Blade Runner 2048: Nowhere to Run

(If you missed my previous Blade Runner short film essays I’ve linked them here: 2022 and 2036)

To prepare audiences more fully for Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve asked anime-ka Shinichiro Watanabe and Ridley Scott’s son Luke Scott to create a number of short films. The films serve as important, though not essential, pre-viewing for 2049 by disclosing some important events that occurred between the events of the first Blade Runner film in 2019 and the new installment in 2049.

2048: Nowhere to Run is the third installment of this short film series and explores the life of a renegade Nexus 8, Sapper Morton, who escaped from Kalantha alongside a group of replicants including Iggy (who makes an appearance in 2022) back in 2021. The short film begins with Sapper (Dave Bautista) experiencing a PTSD episode about his horrendous time back on Kalantha. He slowly come to, washes his face, and exits the public restroom, entering the back streets of Los Angeles in 2048. A group of young toughs eye him and try to provoke him into a fight, but he keeps his calm and patiently waits for them to move out of his way.

As he enters a sort of public marketplace square, he sees a young girl, Aila, and her mother. He hands the girl a book (a practice he has made a habit of every time he enters the town to peddle his wares in the market). This time the novel is Graham Greene’s magnum opus: The Power and The Glory. He explains that the text is “about an outlaw priest who’s trying to understand the meaning of being human.” She hopes the book isn’t sad, but he assures her it is a great book, and one of favorites. Partly because it mirrors his own life on the run from the LAPD and from human supremacy advocates who would both hunt him down and attempt to retire him if they found out about his continued existence and his identity.

Later, Sapper Morton enters the tent of the Sultan who gives Sapper a low-ball price for his artificial nematodes. He takes the money because it’s the best he can hope to get anywhere around there. For ten seconds, from 3:09 till 3:19, Adam Savage of Mythbusters and Tested  makes a cameo in the tent as a man selling his own wares to the Sultan. As Sapper exits the tent, he sees the young men from earlier attacking Aila and her mother and attempting to abduct them for human trafficking purposes. His instincts as a Nexus 8 powerhouse replicant, and his love for the two as a surrogate for family, spurs him on to kill the men one by one. But as he finishes his job and retreats, he drops some of his paperwork for the sale of his nematodes and a local scumbag picks them up, phones the LAPD, and puts them on his trail.

A year later, at the beginning of Blade Runner 2049, the LAPD will finally track him down and send Officer K (Ryan Gosling) to dispatch him.

In The Power and The Glory, Mexico’s new leadership openly discriminates against religion of all forms, but especially against the Catholic Church. All priests have either been killed, forced to renounce their faiths and marry, or go on the run. The main character of the novel is a priest who did the latter and has escaped the police and military for years. He and Sapper are hunted by the State for illicit and discriminatory reasons. Mexico thinks of the priest as a merely a polluter of the mind of Mexico’s people, while the LAPD and the rest of human society think of Sapper as a mere soulless reproduction of human beings (something his moral actions in saving the girl and we will find later, in hiding Deckard and Rachel’s child, will disprove: he does have a moral conscious, an identity, person-hood, and if it exists, a soul).

The priest is no saint. He is known as a whiskey priest who imbibes and stays drunk constantly. He has fathered a child whilst a Catholic father who is supposed to be chaste and a father to all people. He is a sinner and often a coward who searches his country for souls to save, baptisms to perform, and sermons to give to his people in his dark times. But in all his time, his many years wandering through the mountains and swamps and deserts, he has saved nary a soul and caused more trouble than he has avoided. Sapper only managed to leave Kalantha in the first place by causing much suffering and killing many other people in the process. He survives by keeping his head down, but occasionally has to defend himself or others with his Tyrell-endowed powers and strength. They are both sinners who have done less good than ill in their time, but they both continue moving on in the hopes that one day their pain and suffering may yield fruit.

For the whiskey priest, he finds salvation into the hands of the father in his last moments and dies a respectable death. He is memorialized as a saint and martyr of the Church even though he has done nothing consequential for the Church in all his days. His way of finding meaning in his life was to serve as a source of strength and meaning in the form of a martyr and saint for those persecuted Christians struggling in a time of intense persecution. Sapper Morton finds no spiritual meaning in his activities, but his actions in the years directly after his arrival on Earth and the help he was able to give to Deckard and Rachel and to their child, who may very well be the savior of the replicants in the future, is enough to give his life meaning in the face of the all the obstacles he’s had to contend with. And the ultimately purposeless nature of his existence.

Both figures are tragic because they both embrace a sort of futility academically, but actively seek to defy it and eke out their own spaces for leading meaningful lives. This is the task of a Sisyphus rolling the stone eternally up the hill only to have it come tumbling right back down. It is the task we all face at one time or another. The point is to find meaning in the struggle. And to keep pushing.

 

Cody Ward

[Next up: Theories on Replicants!]

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