This week sees the release of Blade Runner 2049, the long-awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s seminal Blade Runner, that stars Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford and Jared Leto.
And it’s fair to say a lot has changed since we last visited Rick Deckard’s neon-drenched futuristic world, with 30 years having passed in-universe and all sorts of key events referenced in the new sequel that have occurred since the first film took place.
Still, thanks to an official timeline released at San Diego Comic-con earlier this year (see text below) and several specially-made prequels approved by Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve himself, it’s eminently possible to fill in the gaps in what’s gone on between humanity and those rebelling synthetic Replicants since the first film. Read our spoiler-free summary below.
After a bloody mutiny by a Nexus 6 combat team in an Off-world colony, Replicants are declared illegal on Earth — under penalty of death.
A prototype Replicant, Rachael, and Officer Rick Deckard, a Blade runner, escape Los Angeles together
This is the time period in which the original Blade Runner film takes place, and the above is a very brief summary of the film's final moments.
After the death of founder Eldon Tyrell, the Tyrell Corporation rushes a new line of Nexus 8 Replicants onto the market for use off-world. Unlike previous Nexus models, built with four-year lifespans, the Nexus 8s have open-ended lifespans, as well as ocular implants for easy identification
Tyrell was murdered in the original Blade Runner by Rutger Hauer's Roy Batty, one of the mutinous Replicants Deckard is tasked with hunting down in the film.
2022 The Blackout
An EMP of unknown origin detonates somewhere in the West Coast. Cities are shut down for weeks. Electronic data is corrupted or destroyed over most of the United States. Finance and trade markets crash worldwide. Food supplies become dire. Theories spread as to the cause of the Blackout; none are proven. The most popular blame Replicants
This series of events has been dramatised in an official tie-in prequel to Blade Runner 2049 called Blackout 2022, directed by Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo's Shinichiro Watanabe in an anime style.
The 15-minute short film (which you can watch above) confirms that radical Replicants caused the Blackout while also erasing records of their species’ existence, a detail that becomes crucial in Blade Runner 2049 itself.
2023 Replicant Prohibition
The governing authorities legislate an indefinite “prohibition” on replicant production. Nexus 6 models are now all decommissioned due to their programmed four-year lifespans. Surviving Nexus 8 models are to be retired. Those that can, go into hiding.
Idealistic scientist Niander Wallace pioneers advancements in genetically modified food and shares his patents for free, marking an end to a global crisis. His company, Wallace Corporation, E&C, expands across the globe — and into the Off-world colonies
Niander Wallace acquires the remains of the bankrupt Tyrell Corporation
Niander Wallace improves upon Tyrells’ genetic engineering and memory implantation methods to make replicants obedient and controllable
Prohibition is repealed. Wallace reintroduces a new line of “perfected” Replicants — The Nexus 9
These events have been depicted in another short prequel to Blade Runner 2049 called 2036: Nexus Dawn, directed by Luke Scott and starring Doctor Strange’s Benedict Wong alongside the main film’s villain Jared Leto.
The LAPD commits additional resources to bolster its existing Blade Runner unit, tasked with locating illegal Replicants and retiring them
Events from this year are depicted in the final Blade Runner 2049 prequel 2048: Nowhere Left to Run, which depicts Dave Bautista’s character Sapper (who appears in Blade Runner 2049) trying to sell his wares and getting caught up in a tricky situation.
When we return to Los Angeles, 30 years after the original movie, climate change has caused the sea level to rise dramatically. A massive Sea Wall has been built along the Sepulveda Pass to protect the Los Angeles basin.
Los Angeles is even more uninhabitable than before and filled with poverty and sickness. Humans, who were not well enough to leave for the off-world colonies are left behind. There is no fresh food, and inhabitants survive on Wallace’s genetically modified food products sold from vending machines at street markets
This is the world we arrive in at the beginning of Blade Runner 2049 – and we'd say it’s well worth the wait.
Blade Runner 2049 is in cinemas now