WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Blade Runner 2049
It goes without saying, but there's more to Blade Runner 2049 than meets the eye. Obviously fans of the original film and its ambiguous ending will be just as satisfied debating what the ending of Blade Runner 2049 really means, not to mention how much the original version of Deckard's story has been changed with this second chapter. Fans will also be hungry for Easter Eggs and subtle homages to the original - and cerebral as the rest of the movie may be, it doesn't disappoint in terms of tributes and allusions.
Since 2049 is set in the same world as the first Blade Runner, the carried-over characters, locations, or ideas don't qualify as a real wink to the fans. But director Denis Villeneuve still found a way to work in some truly profound references and hints at the larger themes. The audience may not seek out the novels or plays being referred to, but they're still worth spotting on repeat viewings.
Needless to say, there will be SPOILERS for Blade Runner 2049 ahead.
8 Not Just Any Book
When K returns from killing Sapper Morton in the film's opening, he's subjected to a "Post-Trauma Baseline Test" to ensure that he has not become emotionally affected by the killing. As a successor to the Voight-Kampff Test used in the original film to trigger and measure emotional instability in Replicants, it appears to function the same way. K is tasked with repeating a set of call-and-response phrases after prompts are given, with emotionally-charged questions posed to trip him up - assuming he's strayed from baseline. Several of the prompts are taken from a longer string:
And blood-black nothingness began to spin A system of cells interlinked within cells interlinked within cells interlinked within one stem. And dreadfully distinct Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.
It's no random phrase, but lines of poetry taken from Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire. It's no random book either, but a story built in layers around a fictional poem and its editor, seen as an early precursor to metafiction, and even pre-Internet hypertext. Playing with the idea of what is real, what is not, and who gets to decide, the novel also takes it title from Shakespeare's Timon of Athens - the Bard's most enigmatic work. If you're interested in giving it a read, look for the same copy K keeps in his apartment: the one that Joi, ironically, hates.
7 A Dog Joke?
In the time since the first Blade Runner, the technology of Replicants has progressed at a slower rate than one might expect (if you consider removing freedom from them a step forward for humans). When last we left Deckard, the Nexus-6 models of Replicants were already causing trouble by the ability to pass as "more human than human." But in the intervening thirty years, the androids have advanced to the Nexus-9 generation. It's this generation to which Ryan Gosling's hero belongs, apparently programmed to no longer even be capable of resisting their human masters. And the practice of giving Replicants 'names' is long over.
Gosling's titular Blade Runner is known only by the designated serial number 'KD9-3.7' or 'K' for short. It's not exactly the most sophisticated brand of humor or wit, but the fact that the film's hero is an officer in the LAPD, named K, and a Nexus-9 is hard to overlook. Unlike the human/dog pairings to which the title refers, this version of 'K9' is actually neither. Although you could say he's a blend of genuine human and faithful servant, so the name may not be as shallow as it seems.
6 The Advertisements Never Change
Ridley Scott's original vision of future advertising and urban billboards is one of the most iconic features of Blade Runner - with the skyscraper-sized electronic women and corporate logos summing up the film in single images. It's no surprise that director Denis Villeneuve would keep up the practice, but shifting the technology into the digital age of holograms and glowing LEDs. As devoted fans of the original know, several of the original brands are even carried over.
Coca-Cola remains among the most prominent, with the now-defunct Pan Am also visible in city shots, and a massive set of Atari symbols through which K's spinner flies. As a bonus touch, Villeneuve even doubles down on Scott's prediction that Bell payphones would persist into the future. When K first returns to his LAPD precinct, a bank of payphones can still be seen in use.
5 So... Not a Prometheus Connection?
The die-hard fans of director Ridley Scott have known for years to keep an eye out for the graphics used in Alien and Blade Runner - reused from one to the other as something of an inside joke among the filmmakers. But when Scott returned to his cosmic franchise with Prometheus, a bit of bonus content linking the financial juggernaut Weyland-Yutani with a man named 'Tyrell' suggested the two films took place in the same universe. And that theory seemed to get some major support when the first trailers for Blade Runner 2049 seemed to include an unmistakable nod: the preserved body of an Engineer, the human forerunners that the Prometheus cast went in search of.
In the interest of keeping fans informed, we're sorry to say that, as fun a theory as it was, the actual scene in Blade Runner 2049 shows more detailed, varied looks at these preserved bodies when K visits Niander Wallace's headquarters. In motion, they appear to simply be human bodies, presumably the base models of Wallace's previous or current Nexus androids. They're still similar at a glance, but then... any massive, muscular, hairless, pale body would be.
4 The Origami Has Changed
Few characters are as instrumental in the infamous "is Deckard really a Replicant?" debate as Gaff, his (largely absent) partner. Over the course of the first film, his obsessive hobby of constructing origami went from subtle humor or commentary (using a matchstick to mimic a man) to a potentially explosive reveal. How Gaff knew to construct a unicorn for Deckard before he left with Rachael - the vision Deckard had seen in dreams - is the heart of the mystery, implying, to some, that Gaff was aware Deckard was a Replicant and therefore privy to his false memories/dreams.
Edward James Olmos returns in a small cameo as Gaff, restating his opinion that Deckard was less than a genuine human when K seeks him out. At the end of the scene, Gaff reveals the origami he's been silently working on below the table: a white sheep. It can be taken a number of ways, each bearing different literal or thematic significance. It could be a nod to the original Philip K. Dick story upon which Blade Runner was based, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It could embody Gaff's shift from grinning eccentric to defeated senior, and how he views the rest of humanity. Or, it could specifically refer to K - who believes himself to be a 'real boy,' but is just fooling himself for thinking he's something special.
3 "A Wasp Lands on Your Arm"
It's easy to overlook given how prominently the Las Vegas scenes featured in marketing, but the actual reveal of a literal desert in the urban sprawl of Blade Runner is worth noting. Specifically, because mention of a "sandy desert" was made in the first scenes of Ridley Scott's original film. It was part of the Voight-Kampff Test meant to measure emotional response in people, and thereby determine if they were a Replicant. But the presence of a sandy desert in Nevada (visually inspired by photos of Australia's 2009 dust storm) is only the beginning. In another instance of the test - given to Rachael by Deckard - he paints a picture of "a wasp crawling on your arm."
When K visits the city's ruins, he notices a bee crawling on his arm. Where Rachael aggressively responded to Deckard's question by immediately stating the she would kill the wasp, K barely reacts. The bee leads him to a hive, presumably operated by Deckard living in a nearby hotel. The parallels between K and Rachael (believed at this time to be his mother) make the parallel an interesting one. Where Rachael was artificial and didn't know it, K was 'born' knowing he was artificial... but hoped he might be real.
2 Deckard's Gun
In the world of science fiction classics, it's hard to find a firearm as iconic as the one wielded by Detective Rick Deckard - at least of those actually being fired on Earth. Honestly, it's for no other reason than the fact that the gun looks pretty cool: it's not relevant to the plot, or even heroically featured as Deckard's 'signature' weapon (it appears to be standard issue for his rank). Yet as the respect and regard for Blade Runner increased over time, so too did the attention given to his gun. Which is a major problem... because it seems nobody expected the gun to become all that beloved in the first place.
Its design and sound may be unforgettable for fans of the movie, but almost nothing is known about it. It has no canonical name from production, no confirmed ammunition being fired (in the original story, Deckard fired a laser gun), and only one of the hero guns ever actually existed for use on film. But it all adds to the legacy and mystery of 'Deckard's blaster,' and the affection clearly continues to this day. Even before Deckard makes his appearance on film in 2049, it's his gun that precedes him out of the shadows.
1 "Her Eyes Were Green" (Except They Weren't)
It's the cruelest twist of fate played by Niander Wallace when he comes up with a bold method of getting answers from Deckard. Seeking the child born of human and Replicant - mainly, evidence of how Eldon Tyrell created a Replicant with a womb capable of creating Replicant offspring - Wallace obviously predicted that Deckard would take his knowledge to the grave. As a longshot, he used the bones collected from the film's opening scene to recreate Rachael exactly as she had been when Deckard first met her. Monologuing follows, until Deckard shoots down Wallace's ploy (and Rachael is shot down as a result).
What kept Deckard from succumbing to seeing another Rachael before him? Well, he says it's because the original "had green eyes," dismissing the clone while taking a shot at Wallace's air of perfection. It allows Deckard to remain devoted to his lover and child, without showing any devotion on the outside. Except... Rachael's eyes weren't green. Like actress Sean Young's, they were and always have been brown - just as Wallace made them.
Those are the subtle references and thought-provoking details embedded in Blade Runner 2049, but what other Easter Eggs did you spot?