In 2049, replicants are slaves. One, called KD6-3.7 or K for short (Ryan Gosling), works for the Los Angeles Police Department as a Blade Runner, who retires, or kills, rogue replicants. When he retires a Nexus-8 replicant called Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista), he finds a box buried at the latter’s farm, containing the remains of a female replicant who died during a caesarean section, showing that replicants can reproduce. K’s superior, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), is afraid this could lead to a human/replicant war, and she orders K to find and retire the replicant child.
K visits the Wallace Corporation, which is the successor to the Tyrell Corporation and is now the major manufacturer of replicants. Their researchers identify the deceased female as Rachael, an experimental replicant designed by Doctor Eldon Tyrell. She had a relationship with a former Blade Runner named Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). Blind CEO Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) is interested in replicant reproduction for interstellar colonization. He sends Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), his replicant enforcer, to steal Rachael’s remains and track K to find the child.
At Morton’s farm. K notices the number 6,10, and 21 carved into the tree-trunk and remembers a wooden horse toy from his childhood with that date carved on it. But replicant memories are artificial, so his holographic girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armes) believes that K was born, not built. He searches the records and discovers twins born on that date with identical DNA, one boy and one girl, but only the boy is listed as born alive. He tracks the child to an orphanage in the ruins of San Diego, but the records are missing. K recognizes the place and finds the toy horse he remembers.
Doctor Ana Stelline (Carla Juri) who designs replicant memories, confirms his findings and he concludes he is Rachael’s son. At police headquarters, he fails a post-traumatic baseline test, marking him as a rogue replicant. He tells Joshi he retired the child. Joshi gives him 48 hours to pass the test, or he will be retired himself. Joi hires Mariette (Mackenzie Davis) as a surrogate for Joi to have sex with K. Mariette is in the replicant freedom movement and places a tracker on him. He transfers Joi to a mobile emitter so he can’t be tracked through her memory files. Analysis of the toy horse leads him to the ruined Las Vegas, where he finds Deckard, who tells him he is the father and destroyed the birth records himself, leaving the child with the replicant freedom movement.
Liv kills Joshi and tracks K to Las Vegas. She kidnaps Deckard, destroys Joi, and leaves K to die. The freedom movement rescues K. Their leader, Freysa (Hiam Abbass), tells him she helped deliver Rachael’s child and it was a girl. K realizes he is not Rachael’s child after all, but Doctor Stelline is, and his implanted memories are hers. Luv takes Deckard to Wallace Corporation Headquarters to meet Wallace, who offers Deckard a clone of Rachael for revealing what he knows. Deckard refuses and Luv kills the clone. Deckard is to be transferred off-world to be tortured and interrogated, but K arrives to rescue him. He kills Luv but is mortally wounded himself. He stages Deckard’s death to keep him safe. As K lies dying, Deckard meets his daughter.
The film was directed by Denis Villeneuve, written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green, as a sequel to Blade Runner. The idea dates back to the 1990s, but licensing problems delayed production. Ridley Scott declined to direct but he produced, and appointed Villeneuve. The film was praised by critics but was a box-office disappointment, probably because it was long and complicated. It was nominated and won several Oscars and received eight nominations at the British Academy Film Awards. Denis Villeneuve was frankly terrified of directing a sequel to Blade Runner, his favorite movie. As a child in small-town Quebec before the Internet, he had little experience with Hollywood except for a box of movie magazines he ran across, and when he saw Blade Runner, he was blown away.
Ryan Gosling was likewise inspired by Blade Runner. Harrison Ford recommended him for the role. Ford was enthusiastic as well, despite his difficulties on the original film. As David Bowie had died, Jared Leto was given the role of Niander Wallace. Eccentric as always, he acted in opaque contact lenses to make himself literally blind. Hans Zimmer managed to create a film-score that reminds us of the brilliant music for Blade Runner written by Vangelis. A version of the film without nudity was made for release in Turkey, incurring the wrath of the Film Critics Association of Turkey. The depiction of replicant women as sex-machines in the film was criticized in the West, but defenders pointed out that this was a dystopian slave-society.
Sean Young’s younger self and clone were reproduced from archival footage. Niander Wallace’s first name refers to Neanderthals, who were replaced by the more efficient Homo Sapiens. If you scan the barcode on Luv’s police spinner vehicle, it says Phillip K. Dick. The song sung by the Elvis Presley hologram appears to mirror the events of the movie. K is the name of the hapless hero in Franz Kafka’s The Trial. According to Denis Villeneuve, the film is based on two separate cuts of the Blade Runner original, one a story of falling in love with a replicant, the other a replicant finding its own identity. Villeneuve might once have been intimidated by Blade Runner, but he has given us Arrival, Dune, and soon Rendezvous with Rama.