’s entry for self-ownership.)

If you pay close attention to the sequel, however, you can’t help but notice that all the remaining replicants in the Blade Runner universe are now owned by Niander Wallace (played by Jared Leto), the idealistic industrialist who engineered the new Nexus 9 models. Moreover, according to the new movie’s complicated and convoluted backstory, it was Wallace who bought out the bankrupt Tyrell Corporation in the year 2028 (or nine years after the original movie was set), so he presumably owns the legal rights to all the older Nexus models still in service as well. As Tyrell’s successor firm, the Wallace Corporation is now the only firm engaged in the business of creating and marketing replicants. No wonder, then, that the world depicted in the Blade Runner sequel is so bleak. Put another way, the Wallace Corporation is not a monopoly because it is evil; the Wallace Corporation is evil because it is a monopoly. A competitive and decentralized world of self-ownership, by contrast, would be a completely different world. (We are going to write up a full-length review, tentatively titled “Who owns the replicants?” In the meantime, here is our review of the original Blade Runner.)

Credit for alternative movie poster: @doddlewiggers


About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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