This article reveals the explained plot and the detailed events in Denis Villeneuve’s movie Blade Runner 2049, revealing its meaning and storyline. We recommend you to read it only after watching the movie, and not before, in order to preserve the pleasure of the first vision.
Let’s start with the most obvious question: does it make sense to follow up on Blade Runner? The answer is the same that could be given in the case of hypothetical sequels to A Clockwork Orange, Taxi Driver or Pulp Fiction: no, it makes no sense as it is absolutely unnecessary. It wasn’t really a need and the world of cinema, together with the market that supports it, would still have enjoyed excellent health. Assuming that it was not at all necessary, it is however interesting to note that Blade Runner 2049, released thirty-five years after the immortal masterpiece by Ridley Scott, the backbone of all sci-fi cinema (and not only) that came later, is still a nice movie.
Pursued for a long time by Scott, who pampered the idea together with Hampton Fancher since the second half of the 80s, the sequel to Blade Runner begins to take shape only in 2011, when Alcon Entertainment buys the exploitation rights of the franchise and starts the film. It takes about four years before production can start: for a short time it seems that Ridley Scott himself is destined to direct the film, but after a long work on the script the project is entrusted to the Canadian Denis Villeneuve, the new golden boy of the sector, which after a series of purely independent films made in its own country has landed in Hollywood with highly refined titles such as Prisoners, Sicario and Arrival, leaving many speechless.
Villeneuve brings his indisputable visual talent, aided by the exceptional photography of Roger Deakins, while Scott produces and shapes a story (together with the loyal Fancher and Michael Green), bringing in all the recurring themes of his long filmography: what can arise from such a marriage?
2049. We are still in Los Angeles, there are still some replicants to remove from circulation (the Nexus 8, superior to the old Nexus 6) and the Blade Runner division of the LAPD still exists, in charge of finding and collecting the old “leather works” , but this time there is a big difference: the best blade runner, the agent KD6 – 3.7 (Ryan Gosling) is in turn a replicant, belonging to a new and much more docile generation created by the very powerful industrialist Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), which for some years has collected the legacy of the late Eldon Tyrell.
The film begins with a scene (suitably adapted) that at the time had to open Blade Runner and which was discarded shortly before shooting: agent KD6 – 3.7 visits a Nexus 8 replicant, now a “protein” breeder named Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) and manages to withdraw it not without difficulty after a violent struggle. Morton, however, who before being killed lets the policeman understand that he had witnessed an unspecified miracle, hides a secret: hidden in a trunk buried under the roots of a dead tree lies the skeleton of a woman, which subsequent analyzes will reveal having died in childbirth twenty-eight years earlier. But the surprises have only just begun, because the woman in question was a replicant. The fact that the replicants are not simple and sterile synthetic organisms but real autonomous life forms, capable of procreating, is such destabilizing news that the police chief (Robin Wright), determined to cover up everything, orders KD6 – 3.7 to shed light on the mystery and possibly to kill the child born years earlier by that woman.
Our protagonist is an extremely dutiful replicant, even if the idea of killing someone who is born (and therefore according to him has a soul) disturbs him. Inside his small apartment, located in a building inhabited by humans who often and willingly target him, KD6 – 3.7 tries to live some fragments of “normal life” thanks to the company of Joi (Ana de Armas), a artificial intelligence that manifests itself in the form of holographic projection and that he sees as friend, accomplice and lover. Arriving at the headquarters of the Wallace Corporation to continue his investigation, the cop-replicant is greeted by Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), Niander Wallace’s personal assistant and also a replicant, who accompanies him to the company’s archives, where we discover that he skeleton of the woman who died years before is that of Rachael (Sean Young), the female protagonist of the previous film, of which some vocal fragments of the Voight-Kampff test made by blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) thirty years earlier remain in the archives, at the Tyrell Corporation headquarters.
A gigantic blackout occurred a couple of decades earlier erased all existing information on Rachael and Rick Deckard and so KD6 – 3.7 is forced to proceed with an investigation of the past, with interrogations and long journeys: the first person he meets it’s Gaff (Edward J. Olmos), Deckard’s old colleague, but he doesn’t have much information to offer him. Meanwhile, Niander Wallace is also on the trail of the heir: the entrepreneur can in fact produce a limited number of replicants (essential for human expansion in space) and it is essential for him that they can reproduce. Through Wallace’s words it turns out that Rachael was in fact “the last joke” of Eldon Tyrell (the most gifted builder, towards whom Wallace has an inferiority complex) who had understood, shortly before being killed by Roy Batty, how to create fertile replicants.
KD6 – 3.7 continues his investigation, followed in secret and at a distance by Luv (who in the meantime enters the LAPD laboratories, stealing Rachael’s remains), returning to Sapper Morton’s home and discovering a photograph that portrays a woman with in arm a newborn baby and a disturbing incision on a root of the tree under which Rachael’s remains were found: 6-10-21, the same date engraved on a wooden pony that is part of an artificial memory (which at this point could be real) of the android, who is struck by an atrocious doubt, since he could be the heir himself. After examining a DNA archive in a database, the blade runner discovers that on June 10, 2021, two individuals (a boy and a girl) were born with the same DNA, both later sent to the Morrill Cole orphanage (located in near San Francisco), where the girl died of a genetic anomaly.
It is impossible for two humans to have the same DNA, so one of them must be a copy, but the most terrifying thing for the replicant is that the Morrill Cole Orphanage is exactly the place of his artificial memories. While on his way to the orphanage, the agent is attacked by a gang of men reduced to an almost savage state, who live in an immense open-air dump, but is saved by a providential remote intervention by Luv, determined to make him complete his own investigations. Arriving at the orphanage, the replicant discovers that everything related to 2021 has disappeared from the records, but the only thing that matters to him is that the wooden pony with the date 6-10-21 engraved on the bottom is exactly where he left it in his memories.
Now convinced that he is the heir, Joe (as he is called by Joi, after the discovery) goes to Dr. Ana Stelline (Carla Juri), creator of synthetic memories, who lives isolated from the rest of the world (after being abandoned in tender age from family) due to a rare disease and which confirms, through tears, that his memory is real. Joe’s life has changed completely: the reactivity test he has to undergo after each mission (evolution of the old Voight-Kampff test) shows that the replicant is no longer able to carry out its activity at the LAPD, but thanks to the intercession of the boss the android gains a few days of time before being withdrawn.
After bringing home a replicating prostitute named Mariette (Mackenzie Davis) and engaging in sexual intercourse with her and Joi’s holographic image superimposed and synchronized with her body movements, Joe meets a merchant on the street examining the wooden pony and directs it to Las Vegas, which is now a completely uninhabited place due to radiation. Arriving in Las Vegas (deserted, covered in dust, populated by gigantic sculptures and beautifully photographed by Deakins in an orange hue), Joe finally meets Rick Deckard in an old abandoned hotel. After a brief physical confrontation, the two begin to talk: Deckard explains to Joe that he is the father of the child born to Rachael several years ago, whose sex he doesn’t even know. The former blade runner entrusted Rachael shortly before the baby was born to a community of Nexus 8 fugitives (which Sapper Morton was also a part of), teaching them how to hide the creature once it came into the world, so that neither the government nor the android makers could use it to uncover his secret.
As they talk, the two are abruptly interrupted by the arrival of Luv and other Wallace gunmen, who kidnap Deckard and knock out Joe, before Luv destroys the media on which all Joi’s data is stored (ending the life of the AI). After being unconscious for a long time, Joe is found and saved by the Nexus 8 community who looked after Rachael and the heir (and which also includes Mariette, who had hidden a tracker in her pocket after the night spent with him). The leader of the community (Hiam Abbass) reveals to him that the replicants are looking for the heir to start a revolt against human oppressors, but also gives him bad news: the heir is not him but Ana Stelline, the creator of memories that, in contravention of the rules, had created a synthetic memory for Joe based on his past.
After vainly deluding himself into being special and pursuing a desire for humanity that will never come true all his short life, Joe returns home (after refusing to kill Deckard on behalf of the community) and meets a giant on the road. Joi’s advertising hologram (produced and sold by Wallace Corp.), naked and in provocative poses, which makes him realize that everything that connected him to a life as a normal human being was only an artifice created to satisfy his desires. Determined not to resign himself to an existence without a real purpose, Joe sets out on a suicide mission in an attempt to free Deckard (who in the meantime had been psychologically tortured by Wallace, who had even gone so far as to offer him a new version of Rachael, and who now is about to be taken by Luv to one of the extra-world colonies, to be questioned more deeply), which leads him to a very violent confrontation with Wallace’s assistant, at the end of which he manages to get the better even if mortally wounded.
After managing to save Deckard, who was about to drown inside a Wallace Corp. speeder fallen into a river, Joe manages to lead his friend (now believed dead by both Wallace and the Nexus 8 community) from the daughter he had never met. The film ends with Joe’s death on the steps of Ana’s laboratory, as Deckard finally rejoins the girl.
The analysis of the movie
Blade Runner 2049 is not a film free from defects, mainly located at the plot level: the choice of inserting a villain without particular facets (played by the only “wrong” actor of the cast, Leto) and with a narrative arc entirely postponed to a sequel, immediately canceled after the box office failure, trivializes a story that had instead started splendidly (and how much more interesting it would have been to discover that Rachael’s fertility was not something planned but a purely random event), as well as the abrupt introduction and the equally rapid exit from the scene of the community of revolutionary androids contributes to leave a sense of unfinished to the story that in the original film served to increase the charm of the plot, while here it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Despite the flaws, to which we can add the (fortunately few) moments of pure fan-service, absolutely unnecessary for Blade Runner, the film manages to shine (sometimes blindingly) thanks to its undeniable advantages: compared to the original, which was a film in which androids upset the lives of humans by showing their superiority (above all moral), Blade Runner 2049 is mainly a film of androids, in which humans are now almost completely absent (or who in any case remain marginal) but that they still represent the ultimate arrival point for these sentient machines.
The most original idea of the film (the replicant who gave birth to a daughter) comes from a tale by Asimov, while the love of Joe and Joi is taken over by Spike Jonze’s beautiful Her (also the sex scene between the two, one of the best of the film) but, despite appearances, the setting in which the events unfold seems to come much more from the original novel by Philip K. Dick, compared to the first movie: 2049’s Los Angeles is semi-desert like 1992’s San Francisco described by Dick in his masterful novel (a city too big, too empty and no longer tailored of man, with horizons hidden by fog and snow), as well as all the other environments shown in the film are clearly inspired by the fantasies of the well-known writer, such as the radiation-devastated Las Vegas in which Deckard is hiding and the district of San Francisco (the greatest homage from the film to the novel), now entirely covered with garbage.
Joe’s desperate and moving search for humanity (the excellent choice of Gosling in the role of this upside-down Roy Batty) is staged with great care by Villeneuve and Deakins who, aided by a Hans Zimmer soundtrack that pays homage, without tracing too, the immortal masterpiece of Vangelis, give today’s cinema a series of truly memorable sequences. Paradoxically, these scenes are not those set in the city (which, it must be said, still disappear in front of those in Scott’s film) but all the others: the arrival in Sapper Morton’s house, the entrance to Los Angeles from above, Las Vegas, San Francisco and the outstanding finish in the river.
In a nutshell, Blade Runner 2049 cannot be compared to its predecessor on a qualitative level as it does not have its revolutionary charge neither on visual scope (Blade Runner was a retrofuturist, this sometimes becomes retromaniac, while trying to differentiate itself, sometimes successfully, from the model and the trail of followers it has generated over the decades) nor on the content (the plot is too tangled and not enough subtexts emerge to stand the comparison), but its greatest merit lies in the fact that once the vision has started, all these aspects take a back seat. Considering the starting point, it is already a victory in itself.