Review: Blade Runner 2049 Shorts [2017]

a review by the Crow.

Leading Up To The Year 2049

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OPENING THOUGHTS

As much as I love the original Blade Runner, I have long feared the development of a sequel. But hey, this is Hollywood. How long do things last before being remade or becoming the first in a series of movies?

It was inevitable, and it is here.

I’ve kept tight-lipped about this project in general. The thing is, I share a certain history with Blade Runner. While the movie precedes my lifetime, there are strands connecting me to it via circumstance and strange inheritance. I won’t be going into the details of said connection, but I feel it’s important to point out that they exist.

I consider Blade Runner and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep to be two distinct IPs, and I strongly suggest others do the same. Blade Runner simply takes parts of the original novel and performs its own mastery with them — distinct from the original work.

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When Denis Villeneuve was announced as the director, I sighed in relief. The man has so-far done no wrong. He helmed the amazing Arrival last year (in which I noticed a distinct nod to Ridley Scott’s visuals in Prometheus — which was garbage), as well as some personal favourites of mine in Prisoners and Enemy (I have yet to watch Sicario). Ridley Scott has been on a downward spiral for some years, now, and I was only happy to see him pass the chair over.

When the movie began to trickle out into the real world, I paid attention. The trailers looked promising, it felt right. And then, the first short was released, just over a month ago. This was going to be my first taste of the world they were building back up. And what did I find? Well, let me tell you…


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1. 2036: Nexus Dawn

WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS SIGNIFICANT SPOILERS

  • Director: Luke Scott
  • Writer: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
  • Starring: Jared Leto, Benedict Wong, et al.

After a short teaser of the movie itself, playing us into the short, we find ourselves in a run-down room outfitted with some pretty fixtures and furniture. Here, are the lawmakers (according to the credits), whiling away time as if waiting for something. Just as their patience runs out, they are met by Mr Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) — a sickly, afflicted man of some evident stature.

The meeting (as these encounters are wont to run) is a little vague at first, with a shade of animosity lurking in the background. We get some world-building in the form of trope-naming (not an issue for a 6-minute short), and Leto’s character is quickly built-up. We find out that Replicant technology has been “prohibited”, and that Leto’s character is of the opinion that the Earth is dying. It is his belief that the “lives [he can] create” will save humanity by reaching out to the stars. His goal is simple: save the human race, wholesale.

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He reveals his “angel” — his intended saviour of humanity: a Nexus 8 9 (I read it as 8 from the video, but it seems I’m wrong). He proceeds to demonstrate what the Nexus 9 is capable of, much to the shock of the lawmakers before asking them a simple question.

The world-building in this short, while scant and simplistic, works well to convey the world between the movies all on its own. In six minutes, we know the situation humanity’s in, where the Replicants stand following the events of Blade Runner, and the new player in the game following Tyrell’s death in the first movie.

All-in-all, it’s brilliant.

WATCH IT HERE

RATINGS:

THE CROW: 7.5/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 7/10

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2. 2048: Nowhere to Run

WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS SIGNIFICANT SPOILERS

  • Director: Luke Scott
  • Writer: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green
  • Starring: Dave Bautista, Gerard Miller, et al.

This short takes a wildly different approach. After being played in by a Gosling-driven intro/teaser, we follow the troubled Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista) — a Nexus 8 with a background in the military — around the streets of LA. Familiar imagery appears in the street-side food stalls and in the yammerings of Chinese that can be heard in the background.

He meets with a young girl and hands her a copy of Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory. He visits a local market where he sells bugs (another nod to the origins of the Blade Runner franchise) for a slightly-disappointing price.

The short ends with a fight breaking out between Morton and some thugs he’d walked past earlier. The thugs attack the young girl and her mother before Morton rushes in to cause untold pain and misery, leading to at least one violent death.

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As he runs for it, having revealed his true nature as a Replicant to everyone on the street, a bystander calls in the sighting of a rouge Replicant, reading Morton’s address off the papers he’d dropped during the fight.

This short tackles the world-building around Blade Runner from the opposite end of the spectrum when compared to Nexus Dawn. We see the older pre-“Blackout” Nexus model Morton at the ground level, without the overarching themes and tropes explored in the previous short. It establishes the streets through which the movie will walk, and how the high themes and ambitions of the people at the top still make zero difference to those in the gutter.

It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s a solid job, nonetheless.

WATCH IT HERE

RATINGS:

THE CROW: 6.5/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 8.5/10

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3. Blade Runner Black Out 2022

WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS SIGNIFICANT SPOILERS

  • Director: Watanabe Shinichirō
  • Writer: Watanabe Shinichirō
  • Starring: Jovan Jackson, Luci Christian, Edward James Olmos, et al.

Finally, we come to the longest of the shorts. Clocking in at around 15 minutes, this animated short movie is wholly different in tone and delivery to the other two. There is no play-in to this one. It starts from scratch, with a Replicant walking through fire, holding an eyeball in his hand.

We get on-screen text introducing us to Los Angeles, 2022. It proceeds to tell us about the troubles of the Tyrell Corp and about the Nexus 8 series. It also informs us about “Human Supremacy” movements before showing us the chaos — with humans running Replicants down and lynching them in the streets. We get a brief shot of Morton’s entry on the “Replicant Registration database” before cutting back to the city-wide riots.

We get some horrifying shots of Replicant bodies strung up by their necks, reminiscent of darker times from our own history that never fail to evoke gut reactions.

We cut to more familiar neon streets, some time after the riots. Three men have cornered a resigned Replicant named Trixie (Luci Christian), but before they can impose their designs upon her (and these designs are none-too-savoury), they are stopped and killed by Iggy (Jovan Jackson), a combat model like Morton.

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Concept art for the short. Art by Paul Chadeisson.

Some time later, Iggy and Trixie have teamed up, and commit a crime on behalf of a resistance movement. Gaff (Edward James Olmos) and an associate are going over the files of rogue “skin jobs”, and we learn that the military has been cleaning up strays. Trixie bonds with a human sympathiser, the “more human than human” line is dropped, and we find out about a “launch” that is to take place, where the sympathiser is a controller.

The resistance’s plans are to generate a high-altitude nuclear explosion over the city, to trigger an EMP which will “black out” all electronic devices while the Replicants go around and erase any secured backups that remain.

Iggy’s past is revealed, as are Trixie’s desires. The operation proceeds as planned, albeit with some major damage to our Replicant heroes. And when the bomb goes off, cars drop out of the sky, and LA is cast into darkness.

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We return to Iggy walking through the fire, amidst text telling us how the fate of the Tyrell corporation was sealed following the blackout. It also tells us that the Wallace corporation sealed the deal to produce new Replicants following the events of Nexus Dawn. The eyeball, it’s revealed, is Iggy’s own — the only outward indication that he is, indeed a Replicant.

The short is very Ghost in the Shell. And why wouldn’t it be? The original Blade Runner was an inspiration to the original manga, and it’s lovely to see a work that toes the line between both these heavyweights of cyberpunk.

Unlike the other two, this one is light on the worldbuilding, and rather gives us a straight-up story about the most significant event in human (and Replicant) history between both feature films in the series. It’s definitely worth a watch (even though I’ve essentially summarised the whole first half and the ending up above) and if nothing else, it makes me more than hopeful about Blade Runner 2049.

WATCH IT HERE

RATINGS:

THE CROW: 7.5/10
THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 10/10

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CLOSING THOUGHTS

Note: This post was originally started last week, before I had watched the movie. It was originally meant to be published on the day after my review of the third episode of Star Trek: Discovery (which I rushed to finish as soon as I finished watching it) was finished. The only thing standing in my way was finishing the Blackout 2022 part of this “review”; which, as you can see, I just have (because why wait?). After all, today’s the day I can finally speak my mind about the movie. There is no longer an embargo. Expect a lot of articles from everywhere, people.

Now, to be quite honest, I haven’t written out my thoughts on Blade Runner 2049. With the kind of review I want to write for it, I can’t bring myself to keep to our “spoiler free” format, even though I’ll have to for at least the first week of its wide release. Most of the reviews which have gone up so far are vague and overly-worded, as they usually are when the pressure’s on to keep oneself from incurring the wrath of studios and fans alike (and when you’ve got so many words to write and no meaningful words to fill the page with. I counted seven adjectives in a sixteen-word sentence, for instance. Seven.)

What I can tell you is that I have a lot to say. Note: I cut a section out here since it was going into movie-review territory. Don’t worry, though. We’ll have a (spoiler-free) review up for you soon.

See you soon.

— Crow out.


Here’s the official poster for the upcoming movie:

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6 thoughts on “Review: Blade Runner 2049 Shorts [2017]”

  1. I must honestly admit that I haven’t read anything above to know less about the film – it will be in cinemas 5.10 here – but just seeing some images made me wanna put a like to your review.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The animated short sounds like the one I would like the most. Believe it or not, I have never watched Blade Runner. I imagine I would enjoy it, but I have no idea which of the two billion cuts I should check out.

    Like

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