Ridley Scott's 1982 Blade Runner offers a glimpse into a future where life is possible outside of planet Earth: with the use of artificial intelligence (A.I.) in the shape of replicants, humans use their creations for slave labor in off-world colonies and life thrives. But when a killing spree leaves dozens dead, the replicants are labeled a threat. They are deemed illegal on Earth and are ordered to be "retired" as quickly as possible. Rick Deckard (portrayed by Harrison Ford) is one Blade Runner that is tasked to retire the rogue skin jobs, until he is convinced that things might not be as simple as they seem.
Blade Runner 2049 will take place 30 years after the first film and will feature a new set of rules for the inhabitants of Earth. Thanks to the persistence of scientist Niander Wallace (played by Jared Leto), the government agrees to repeal the prohibition of replicants after they appear improved — or more obedient — over previous models. All models not a part of the newest generation are to be retired and the Blade Runner unit of the LAPD is re-established to seek out those who have gone rogue.
Based on information released by the studio before the film's premiere, its clear that Blade Runner 2049 will delve deeper into the evolution of creationism, A.I. and climate change.
Evolution Of Creationism
The original Blade Runner offered many allusions to God and religion. This is most obvious through the character of Tyrell, who manufactures replicants and considers himself a God of sorts. Although replicants are not human, they must follow the specific design created by Tyrell and their masters, much like a creationist believes that a human should lead the life that God meant for them to have. There is no escape from the four year life-span given to the Nexus 6 replicant models in the same way that humans are not able to evade death when the time comes.
In Blade Runner 2049, Wallace is our new Tyrell and his belief is that the future requires the existence of replicants if humanity is to thrive. He mentions that the stars are the only hope for humans after they've already crushed the Earth to suit their needs. In his mind, one must play God and create life forms that will perform labor to ensure humanity's survival on inhospitable planets.
The background of Wallace's plans to bring forth a new era of slave labor with his Nexus 9 replicant models can be seen in the video below. Here, humans are the masters of this disposable workforce and its exemplified by the suicide of the android in the video. Creationism has evolved to the point that the divine creation is no longer the work of God, but the hard work of humans and their newest scientific discoveries.
Evolution Of A.I.
Ridley Scott's Blade Runner presented a group of replicants that were allowed to have emotions. Though their only memories were actually artificial implants, they longed for those images to be real and they hung onto them in order to validate their existence. As Roy Batty seeks Tyrell, he desires a longer life-span in order to create real memories, not live according to the fragments that never existed. Blade Runner introduces artificial beings that at first glance seem human, but are too perfect in everything they do. This perfection gives away their true nature.
The short Nowhere To Run, set in Los Angeles in the year 2048, shows Dave Bautista as a rogue Nexus 8 replicant named Sapper, who is in deflecting attention from himself. Due to the emotional connection he has created with the young girl and her mother in the video below, he lashes out against the men who try to harm them and kills them in under a minute. This ties into the belief that the rogue replicants must be retired, in case they continue to kill as they did 30 years earlier.
In all realms of science fiction, the perfect kind of A.I. is one that does not cause any harm to humans. It must be docile and compliant — and that is what Wallace's new Nexus 9 models embody. They follow similar principles outlined in Isaac Asimov's famed Three Laws of Robotics, and are as follows:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
With these rules in mind, the evolution of A.I. in the Blade Runner universe must mirror the needs of humanity, which is to have a workforce that is completely subservient. Without obedience from replicants, none of the difficult off-world tasks would be fulfilled and the events of the first Blade Runner film would be repeated. In the year 2049, A.I. is no longer a luxury, but a necessity in order to ensure a brighter future for those who wish to escape the dreadful environment that exists on Earth.
Evolution Of Climate Change
When Deckard first gets arrested in Blade Runner, the city of Los Angeles still looks close to what you’d find today in the middle of a busy Saturday night. The city is compact, dirty and crowded with people from all walks of life. The citizens of Los Angeles in 2019 are the outcasts who are unable to gain medical clearance to go to the off-world colonies among the stars. Similar to other dystopian Sci-Fi, Earth's inhabitants are running out of time. The planet can no longer house human beings who rely on war and destruction to remain in power.
Though climate change is not a driving force in the narrative of Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049 will tackle this subject a bit more hands-on. In the shorts Nexus Dawn and Nowhere To Run, the events that take place are 12 years apart, but inadvertently offer a look at the state of the Earth’s climate and its connection to the need for replicants. In 2036, Wallace aims to use his Nexus 9 models to create a future among the stars since the viability of life on Earth shrinks with every passing year and the rise in sea levels continue to pose a threat to various cities around the globe.
The rogue replicant in "Nowhere to Run" lives in an even more claustrophobic Los Angeles in 2048, where the last leading form of protein is worms. He farms them in order to sell and make money. The shorts may be ten years apart, but the conditions by which these citizens live with are deplorable on both occasions. In the year 2049, there is no such thing as fresh food — genetically modified food is bought through a vending machine by the sick and poor. Nothing is natural anymore.
Man-made climate change is real in Blade Runner 2049 and its evolution is one that is marred with death and uncertainty. It's a planet that's been run dry by a species that refuses to change its ways.
Blade Runner 2049 is a film that fans are ready to welcome with open arms or a baseball bat, as director Denis Villeneuve said recently. The expectations for this sequel are immensely high, even taking aside the risks of recreating the world that Philip K. Dick describes in Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?. We will have to see how they accomplish this when the movie hits theaters on October 6, 2017.
With some old characters and several new ones, the thematic elements that exist in Blade Runner will still apply in Blade Runner 2049, but will have a sense of urgency given the socio-economic and environmental issues that continue to plague human existence.
What do you think of these themes showing up in Blade Runner 2049? Meet me in the comments below to discuss.