'Blade Runner 2049': Piecing Together a Future Past

With director Denis Villeneuve's highly-anticipated sequel to 1982's neo-noir sci-fi classic Blade Runner releasing next week, the director, in collaboration with a duo of dynamic filmmakers, has been dropping a fantastic slew of cinematic breadcrumbs leading up to his film for the past month and a half. Culminating in a trio of short films -- two directed by Ridley Scott's son, Luke Scott, the last by anime filmmaker Shinichiro Watanabe -- the three films work to detail the dramatic events that occurred between the 1982 film and the newest installment by Villeneuve. Uncovering the newest characters to join the sequel as well, from Jared Leto's enigmatic manufacturer Niander Wallace to Dave Bautista's replicant fugitive Sapper, the short films have given audiences new and old a peek at just how expansive the world of Blade Runner truly is. How effective is this type of marketing for the upcoming Blade Runner 2049? Is it truly beneficial, or does it simply confuse moviegoers going in to the sequel? Let's dissect just how each short feature gives insight into the future we find in 2049.

While many modern blockbuster films rely heavily on a gracious amount of trailers and teasers to effectively sell their product, director Denis Villeneuve and the team behind next month's Blade Runner 2049 sought to pitch their ambitious sequel another way. While the trailers for the upcoming film might tease the return of not only Harrison Ford's futuristic detective Rick Deckard, but also a return to the vast world of post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, they also hint at a number of mysterious elements that aim to tie the 1982 film to the sequel. From the evolution of replicant technology after the fall of the Tyrell Corporation to the whereabouts of Deckard, the trailers for the film have done a phenomenal job at leaving plenty of questions for the sequel to answer.

Some questions, however, have been left in the hands a duo of directors, Luke Scott and Shinichiro Watanabe, who have taken it upon themselves to detail some of the cryptic events leading up to the year 2049. In the first feature, titled 2036: Nexus Dawn, Luke Scott aimed to reveal just a layer of one of the newest characters joining the Blade Runner timeline. Offering a peek at Jared Leto's manipulative manufacturer Niander Wallace, as he pitches a new model of replicant technology in light of a recent prohibition of the androids, Nexus Dawn delivers a hint at how Wallace comes to be such a major player in the new film. While we might not yet know why the android technology present in the first film has now been banned, the short film offers insight into not only who Leto's antagonist will be in the sequel, but also how much of an impact replicant production has had on the world since the 1982 film.

In a second feature by Scott, titled 2048: Nowhere to Run, actor Dave Bautista takes the spotlight as a replicant fugitive named Sapper Morton. One of the earlier models of replicants predating Wallace's Nexus-9 model, Bautista's reclusive android seems to be at the heart of the hunt for replicant-kind following the first Blade Runner. While this short might not offer much in terms of exposition as Scott's first feature did, it does clue audiences in on what role the Guardians of the Galaxy actor will play in the sequel. Hinted at in the first seconds of the short, 2049 leading-man Ryan Gosling could be the connection between Sapper and the film's central plot, as we see Gosling's LAPD officer investigating into outdated replicants in the area.

The third and final feature, crafted by acclaimed anime director Shinichiro Watanabe, provides probably the best insight into the detrimental events that occurred following Blade Runner. Spinning the narrative of a rogue replicant known as Iggy who arranges a coup to send a massive electromagnetic pulse over 2022 Los Angeles, Watanabe's Blade Runner: Black Out 2022 depicts the pivotal moment when registered replicants, targets of humankind, gained their freedom and anonymity. Pitching much of the world into "a darkness they've never known before", the events set in motion in 2022 bleed into much of what is seen in the first two shorts. With replicant technology becoming an increasingly greater threat to mankind than before, and the Tyrell Corporation falling into obscurity, the events to unfold in Blade Runner 2049 see a new age of replicants coming to light, and the question of how the android bounty hunters known as Blade Runners figure into the future of humanity.

With the three short films by Luke Scott and Shinichiro Watanabe giving proper insight into some of the newest characters and pivotal events that crop up after Blade Runner, the follow-up that finds Ryan Gosling's new Blade Runner seeking the aid of Ford's Rick Deckard still manages to retain a great sense of mystery concerning its plot. Effectively teasing a deeper layer to Ridley Scott's original film that aims to expand across the silver screen next month, the unique method of marketing for Blade Runner 2049 gives audiences adequate exposure to the new film without ultimately giving away the film's greater mystery. Showing a further passion for the Philip K. Dick's original source material as well, from the retrofitted future he created in his 1968 novel to the philosophical potential of humanity and beyond, the intricate puzzle building up to 2049 presents a 30-year-span of fascinating storytelling.

What are your thoughts on the trio of short films leading up to next month's Blade Runner 2049? Do you prefer the regulatory trailers and teasers leading up to a film's release, or are you more in favor of filmmakers creating their own semi-prequel stories to accent a film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and be sure to stick around for my upcoming review of the sci-fi sequel. 


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