After robot-detective Rick Deckard closed the case on the murderous escaped Nexus-6 Replicants and then presumably fled Los Angeles with his true love Racheal, a lot has happened in the noir future of Los Angeles. Bridging the gap between the first Blade Runner film and its new “present day” of 2049 was never going to be easy. But now, it seems there will be specific stories of what occurred in the time in between. Three new short films are poised to bridge the gap between the world of 2019 in the original Blade Runner and the forthcoming future of Blade Runner 2049.
Interestingly, at this point, the original Blade Runner is no longer a movie about the future, but something closer to meditation in an alternate present. This means the new sequel can be filled with as many anachronisms as it wants. But, that doesn’t mean this world won’t have some consistent internal mythology.
On August 29, Denis Villeneuve revealed that three short films will document some event that has transpired between the first Blade Runner and the new one. Here are all three of the shorts and what each means to the mythos of Blade Runner.
The first of these short films is set in 2036 and focuses on Jared Leto’s creepy character named Niander Wallace. Apparently, he’s done something to help stave off famine on Earth, and so despite being pretty scary, he’s placated by some kind of government officials. At this point in this future history, there’s a full-on prohibition of Replicants. It stands to reason this is because of all the crazy shit that went down in the first movie. But Wallace is looking to change that and bring Replicant technology back in a big way. Part of his justification for this is to increase productivity on the “Off-World Colonies.” These never-seen planets are referenced in the first Blade Runner film. Perhaps most famously, Roy Batty mentions a few things that seemed to have happened “Off-World,” in his famous “Tears in the rain” monologue. Could subsequent short films or even scenes in Blade Runner 2049 give life to the mysterious “attack ships on fire” or the “Tannhauser gate” mentioned all those years ago? For now, only time will tell.
On September 13, Villeneuve revealed the second of these films, set just a year before the new movie in 2048.
This story follows a man named Sapper played by Dave Bautista. Sapper is seemingly in the business of selling manufactured organic substances, kind of like the people who sold bespoke snakes in the original Blade Runner. Sapper seems like a pretty solid guy and has some sort of personal investment in taking care of a woman and her daughter who seem like they are living in poverty. From start to finish, this short immediately feels a lot like the marketplace scenes from the original Blade Runner, so much so, that of all the new footage from the world of Blade Runner 2049, this one looks the most like the original film.
The plot is also awesome and seems to set up what Sapper will be doing in the new movie. After a group of scary criminals try to kidnap his friends, Bautista’s character goes fucking ballistic, killing all three baddies with relative ease. This super-strength can mean only one thing: Sapper is a replicant, which, as we know from the previous short-film, have been totally outlawed. The short ends ominously with a creepy-dude getting on a pay phone and tipping- off someone about a “rogue skin job” on the loose. “Skinjob” is the pejorative for a replicant in Blade Runner. This robot-slur was so popular that it was used to describe certain Cylons on Battlestar Galactica as an homage to the original Blade Runner.
Blade Runner: Black Out 2022
Created by legendary anime director Shinichiro Watanabe, the last Blade Runner short is easily the best of three prequels to Blade Runner 2049. Above all, it tells a very clear story of what exactly happened with Replicants after the events of the original film. After 2019, this anime reveals that the Replicant-6 model was phased out and replaced by the Replicant-8 model. The big difference with these Replicants was huge: they had a “natural” lifespan as opposed to only four years for the previous models.
Featuring a ton of action, and the explanation for why Los Angeles experience a big EMP black-out in 2022, this short oddly feels the most like the original Blade Runner, despite not being a live action film. The skylines of the future Los Angeles feel the way they did in the original, complete with the iconic flying “spinner” cars just about everywhere. Best of all, Edward James Olmos returns as the voice of Gaff, the cop who conferred with Deckard in the first film.
Black Out 2022 is also the longest of these shorts clocking in at just over fifteen minutes. As of now, the entire anime is only available in its entirety on the streaming platform Crunchyroll.
Blade Runner 2049 hits theaters everywhere on October 6.
If you liked this article, check out this video about the practical effects in Blade Runner 2049.