For those trying to work out just what to expect from Blade Runner 2049, set to bow Friday, Warner Bros. has offered three clues, in the form of short movies inspired by Denis Villeneuve's sequel to the 1982 sci-fi classic. They are three projects that fill in the gaps between 2019 (when the original movie takes place) and the year 2049 of the sequel. Black Out 2022, 2036: Nexus Dawn and 2048: Nowhere to Run are less complete narratives as much as puzzles waiting to be unlocked — but what, if anything, can they tell us about the future of a world filled with lifelike Replicant androids and people who make a living hunting them down? Here's what you need to know.
Black Out 2022
The animated Black Out from Cowboy Bebop creator Shinichiro Watanabe simultaneously ties off one thread from the first film while expanding on another; set, for the most part, three years after the events of the original Blade Runner, the short teases events around the Black Out — a global event caused by Replicants that leads to power outages and the loss of data as a result — while also flashing back, momentarily, to intergalactic conflict that references Roy Batty's dying speech from Ridley Scott's movie. (The Black Out, judging by what's briefly seen onscreen, also appears to permanently change the landscape of Los Angeles.)
There are multiple clues laid down in this short that could be picked up in Blade Runner 2049, from dialogue suggesting that Nexus 8 Replicants (those in Blade Runner were Nexus 6) have an unlimited lifespan to mentions of a human supremacy movement that not only started keeping track of all know Replicants via the Replicant Registration Database — presumably lost as a result of the Black Out — but eventually outlawed the production of Replicants altogether, a decision that forced the Tyrell Corporation out of business. So who will make Replicants now…?
2036: Nexus Dawn
Luke Scott's Nexus Dawn short answers that question by introducing Jared Leto's Niander Wallace, who meets with authorities to announce his desire to create the Nexus 9 line of Replicants. Although others attempt to warn him off the idea, he argues his case — making it clear in the process that the Earth's ecosystem is collapsing and humanity's future lies elsewhere — before his assistant is revealed to be a Nexus 9 Replicant, who would rather kill himself than harm a human.
The Chinese version of this short has a text card not present in other editions, which has a whole host of other information: Wallace, it explains, had purchased the bankrupt Tyrell Corporation's assets and was intending to use the new Replicants as a slave force to rebuild Earth's environment, which has been in collapse since the mid-2020s. Another casualty of the Black Out, or simply humanity's casual destruction playing out in slow motion as always…? It's unclear.
2048: Nowhere to Run
Just how harmless Nexus 9 Replicants are to humans is unclear after Nowhere to Run, again directed by Luke Scott. (Both live-action shorts were written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, writers on Blade Runner 2049.) Set one year before the new movie, it follows Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), whose attempt to rescue a woman and her daughter from being assaulted pushes him into a rage that leaves the would-be assaulters beaten and onlookers terrified. As Sapper tries to hide afterwards, one of the onlookers uses a phone to report that he thinks he's discovered "a rogue skin-job you might be looking for." But is Sapper a Nexus 9, or one of the earlier Nexus 8's, still on the loose after Black Out 2022…?
While each of the shorts feels unsatisfying as a stand-alone project, taken as a whole, they feel more substantive and pose a lot of questions about the status quo going into Blade Runner 2049: Whatever happened to the Nexus 8's? Have the Nexus 9's gone bad? What is Wallace up to? And is there more to the Black Out than meets the eye…? (If nothing else, it might explain how Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard has managed to stay under the radar for three decades, if all kinds of records have been lost.)
How many of these questions will be answered by Blade Runner 2049 — or, for that matter, how important any of them are to that movie at all — is something that will only remain a mystery until this weekend.