A Close Reading of the Blade Runner 2049 Trailer

Do replicants dream of synth-heavy sequels?

Directed by Arrival’s Denis Villeneuve and starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford — who reprises his Blade Runner role as Rick Deckard — the trailer for Blade Runner 2049 came out today. It’s set 30 years after the conclusion of Ridley Scott’s cryptic 1982 film about a cop pulled out of retirement to hunt down several robots, or “replicants,” who’ve returned illegally to Earth in the hopes of finding their creator and getting him to extend their cruelly short lifespans.

While the original Blade Runner is dark in every sense of the word, depicting a dystopian, depopulated Los Angeles where air pollution is severe and it’s nearly always raining, the minute-and-45-second trailer looks more like a smoggy, industrial city in contemporary China, except with an emphasis on alleys and Dumpsters and ominous flying vehicles that could be for sanitation or police surveillance.

The précis is slight. According to theplaylist.net, it reads: “Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.”

That does tell us one thing: Deckard wasn’t a replicant, as several of Blade Runner‘s notoriously tangled’s cuts imply. Or, at least, he wasn’t a model of replicant who was a) too sophisticated to know he was a replicant and b) doomed to exist for only six years as a means of preventing him from growing too powerful.

Additionally, the edge-of-catastrophe setting that plagued the Los Angeles of Blade Runner — and the post-nuclear-war setting of San Francisco in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the Philip K. Dick novel that inspired it — has advanced. Gosling walks through a dusty, orange landscape toward a neoclassical building like a library or a train station, where he finds an aged Ford, who’s a little more unbalanced-looking than Han Solo when he growls, “Chewie, we’re home” at the end of the first trailer for The Force Awakens.

The script in the library-or-train-station’s windows is Korean. The synths are pure Vangelis. And since the one of the hallmarks of Blade Runner’s genius was its casting — Joanna Cassidy as an exotic dancer with a synthetic snake being my favorite scene — I’m delighted to report that ice-goddess Robin Wright has a part (as do Jared Leto, Dave Bautista, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Carla Juri, Mackenzie Davis and Barkhad Abdi).

Based on what little we know, it looks like things have drifted farther from the source material. Which is good, because San Francisco gets destroyed in film rather too much already.

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