Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 returns to debate Human or Replicant and what defines humanity

It's been nearly 35 years since Blade Runner was released in 1982. Although under-performing at the box office, over time the movie became sci-fi cult classic through it's thought-provoking elements with visuals and graphics ahead of its time. The movie is also known for its controversial SEVEN different versions from the original theatrical release, Director's Cut (although unsanctioned by the director himself!), etc. until the Final Cut in 2007.

Before delving further, let's first establish a couple of important definitions from this futuristic world :

What is a Replicant?
The major theme of the original film revolves around the human sub-species called Replicants, bio-engineered androids created by the Tyrell Corporation as a worker race for less desirable jobs to human, including wars. Replicants appear virtually indistinguishable from adult humans and may possess enhanced strength, speed, agility, resilience, or intelligence depending on the model. In the year 2019 when the movie takes place, the latest Replicant models are the Nexus-6. These models were created with a limited 4-year life span as a failsafe before they can develop advance emphatic cognition becoming more "human" and thereby harder to identify. Replicants are also called "skin-jobs".

What is a Blade Runner?
Blade Runners are considered to be a specialized police unit to track down Replicants on Earth and "retire" them (bluntly put, killing them off). Due an off-world mutiny by Nexus-6 Replicants, all replicants have been banned from Earth. Because replicants appear completely human, Blade Runners are trained to identify them through psychological methods like the Voight-Kampff test. Using a special device, a suspected replicant will be asked a series of questions whereby their responses will unmask their true identity.

A Voight-Kampff machine for replicant testing. Photo source

The original scifi novel adapted to film as Blade Runner.

The original Blade Runner was based on a novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick which provided the basic of plot for the film. However in the novel, the motivation for Deckard being a Blade Runner is to earn enough money to purchase a real-life sheep to replace his robotic sheep. Yes, you read that correctly! In this post-apocalyptic future depicted in the novel, Earth went through a global war whereby dust-radiation fallout killed all animals. Therefore, owning a living animal is sort of a status symbol! The novel subsequently spin-off 3 more sequels: The Edge of Human, Replicant Night and Eye and Talon.

In the 1982 movie adaptation re-titled Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scott, Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) is instead tasked to hunt down four Nexus-6 Replicants that have found their way on Earth. In the megatropolis of Los Angeles, Deckard eventually "retires" three out of four replicants but in the process also comes across a newer model replicant named Rachel (played by Sean Young) who did not know she is one. Deckard and Rachel form a relationship and by the end of the movie Deckard questions the ethics of his job and what it really means to be human.

Due to nature of the ending in the Director's and Final Cuts, geeks have been debating for years on whether Deckard could be a Replicant as well due to his dream of a unicorn and his colleague Gaff (played by James Edward Olmos) leaving him a unicorn origami. On the assumption that Deckard would not have spoken about the unicorn to anyone, this suggests that the dream was implanted as per replicants like Rachel with her dream of spiders. Adding to the controversy, Harrison Ford has said he does not think Deckard is a replicant whilst Director Ridley Scott said that he is. If curious, read more about the debate at Quora.

Replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) injured after a struggle with Deckard. Replicants are neither robots nor cyborgs. They are wholly organic and bleed when injured

Film Intel: Much of Blade Runner was filmed in Los Angeles during the early 1980s redressed to depict Los Angeles of the future in 2019. One of the major sets placing J.F. Sebastian's apartment was shot in the historic Bradbury Building built in 1893. The Bradbury still remains standing today and restored as a functional office building. Our Outpost Commander had the opportunity to visit this film site a couple of years back and snapped these photos for comparison against the movie shots:

Notice placed at the lobby of the Bradbury Building sharing its association with Blade Runner.

The distinctive stairways used by Deckard in the movie.

Photo source:
The skylight in the movie with added effects of an advertisement airship overhead.
As mentioned earlier, there are seven versions of Blade Runner comprising:
  1. Workprint Prototype version (1982): Shown for test audience.
  2. San Diego Sneak Preview (1982): Shown once only which is identical to the US theatrical version with three additional scenes
  3. US Theatrical release (1982): Shown in America cinemas with Harrison Ford's voice over and a "happy ending" where Deckard and Rachel figuratively "drive off into the sunset".
  4. International Theatrical release (1982): Similar to the US Theatrical release with 3 more violent action scenes.
  5. US Broadcast version (1986): Toned down violence, profanity and nudity for television broadcast.
  6. The Director's Cut (1992): Although presented as a Director's Cut, Ridley Scott has publically stated he was not satisfied with this version. Major changes include removal of Harrison Ford's voice over and additional of the unicorn dream sequence, which fueled speculation of Deckard as a human or Replicant.
  7. The Final Cut (2007), or 25th Anniversary Edition: The only version that director Ridley Scott claimed he had full control over and cut to his satisfaction. For newbies, this may be the most suitable edition to watch before the sequel movie.

For more insight into the original Blade Runner listen to the geeks on BFM's At the Movies.

The world of Blade Runner 30 years later in 2049.

Now in 2017 after 35 years, Blade Runner will finally release a long-awaited sequel. Blade Runner 2049 takes place 30 years later in the series timeline introducing a new Blade Runner named K played by Ryan Gosling.  Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) directs this sequel movie with Ridley Scott in the role of Executive Producer. Veteran actor Harrison Ford returns once again as Rick Deckard in a Blade Runner reluctant "buddy" team-up with Gosling's Officer K.

Official Synopsis
Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a new blade runner for the Los Angeles Police Department, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what's left of society into chaos. His discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who's been missing for 30 years.

As setup for this sequel movie, director Denis Villeneuve commissioned three different shorts to "fill in the gaps" between 2019 to 2049. Two of these are live-action shorts directed by Luke Scott, son of Ridley Scott, while the third is an anime short directed by ShinichirĂ´ Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop). Here they are in chronological order:

Year 2022: Black Out

A major incident involving Nexus-8 Replicants leading to replicant prohibition. 

Year 2036: Nexus Dawn

Introducing the Nexus-9 Replicants, the "perfect" model, created by Niander Wallace played by Jared Leto (Suicide Squad).

Year 2048: Nowhere to Run
Leading up directly to events in the forthcoming movie by introducing Sapper played by Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy). 

Not much more of the story is known so far but let us meet the characters who be involved with the new mystery:

Officer K (Ryan Gosling): A new Blade Runner for the LAPD. He is about to uncover a secret that may lead humanity into chaos.

Listen to BFM's At the Movies interview with Ryan Rosling recently in Los Angeles:

Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford): The original Blade Runner from the first movie makes his return after being in hiding for more than 30 years. Will Blade Runner 2049 reveal the secret of Deckard is really a human or a replicant?

Niander Wallace (Jared Leto): The blind CEO of Wallace Corporation. He tries to lift the ban of replicants by creating the latest Nexus-9 models, which he claimed they are fully obedient and will not hurt any humans at all.  

Luv (Sylvia Hoeks): A new Nexus-9 replicant devoted to Niander.

Joi (Ana De Armas): K's love interest and also confidante.

Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright): K's superior and a lieutenant in the LAPD.

Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista): A suspected replicant.

Blade Runner 2049 will be opening in nationwide cinemas in Malaysia on 5 October 2017. Note the movie is rated 18+, so no children are allowed. Critics has been praising the film and some are calling it the best movie so far of 2017.

Check out our Geek Recon movie review for Blade Runner 2049 byour resident Vulcan Mr. Smock and special guest Vincent Wong, an expert in the world of Blade Runner:

For more local opinions, read this review by

Thanks for Sony Pictures Malaysia, our Outpost Commander was able to attend the Malaysian Movie Premiere for Blade Runner 2049 at MBO Cinemas Sterling Mall. Specially built for this occasion was an event set piece inspired from the dark future of Blade Runner. Guests were treated to drinks and refreshments in a mock-up of Los Angeles. Check this walk-through below for a glimpse into this alternative future:

A walk-through of Los Angeles in the dystopian future of Blade Runner.

Enter the future of Los Angeles in the year 2049. Thankfully it's not raining!

Thanks for pointing those out, but where's the Johnny Walker?

Read more about the official partnership between Blade Runner and Johnny Walker from The Hyped Geek.
OK found the Johnny Walker at this future food canteen.

Fashion from the futuristic. Perhaps we will keep our fashion sense in the present for now.

Event host offering Blade Runner movie merchandises to guests via trivia quiz.

Collectors who feel the urge to bring home a piece of Blade Runner, sadly there isn't much movie merchandise available for Blade Runner. But the Outpost Movie Recon Team (M.R.T.) has managed to find some cutesy Funko POP figurine bobbleheads for Blade Runner 2049 (because Funko just about makes figurines for every existing geek property in existance!). The set of 6 figurines comprise of Officer K, (old) Deckard, Joi, Sapper, Luv and Wallace. You can try to contact local Funko distributor Sheldonet Toy Store Malaysia the availability of the figures.  

Above from left to right: Officer K, Deckard and Joi
Below from left to right: Sapper, Luv and Wallace

As for contest giveaways, GSC customers stand a chance to win a Sony Playstation 4 Slim 500GB with a VR headset! Participate by purchasing two D-box Atmos tickets of Blade Runner 2049 to be in the running for this Grand Prize. Contest starts from 5th October until 19th October 2017. Get further information with terms and conditions at the GSC website here.

Sony Pictures Malaysia also added an online competition via their Facebook Page soliciting the best answers to the quesion "Would you rather be a Blade Runner or a replicant?".  To participate, comment on their Facebook post here.

Blade Runner 2049 is now in cinemas nationwide. Please note that this movie is rated for 18 and above only.

Disclaimer: Blade Runner and other trademarks are copyright to Warner Bros Pictures and Columbia Pictures, referenced here for fan service announcements without intent to infringe.

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