In 1982, director Ridley Scott released Blade Runner, a neo-noir/science fiction movie based on Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Although the film underperformed at the box-office, it’s since taken on cult status and become widely regarded as one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all-time.
Thirty five years later, Blade Runner 2049 is set to reintroduce audiences to the film’s dystopian Los Angeles, with its decrepit buildings, street markets and Replicants — a type of bioengineered android created by the Tyrell Corporation.
If you haven’t seen the original, you should definitely watch it. But if you haven’t, or if you have already seen it bunted a refresher, this guide will give you an overview of the events of the first film and explain a bit about one of the series’ biggest mysteries: Is protagonist Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) a Replicant? We’ll also talk a bit about the three shorts Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve commissioned to bridge the gap between the original film, set in 2019, and his sequel, while providing some relatively spoiler-free details about the upcoming movie.
What Happened in the First Movie?
Before summarizing the original Blade Runner, it’s important to know that there are several different cuts of the film, and there are some pretty big differences between them. The “Theatrical Cut,” for example, features a much-derided voice over that is absent from many other versions of the film. The only version that you really need to know about for Blade Runner 2049 is Scott’s “Final Cut,” which he released in 2007 and was the only take over which he had complete creative control.
After Gaff (Edward James Olmos) detains ex-police officer Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), Bryant (M. Emmet Walsh), Deckard’s former supervisor, threatens the retired blade runner into hunting down and “retiring”– a euphemism for killing — four rogue Nexus 6 model Replicants that have illegally come to Earth to extend their four-year lifespans. Those four Replicants are Leon (Brion James), Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), Pris (Daryl Hannah) and their leader, Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer).
Deckard heads to the Tyrell Corporation to test his Voight-Kampff machine, a device used to detect synthetic humans through the use of questions. There, he meets Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel) and Rachael (Sean Young), a young woman who doesn’t know she’s an experimental Replicant implanted with false memories. Rachael follows Deckard home and tries to convince him of her humanity using a family photo, but he explains to her that her memories are actually those of Tyrell’s niece.
After retiring Zhora, Bryant informs Deckard that Rachael has run away and that he’s going to have to get rid of her too. Leon attacks Deckard shortly after, but Rachael saves the blade runner’s life by shooting his attacker in the back of the head. Deckard takes Rachael back to his apartment and promises that he won’t hunt her if she runs away.
With half of their compatriots dead, Batty and Pris manipulate a genetic designer named J.F. Sebastian so as to gain access to the Tyrell Corporation and Eldon Tyrell, their maker. During their meeting, Tyrell informs Batty that it’s impossible to extend his lifespan. Batty responds by killing his creator and Sebastian.
Deckard finds out about Sebastian’s death and heads to the deceased designer’s apartment, where he finds and retires Pris. Batty, now the final Replicant, bests Deckard in an intense game of cat-and-mouse. However, Batty chooses to save the blade runner’s life rather than let him fall off the side of a building. After pulling Deckard up, Batty gives his famous “tears in rain” speech before expiring.
Gaff arrives on the scene, taunting Deckard about Rachael’s inevitable death. The blade runner, gun drawn, returns to his apartment where he finds her unharmed. Deckard disappears with Rachael in order to keep her, and himself, safe.
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