I’ll admit it, I loved Blade Runner 2049. It’s no surprise, I think the original dark Ridley Scott movie Blade Runner is one of the best sci-fi films ever made and even when it was released loved its grit and texture, the surprisingly lyrical dialog and the imaginative noir-inspired sets and setting. And I’m not alone; it’s clear how much Blade Runner inspired the genre every time another movie or TV show — like Altered Carbon on Netflix — portrays the future as the wet, neon-lit, multicultural urban cityscape from the original film.
The sequel, Blade Runner 2049, took the same storyline and advanced it a few decades, delivering a film that is gorgeous to watch, provocative in its storyline and entirely engrossing. The writers even paid attention to the fan rumors and toyed with the theories in the new script. Sufficient to say, Blade Runner 2049 is easily one of the best films of 2017 and being able to buy it on 4K UHD and be able to watch it on my 4K setup at home is terrific. Yes, it turns out that buying discs instead of purchasing the rights to stream the content is still a thing!
I rarely purchase physical disks any more, however, so I was curious what extras would be on the 4K / Blu-Ray distribution of Blade Runner 2049. Deleted scenes? Alternative endings? Bloopers? Turns out that Sony Pictures included none of that, preferring instead to see the disk as a chance to tell a bigger story than to cast doubt on the edits or delve into the chaos that was the “director’s cut” of the original Blade Runner. [Background note: There are no less than five different versions of the 1982 film, including more than one so-called Director’s Cut. It’s complicated. Even The Hollywood Reporter has tried to tackle which is the best one to view.]
Instead, the extras included on the Blu-Ray and 4K/Blu-Ray distributions of Blade Runner 2049 [the DVD-only release has no extras] are:
– Prologue: 2022: Black Out
– Prologue: 2036: Nexus Dawn
– Prologue: 2048: Nowhere to Run
– Designing The World of Blade Runner 2049
– To Be Human: Casting Blade Runner 2049
– Blade Runner 101: Blade Runners
– Blade Runner 101: The Replicant Evolution
– Blade Runner 101: The Rise of Wallace Corp
– Blade Runner 101: Welcome to 2049
– Blade Runner 101: Welcome to 2049
– Blade Runner 101: Within the Skies: Spinners, Pilotfish and Barracudas
Thirty years have transpired between the original and the new Blade Runner movie, so as part of the production process, director Denis Villeneuve commissioned three short films to fill in the blanks. 2022: Black Out is animated, directed by Shinichirô Watanabe and explains the story of the Black Out that wiped all computer records and brought society to the brink of utter chaos.
2036: Nexus Dawn is live-action, directed by Luke Scott and features Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) demonstrating how his “Angels” solve the problems of the earlier generation of Replicants. A particularly “gripping” scene is shown below:
Finally, 2048: Nowhere to Run is also directed by Scott and features Sapper Morton (Dave Batista) protecting the downtrodden in a rough and tumble cityscape just prior to the events of the main film.
Animé fans already know Watanabe, he did the animated Matrix follow up The Animatrix and has also been involved with the hugely popular Cowboy Bebop franchise too. Luke Scott is known for the dark sci-fi thriller Morgan [my lukewarm review] and was second unit director on The Martian and Alien: Covenant, among others.
Designing the World of Blade Runner 2049 is mostly about the production design team and their challenges trying to minimize green screen and instead work with massive physical sets and props. Quite fascinating to see how big and undoubtedly expensive some of the sets were, notably including Wallace’s creepy and zen-like office “island”.
To Be Human: Casting Blade Runner 2049 is perhaps the weakest of the batch because as with all of these type of behind-the-scene films, there’s no discussion of who turned down the roles, who was considered and rejected, who washed out during auditions, or similar. It’s always about the actual film cast and how wonderful they all were to work with. I’m sure they were (seriously, who wouldn’t want to work with Harrison Ford, Robin Wright and Ryan Gosling, not to mention Ana de Armas?) but this offers the least insight into the production of the film.
There’s also the series of very short snippets “Blade Runner 101” which might be marginally useful background info for a neophyte Blade Runner fan but felt a bit like “we gotta fill this up with extras, what else can we add?” rather than smart, thoughtful additional content to intrigue the hardcore fan.
The three prologue shorts really stand out as the gems of the extras, however, though Watanabe’s animated short was the least interesting of the three. Curious, because it tells the biggest and most important story — I’ll let you find out what it is — of the three. The difference is that Scott used the actual Blade Runner 2049 sets and had actors reprise their roles from the actual movie, which gave them hugely more verisimilitude. In particular, Nexus Dawn is a solid, creepy short that could almost have been woven into an episode of Black Mirror.
Having said that, all three shorts are available to watch on YouTube for free. So do you want to buy the Blu-Ray or 4K/Blu-Ray for the extras? Probably not. Buy it instead because it’s a pristine copy of a brilliant film that just begs to be watched on the biggest possible screen and at the highest possible resolution. Then sink into your armchair and enjoy the film, knowing that there are some neat distractions on the extras to enjoy after the final credits have rolled.