How do you even begin to approach the philosophical enigma that is the Blade Runner universe? The original 1982 neo-noir cyberpunk masterpiece delves into its themes of existentialism by way of "blade runner" Rick Deckard.
Deckard is a protagonist that has been trapped in some ontological identity crisis for decades. The themes of identity and what it means to be human are at the center Blade Runner. They are wrapped and tied around the film’s plot tighter than an origami-unicorn and have lived long past its 1982 release (and its ambiguous ending).
The new sequel, Blade Runner 2049, attempts to address these themes in spectacular fashion. The new film seems to revel in Blade Runner’s cyberpunk metropolis as it follows a new blade runner officer, K (Ryan Gosling), as he accidentally uncovers a mystery that may lead to even more chaos than 2049 Los Angeles has already found itself in. His path has him colliding with other Nexus replicants as well as a retired blade runner who has been off the map for 30 years.
Beyond this minor plot reveal, there is not really much that we know of regarding the director Denis Villeneuve’s sequel. A lot of #BladeRunner fans believe that it stems from the fact that the sequel’s creators do not wish to reveal too much of a masterful film. However, another popular theory is that the film is far too intricately plotted and suspenseful to define in just a few sentences of a plot summary.
The original Blade Runner was set during the year 2019 in a rainy dystopian Los Angeles that is overwhelmed and overcrowded with people. The weather is referred to as acid rain since it contains chemicals from the hundreds of smokestacks. Bright and illuminating advertisements swarm the city and spotlight each and every flaw of this futuristic environment.
Blade runners are a department within the Los Angeles police who are employed to hunt down rebellious replicants manufactured by Tyrell Corporations. These replicants are known as Nexus-6 models and their lifespans are only a mere four years. Rick Deckard is sent to track down and “retire” four of these rogue replicants who migrated to Los Angeles to track down Tyrell and get him to extend their lives. Deckard eventually falls for Rachael, an Nexus replicant of Tyrell Corporations unaware of her status, and they decide to run off together. This is where we last left off in the Blade Runner universe, but what has happened since?
Well, in anticipation of Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited follow up, there have been three short films released to catch up audiences with what has been going on from 2019 to 2049. The first, "Black Out 2022," is set three years after the events of Blade Runner.
'Black Out 2022'
This short envisions the toppling of Tyrell Corporation and seals its fate as an artificial business gone array. After the events of Blade Runner, there is a rebellion, but it is a rebellion by humans. Using the replicant registry, which lists each and every replicant made by Tyrell Corporations, the humans track down and destroy them all.
The violence and brutal butchery of these replicants are reminiscent of the genocide and daily killings we have read and seen in history. The black-and-white handheld-esque footage towards the beginning is used to great effect as it mirrors many countless war documentaries. Bodies hang by the dozens from lamp poles, limbs and fragments are left like garbage on the street, and the screams of utter mayhem reverberate like echoes throughout the city.
Denis Villeneuve entrusted the responsibility of this story to anime visionary Shinichiro Watanabe, of Beelop Cowboy fame, to bring his distinctive creative flair to the Blade Runner world.
Gaff, another blade runner, cameos while showing the least amount of concern over this rebellion. Instead, the short film follows a Nexus-8 replicant by the name of Iggy who has a natural lifespan. His plan is to destroy the replicant registry in order to allow humans and replicants to live together in peace. According to him, the right eyes of replicants are pretty much the only differentiating factor between both species. He picks up another replicant named Trixie as they journey to destroy the registry system and bring Los Angeles to a total blackout.
As Trixie and Iggy meet their destination, a blackout ensues and the whole city’s havoc is ramped up. As spinners begin falling and lights go out, one can only hope a future like this is not in store for us. As a result of the blackout, Tyrell Corporations completely closes and the production and manufacturing of replicants reaches a prohibition period.
'2036: Nexus Dawn'
This next short brings us to the year 2036. The last 14 years have resulted in the execution of further replicants, however, it is far more difficult to track them down. "2036: Nexus Dawn" introduces us to #JaredLeto’s mysterious character Niander Wallace: the nihilistic, blind founder of Wallace Corporation.
Looking to pick up where Tyrell Corporations left off, Wallace must first convince an entire board of lawmakers to lift the prohibition of the production of replicants. Wallace convinces the board that his Nexus-9 models do not pose a threat to mankind, but are rather there to obey and serve. He proves this by commanding his replicant to cut his own throat before the board.
Niander Wallace is a character shrouded in secrecy so it will be interesting to see just how much he will be developed. Either way, Wallace is convincing enough to be granted his chance to put the manufacturing of replicants back into production with his Nexus-9.
'2048: Nowhere to Run'
The final short takes place 12 years later in "2048: Nowhere to Run," which gives a good insight into the life of Nexus-8 replicant Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista). Sapper Morton’s replicant file can be seen in "2022: Black Out" when Gaff goes through the registry.
Since the registry is no longer in existence, Morton lives his life in total absence from the public aside from a few well-meaning individuals. When these individuals find themselves in some trouble, it leads to the reveal of Morton’s replicant status when he tries to help them.
He shares an endearing relationship with one of them and shows her a copy of The Power and the Glory. Of course, the metaphorical use of his novel is not an accident. The novel follows a Catholic priest in Mexico as he tries to achieve a sense of dignity during a time in Mexico when Catholicism as outlawed.
I have a strong feeling that "2048: Nowhere to Run" will provide us with the only characterization of Morton and Blade Runner 2049 will likely take us right into his confrontation with K. It is a confrontation that the trailers have been publicizing as an epic one. This takes us right up to the introduction of Blade Runner 2049. A lot has happened and continues to happen as replicants are developing into their own righteous and rebellious thinkers. K may be a blade runner, but there is a conspiracy at play, and it very much involves Wallace Corporation.
Early reviews for Blade Runner 2049 have been stellar with acclaim aimed at its acting, visual approach and cinematography. Hopefully it holds up to both the philosophical execution as well as importance of the original Blade Runner.
Are you excited for Blade Runner 2049?