SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Blade Runner 2049, in theaters now.
The trailers for Blade Runner 2049 have all been very mysterious, and rightfully so. Given that it’s a sequel to a movie hailed as a timeless classic, Warner Bros. could easily be forgiven for playing into the mysticism and mystery that has formed in the minds of the original movie’s ever-growing fanbase. And as the movie’s marketing ramped up, every fan found themselves wondering, amongst other things, what, exactly, is up with Jared Leto’s enigmatic character, Niander Wallace?
Little was known about the character, but what information we had made it clear that he’s the movie’s villain. With his empty, blind stare and his philosophical musings on what it is to be human, with his particular wardrobe choices and his curious surroundings, everyone wondered how Niander fit into the overall story. Ultimately, what was he up to?
The answer, as it turns out, is not as complicated as you might think. As the movie begins, we are informed that Wallace, an industrialist who revolutionized farming, has taken over where the Tyrell Corporation left off after going under. Wallace designed the Nexus-9 Replicants, and his technology can be found in every home in Los Angeles.
Niander Wallace, the man, fancies himself a god. Although he has built himself a fortune on Earth, his eyes have now turned off-world, to the stars. We come to learn that with his help, and his Replicants, humanity has extended its reach across the cosmos, taking residence on many more planets. But, for Niander, that simply isn’t enough. He believes humanity, such as it is, should be spread around the entire galaxy — maybe even the universe. Mankind deserves to own the stars, and he believes himself to be the man who can get them there.
However, Wallace is limited by his resources and his abilities. Although he has manufactured millions of Replicants over the years, as he himself states, he “can only make so many.” The key, for him, is to find out how to make as many Replicants as he sees fit, and then to take them off-world and help humanity spread even further. So when word comes to him that one of the old Tyrell replicants, whom viewers know to be the original Blade Runner‘s Rachael, has miraculously managed to give birth, the entire game is changed in a split second. Suddenly, to Tyrell, his creations aren’t enough anymore. He needs to find this miracle child at any cost — so he can dissect it and figure out how a Replicant managed to reproduce.
If Wallace can do that, if he can unlock genetic secrets, and then he will be able to industrialize the reproduction of Replicants even further than before, taking his company, as well as humanity’s reach, to new heights.
Jared Leto’s screen time may be less than the movie’s marketing would indicate, but in a way, this comes as a blessing. Keeping him off camera for an extended period of the film’s runtime helps build the mysterious and foreboding aura of the character before we even get to meet him. Even after he arrives, Wallace is not seen often, but his presence looms large throughout the entire film. It’s his forces who are at work everywhere you turn, and his hunters who are after K and Deckard. Thus, when you do see him, you understand a little more of the man, his unsettling nature, and his incomparable god complex.
Leto’s character may be a spiritual successor to the original movie’s Eldon Tyrell, a brilliant, eccentric and ultimately quite dark character, but he manages to become an even more important character to the story, as well as the Blade Runner universe as a whole. And the worst (or is it best?) part is, at the end of the movie, unlike Tyrell, Wallace is very much alive. If a sequel is in the cards (and we sincerely hope it is), Niander Wallace could continue to cast a very long shadow, not only on Earth, but across the stars.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) from a script by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Barkhad Abdi, Lennie James, Mackenzie Davis and Sylvia Hoeks. Executive produced by Ridley Scott, the film is in theaters now.
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