With the release of Blade Runner 2049, fans can finally revisit Ridley Scott's sci-fi spectacle with a respectable continuation from Denis Villeneuve. The decision to leave a 30 year gap between the events of Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 initially left fans wondering what could have happened to the franchise's dystopian Los Angeles since Deckard and Rachel decided to flee for their lives. Fortunately, Alcon Entertainment had the wonderful idea of inviting Luke Scott (Ridley's son) and Cowboy Bebop's Shinichiro Watanabe to fill in the gaps with three short films.
These shorts proved to be incredibly insight for those anticipating Blade Runner 2049, and even more information on the dystopian world's history has been explained since their release. So, here's a timeline that will hopefully further your enjoyment of the franchise, and give you even more to think about when you experience Blade Runner 2049 in theaters.
Shortly before the events of #BladeRunner, Roy Batty and his team of replicants were enslaved in an off-world colony. The infamous mutiny by Nexus-6 replicants causes a law to take immediate affect: From 2018 onwards, replicants will be illegal on Earth under penalty of death.
Blade Runner officially starts in November 2019. Throughout the film, Officer Rick Deckard retires a group of runaway replicants hiding on Earth, but not before their leader has murdered Eldon Tyrell, the genius who brought replicants to life.
By the end of the film, Officer Rick Deckard decides to flee Los Angeles with Rachael, a prototype replicant created by Eldon Tyrell.
After Eldon's death in 2019, the Tyrell Corporation quickly issues a new line of replicants, appropriately named "Nexus-8." To avoid similar mutinies and prevent Nexus-8 replicants from replicating the crimes of Roy Batty, the new models have natural lifespans and can be identified thanks to their ocular implants.
However, the Nexus-8 models are exclusively sold off-world, and the death penalty put in place in 2018 still applies to replicants currently hiding on Earth.
In May 2022, the events of Shinichiro Watanabe's Blade Runner Black Out 2022 take place. The Nexus-8's lifespan causes humans to react violently, and it's not long before there's a human supremacy movement:
"These angry masses used the Replicant Registration database to identify and kill Replicants."
In order to put an end to the turmoil, a team of replicants organize an EMP detonation on the West Coast, causing a famous week-long blackout. This causes most of America’s data to be corrupted, causing a worldwide financial crash and a severe lack of food. Notably, the source of the EMP remains unknown to the general public.
The blackout instigates an immediate prohibition on replicant production. All Nexus-6 models are decommissioned (thanks to their 4-year life spans) and all Nexus-8 models are hunted for retirement. Naturally, many replicants then go into hiding.
Two years after the global crisis began, a charismatic scientist named Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) makes considerable technological advancements in genetically modified food. Fortunately, Wallace shares his breakthrough with the world, releasing his patents for free. His seemingly selfless act puts an end to the global crisis, and made Wallace Corporation, E&C a hugely successful business — both on Earth and off-world.
Niander Wallace then uses his immense wealth acquired with the Wallace Corporation to buy the Tyrell Corporation, Eldon Tyrell’s now-bankrupt industry leading business which had produced replicants before the prohibition.
After purchasing the Tyrell Corporation, Niander Wallace significantly improves the company's genetic engineering, most notably using memory implants in order to make the new and improved replicants considerably more obedient. With this reinvention, Wallace hopes to put an end to the prohibition.
Luke Scott's 2036: Nexus Dawn gives us our first real look at Niander Wallace. In the short film, the eccentric genius proves that he has created subservient replicants that are considerably safer than any previous Nexus model. Therefore, thanks to the considerable advancements made in replicant technology, the prohibition is successfully repealed and the Nexus-9 is subsequently issued on Earth and off-world.
With the repeal of the prohibition, the LAPD needs to bolster its Blade Runner unit with further resources. Throughout this time, there are theoretically still Nexus-8 models in hiding, as well as Nexus-9 replicants legally inhabiting Earth.
Luke Scott's second short, titled 2048: Nowhere to Run, takes place just one year before the events of Blade Runner 2049. We see a distressed replicant keeping a low profile among the seedy streets of Los Angeles. The short film doesn't give as much expansive context as Nexus Dawn, but is essential viewing before Blade Runner 2049 as these events directly lead in to film's opening sequences.
Los Angeles continues to face severe poverty and mass-sickness. In the 30 years since Officer Rick Deckard went missing, sea levels have risen considerably — so much so, in fact, that the city is now surrounded by a "Sea Wall" around the Sepulveda Pass.
Humans healthy enough have moved to off-world colonies, while the inhabitants of Los Angeles survive solely on Wallace’s genetically modified food. By 2049, Ryan Gosling's K is also at large as an LAPD Blade Runner.
It's fantastic to know that for the Blade Runner sequel, Denis Villeneuve has treated the film's legacy with respect and continued to build upon the franchise's dystopian landscape. The backstory given to Niander Wallace shows that the director isn't simply looking to recreate the original film's success, but also to adapt the central themes for a story that has contemporary relevance. With such promising expansions on Blade Runner lore, the future is (ironically) bright for the franchise as a whole.
Do you have a question about the Blade Runner timeline? Let me know in the comments section.