As Denis Villeneuve’s eagerly anticipated Blade Runner 2049 finally hits our screens, three short films have been released to provide some context for the events that have taken place in the 30 years between the original Bladerunner and its sequel. It’s a smart move from Villeneuve, whose commissioning of these quasi-prequels allow 2049 to hopefully avoid any excessive exposition. Although the shorts are an excellent addition to the Blade Runner timeline, more questions are raised than answered that will undoubtedly impact the events of 2049.
2036: Nexus Dawn
Nexus Dawn explores a potentially pivotal event towards the centre of the timeline between the events of Blade Runner in 2019, and of course Blade Runner 2049. In the short, which is superbly directed by Luke Scott (Ridley’s son), the prohibition of replicants is a matter of concern to Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), whose harrowing reveal of the Nexus-9 replicants raises an interesting debate in regards to human and replicant nature. Wallace’s deceit is palpable, but his protest that he ‘believe[s] in life. In fact [he] has rung more life from our earth than ever before’ refers to his contribution in rescuing humanity from ‘the blackout’, a crisis of famine and hunger. A much more imposing and cunning figure than Tyrell, Wallace’s appeal to raise the ban of replicants underlines central Blade Runner themes such as creation and existentialism that look set to resurface in 2049.
2048: Nowhere to Run
Jumping forward 12 years from 2036 to 2048, the second short introduces Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), whilst also envisioning the increasingly decadent, dystopian Los Angeles where the films take place. The chillingly authentic depiction of The City of Angels feels completely atmospheric, showcasing that 2049 will respectfully develop Ridley Scott’s original vision. Pollution seeps into the screen, where oxygen appears to have become a commodity and crime spreads through the bustling, crowded streets. In the midst of this stands Sapper, who dominates the narrative of Nowhere to Run. His towering physical presence aside, it’s a convincing performance from Bautista, who initially looks to be succeeding in hiding as a replicant in plain sight. However, his sentiment towards a troubled young girl and her mother catches him out, with an outbreak of violence indicating there will be further troubles for the character.
The longest and arguably most ambitious of the Blade Runner shorts is Blackout 2022, as acclaimed Cowboy Bepop director Shinichiro Watanabe brings a cyber-punk Anime into the timeline. Three years after the events of Blade Runner, the story elaborates staple sci-fi themes such as man vs. machine, servicing the original film in that it feels much more than fan-fiction. As the Nexus-6 models have been discontinued, the Nexus-8 replicants are much more developed, to the disapproval of their human counterparts. Watanabe’s story cleverly draws on the idea that the creators are indeed less human than the replicants, such as Trixie and Iggy, who play important roles in the conflict. The sequence is a sensational display of animation, as the two central characters are at the heart of a mission to destroy the Tyrell corporation. In the words of Iggy, the blackout ensures that ‘all records on the ground will be erased’. The EMP is successful, bringing complete darkness to the industrial sprawl of Los Angeles. Trademark Blade Runner title cards state that The Blackout lead on to the prohibition of replicant production, before looping to 2036, conveying that The Wallace Corporation won approval to manufacture the latest Nexus-9 models.