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A Dozen Easter Eggs: ‘Blade Runner 2049’

I know, I know—I cannot stop geeking out over Blade Runner 2049. My admiration for it grows with each subsequent viewing.

As is the case with its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 is a tough nut to crack. I know from in-depth field work that too many audiences were subliminally detached from the picture due to dim projection, ultimately nonplussed with a movie that is deemed by some to be overlong but that, upon repeated viewings, wholly justifies its deliberate pace.

Now that the film is widely available on home/portable video, it can begin its gradual seep into the cultural consciousness—just like the slow-burn cult appeal of the original Blade Runner that began to take root once the movie became a staple of VHS and cable TV in the mid-1980s. I have no doubt naysayers who harp about the sequel’s reputation as a financial bomb will eventually come around and align with the mostly favorable critical reviews.

Who knows? Enticing chatter of a third Blade Runner movie just might come to fruition.

Meanwhile, let’s talk Blade Runner 2049’s Easter eggs—those strategically placed images and sound-bytes that reference key elements from the earlier film. While the term “Easter egg” typically refers to something subtle or even concealed, many of the callbacks in Blade Runner 2049 that harken back to the first movie are front and center, right smack in our faces; these bits are not so much Easter eggs as they are counterpoints to and refracted mirror images of signature moments from the previous movie. Collectively, I will refer to them herein as “kisses,” so named because these wink-nudge moments feel like tiny love letters to fans, intended by the filmmakers to tickle and tweak our memories and adoration of the original film.

Following the running time clock, here are a dozen of the more prominent “kisses” in Blade Runner 2049.

00:00 – The first “kiss” is blown immediately, as the familiar Warner Bros. logo ignites into a fiery neon shield above a futuristic studio backlot, followed by stylized logos for Alcon Entertainment and Sony/Columbia Pictures—each clip given a computer-glitch/blackout motif that ties in with the backstory of a 2022 EMP blast that crashed computer systems and corrupted digital files. Whenever a film begins with tricked out company logos, it’s a sure sign the studio and filmmakers consider the movie to be a cut above their standard-issue fare. The customized logos also manage in mere seconds to plunge us right back into the world of Blade Runner and set the proper mood for what we’re about to experience.

2:05 – Like its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 is full of ocular imagery and symbolism. In fact, the movie is up to its eyeballs in peepers, both organic and electronic. After the introductory text—seven succinct stanzas that encapsulate what’s happened in the thirty-year timespan since the events of the original movie—the first image of the film proper is an extreme close-up view of a shut right eye opening wide, its green iris and inky pupil match-cut to the concentric circles of a massive solar farm.

We never know for sure whose eye it is—Agent K’s? Rachel’s? Deckard’s?—but the arresting image of the giant green lens staring back at us instantly recalls the opening moments of the original film. (Likewise, it is never confirmed in the original Blade Runner whose left eye it is that we see staring over Los Angeles in 2019—Holden’s? Tyrell’s? Rachel’s?)

Early on, when K retires a hulking Nexus 8 (Dave Bautista), the dead Replicant’s carved out bloody orb is rinsed off and bagged as evidence. Later, when K meets the female leader of the Replicant uprising face to face, she has an empty socket where her right eye used to be (presumably removed because it was embedded with her serial number).

Finally, when we’re introduced to the film’s shadowy Tyrell surrogate Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), we learn the creepy industrialist is blind, but can “see” with the aid of a fleet of six roving camera drones.

In a film series replete with images of eyes, here’s a character with eight of them.

12:25 – Just as depicted in the original 1982 film, climate change wreaks meteorological havoc over futuristic Los Angeles and makes for smog-choked skies and nearly constant acid rain and snow. The sun rarely shines, but when we’re inside Agent K’s spinner, look closely at the monitor of K’s police boss (Robin Wright) on video chat—it shows a clear blue sky outside the window behind her, a nod to the sunny getaway ending of the original 1982 theatrical version of Blade Runner.

14:30 – The baseline test Agent K must undergo after any field trauma is this film’s inverted answer to the original movie’s Voight-Kampff test.

20:35 – At several moments during Blade Runner 2049 we see a distinctive digital advertisement featuring a pale faced lady with a red Wallace Corporation logo painted on her forehead, a shout-out to the giddy geisha we see on the giant skyscraper-sized billboard throughout the original Blade Runner.

26:00 – Agent K intently studies a puzzling image on a computer screen, peering closer and deeper into it to discover a significant hidden clue, a callback to the 3D photo analyzer sequence from the original movie.

29:15 – Vital bits of a dialogue from the first scene are played back during a travel montage, echoes of the first movie when Deckard is driving his spinner while replaying an audio recording of Leon’s Voight-Kampff test.

29:30 – The twin Tyrell Corp pyramids, which in the first Blade Runner loom large over the twinkling, fire-belching cityscape, now sit darkened and are utterly dwarfed by the colossal towers of the Wallace Corporation.

37:10 – Agent K’s mission leads him to a retirement home to interview former Blade Runner Gaff (Edward James Olmos), who recalls about his former partner Deckard a certain “something in his eyes” that hinted he was not long for this world. Here lies one of the screenplay’s two nods to the unresolved mystery over Deckard’s true nature. The brief scene closes on a view of an origami cow Gaff has furtively folded—a callback to the tiny totems Gaff crafts throughout the original Blade Runner. Agent K’s implanted memory of a carved wooden horse etched with an important date is a further nod to the origami critters and spirit animals in the original Blade Runner (Rachel = unicorn; Zhora = snake; Batty = dove, Deckard = cold fish; etc.).

1:40:45 – Three pivotal sequences are wordless montages abundant with crucial imagery. The first two sequences unfold with varied degrees of musical accompaniment, but the third sequence—when K finally tracks down Deckard (Harrison Ford, at last) to the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Las Vegas—is mostly silent, with only the buzzing of bees, a single lingering piano note emanating from a distance, and a certain signature percussive thunderclap that sends a mighty musical salute to the very first sonic note heard in the original Blade Runner.

The sequence runs for four minutes before somebody utters a word—an eternity in this unfortunate era of rapid-fire sensory assaults that are seemingly designed foremost for attention-deficit viewers and toy store shelf space.

1:57:30 – During a brief transitional scene in Las Vegas, we’re treated to a double Blade Runner “kiss.” Agent K’s holographic companion Joi (Ana de Armas) is seen wearing a transparent vinyl jacket, a tip of the hat to Zhora’s final wardrobe choice in the original film. Prick up your ears during this moment and you’ll also hear the same undulating ambient hum that underscores the scenes set in young Deckard’s 97th floor apartment.

2:12:10 – Is he or isn’t he? Thankfully, the fan debate as to whether or not Deckard is secretly a Replicant is one that remains unresolved, and the screenwriters deserve major kudos for rekindling the mystery and suggesting both possibilities without ever offering a concrete answer.

One more moment warrants mention, though it doesn’t really qualify as an Easter egg or a “kiss.”

Jumping back to the movie’s midsection, at the 1:03:20 mark, there is a chilling turn of events that makes for the single most horrifying scene of any film in 2017: Wallace’s “best angel” Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) orders a satellite drone strike on Agent K’s human assailants, coolly monitoring the live video feed through her stylish glasses while she’s receiving an animated electronic manicure. The moral implications of the remote drone strikes are compounded by the notion that it’s a Replicant who is issuing the kill orders.

In closing, I offer a tip for virgin viewers of Blade Runner 2049: if you’re not pumping the audio through a capable surround system—or at the very least listening with a fierce set of headphones—then you’re doing yourself and the film a disservice, for its densely textured sound design is among the richest and most ever-present aural treats in what feels like forever.

 

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