(Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the blu-ray I reviewed in this article. The opinions I share are my own)
WARNING! SPOILERS CONTAINED WITHIN! WARNING!
I recommend, either before or after watching the main feature, to take in the three short films included on the blu-ray. They’re listed under Prologues; each one is dated (2022, 2036 & 2048), and each date corresponds to a significant event that occurred between 2019 (the setting of the first movie), and 2049 (the setting of the sequel). In the anime, Black Out: 2022, you’ll learn the Tyrell Corporation created a new replicant they called the Nexus-8. This line had an open-ended lifespan, but humans didn’t take well to this and started to purge society of them by randomly killing any they encountered. Two of these replicants retaliated by hatching a plan that would take out the database at the Tyrell Corporation that listed who all the Nexus-8’s were (this is how humans were finding them). This involved setting off a massive EMP (electromagnetic pulse) via a missile and shutting down the world of its electronics. The plot succeeds and because of this all replicants are now banned on earth.
The Tyrell Corporation goes out of business for a decade before a rich recluse, Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), buys it and starts to make a new brand of replicants that can be made totally subservient to any human. The short film, Nexus Dawn: 2036, shows us how Wallace was able to buy the corporation. At some point the world was ravaged by famine, and Wallace was able to bring about a food substitute that saved mankind, and during the five minute meeting he has with other officials I wasn’t quite clear if the famine was on going and he was kind of black mailing them into being able to make replicants again in exchange for how to save mankind, or if the famine had already been eradicated and he was there using the knowledge of what he did as leverage to get him to be allowed to put his replicants back into society.
In Nowhere To Run: 2048, this short flick follows a character that is seen briefly in the beginning of the main film, Sapper Morton (Dave Battista). He’s a Nexus-8 who gets retired in the opening moments of Blade Runner: 2049. The short shows the confrontation that put him on the run.
The year is 2049 (30 years after the events of Blade Runner), and we’re still in futuristic Los Angeles, though this film doesn’t look as noir as the first one, but it does still have that “high-tech vs. low-tech” vibe. Blade Runners (specialized cops who target and “retire” rogue replicants) still exist, and in Director Denis Villeneuve’s movie (Ridley Scott only produced this time), we follow the tragic exploits of one particular Blade Runner named, K (Ryan Gosling), who’s also a replicant. With Wallace having re-introduced replicants into human society (they are now considered second class citizens), a replicant who hunts and kills other replicants is pretty much hated more. K has no friends, and doesn’t like the touch of others, so his “girlfriend” is a holographic A.I. by the name of Joi (Ana de Armas). Joi is confined to his apartment, but he buys a portable device that allows her to go where he goes and it also gives her a tenuous palpability, she can “feel” rain, but still being essentially holographic K cannot touch her and vice versa. This is K’s love interest throughout the film, until that device gets deliberately stepped on by the movies psychotic villainous replicant, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), essentially “killing” Joi. Excellent performance by Hoeks here, she really does come off as dangerously unstable, and her eventual demise isn’t bloody as I imagined it would be. She’s drowned by K during their climatic fight near the end.
This film is very much a second chapter to Scott’s groundbreaking ’82 film and the connecting pieces start to show after K “retires” Sapper Morton. He finds a metal case buried near a tree with a skeleton in it. Analysis back at base reveals it was a woman who died giving birth, but here’s the crazy twist, further analysis off the remains reveals a serial number pegging her as a replicant! Replicants aren’t designed to get pregnant. This knowledge known only to K, his C.O. Lt. Joshi (Robin Wright), and medical examiner, Coco (David Dastmalchian), could send society into a tizzy if its revealed replicants can breed, so K’s mission now is to find that child, kill it and cover the whole thing up.
Apparently, there’s leak in the police station, because Wallace finds out about this and we learn he’d like to figure out how to breed replicants so he can expand colonization on other planets. This leads to another revelation that the dead, once-pregnant replicant was Rachel (Sean Young) from the first film, and if you’ve seen that flick you’ll know the father is ex-Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who was revealed to be a replicant himself, though he didn’t know it. Most replicants know what they are.
In a way the first movie really didn’t have any “bad guys,” though Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty replicant certainly fit that bill, until he’s redeemed moments before his death, Most of the replicants in the first film were just trying to survive and live longer than they were supposed to, but in this sequel it’s obvious from first introductions, Niander Wallace, is more “bad guy” than Tyrell ever was, and Tyrell never projected any such outward “moral corruption” other than some slight hubris. Wallace murders a replicant scant minutes after its birth to prove a point to his assistant, Luv. Good and Evil feel more distinct in this sequel. Not that that’s a bad thing, just something I noted as I watched the movie. Another thing I perceived was the devolving state of mankind. The first film was mostly contained within future L.A. and you could make the argument well, maybe, only future L.A. is dystopian, but in the sequel we get to see a bit more of the world like Los Vegas, Nevada, and I got the sense now earth has become the equivalent of a third world country. At some point in Vegas’ future history a dirty bomb was detonated in the city’s limits making it unlivable. Going there now in the day is like walking through a haze of orange. Radiation now is nominal, but it’s a ghost town save for one person—Rick Deckard!
After his daughter was born, the plan was she would be taken away and hidden and be told nothing of whom she was, or where she was. Ever. A good plan for Wallace finally gets to him and tries to make him talk, he literally knows nothing. Though, he tries to appeal to Deckard’s tender side by creating another Rachel for him. After he rejects the “clone” for what it is, Luv blows its head off seconds later, so Wallace decides to send Rick off-world to be tortured.
For a short while, this mystery of who this kid is (incidentally, the people who helped Rick hide her set up fake records to make anyone seeking her think Rachel may have also had a son) may be solved and looks like it might be K, but we suddenly learn that’s not the case, and he may have been just an unwittingly component in hiding the girl, or, perhaps, a case of the grown daughter wanting to find her parents. You see K was implanted with a memory from her childhood, a moment from when she was in an orphanage, looking like a little boy, and was beaten up by other kids. The twist here is the woman in charge of creating replicant memories, Dr. Ana Stelline (Carla Juri), is the daughter! This knowledge cripples K because he so wanted to believe he was that son.
Since Ford’s Han Solo was killed off in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), I was under the false impression, maybe, his Deckard character would meet a similar fate, but, no, he lives, and even gets to meet his daughter, though the movie ends the moment he’s about to introduce himself to her. It’s K that ends up buying the farm, but he goes out gracefully, dying on the stairs of the building Stelline works after taking Deckard to see her. He sustained some nasty knife wounds during his fight with Luv and pretty much just bled to death. He dies lying back and looking up at the falling snow.
This movie has an attractive dream-like quality to it, due to the cinematography and Villeneuve’s direction, and I loved it! I have to admit I was extremely leery of any Blade Runner sequel living up to the first one, but they managed to do it. Ridley Scott recently mentioned he has an idea for a third, and if they can get Villeneuve back as director, that would be perfect.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.40:1 high definition widescreen—English Dolby Atmos, 7.1 English Dolby TrueHD, 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 French (Canada) Dolby Digital, 5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital, 5.1 English Dolby Digital—English SDH, French, Spanish subs
Extras included . . .
- Designing The World of Blade Runner 2049 (21:55)
- To Be Human: Casting Blade Runner 2049 (17:15)
- Prologues: 2022: Black Out (15:45) (Blu-ray Exclusive)
- Prologues: 2036: Nexus Dawn (6:31) (Blu-ray Exclusive)
- Prologues: 2048: Nowhere to Run (5:49) (Blu-ray Exclusive)
- Blade Runner 101 (11:22)