Review: Blade Runner: Blackout 2022 (2017)


Blade Runner: Blackout 2022 (2017)

Directed by: Shinichiro Watanabe | 15 minutes | animation, short film | Original Voice Cast: Jovan Jackson, Luci Christian, Bryson Baugus, Edward James Olmos, Adam Gibbs, Al-Francis Cuenca, Andrea Rodriguez, Annie Mai, Chris Gibson, Crista Castro, David Matranga, Jay Hickman, Joel McCrary, John Gremillion, Joseph Chou Kyle Jones, Luis Galindo, Michael Olesch, Ned Gayle, Ricardo Contreras, Son Phan Le

Leading up to ‘Blade Runner 2049’, three short cutscenes were distributed showing some key moments between the original ‘Blade Runner’ (set in 2019) and its sequel. Namely: ‘Blade Runner: Black Out 2022’ (director: Shinichirô Watanabe), ‘2036: Nexus Down’ (director: Luke Scott) and ‘2048: Nowhere to Run’ (again director: Luke Scott). The shorts have been added to the home video releases of the film for more depth.

The first short is also the most interesting. Both because of the story and because of the style. It is an anime of about fifteen minutes, directed by Shinichirô Watanabe (including ‘Cowboy Bebop’, ‘The Animatrix’). In the same way that ‘The Animatrix’ related to ‘The Matrix’, ‘Black Out 2022’ gives its own interpretation of the world of ‘Blade Runner’.

The Tyrell Corporation has released a new model of replicant, the Nexus 8, which has no limited lifespan. People immediately see that as a threat and start hunting the replicants. They then logically revolt and cause an explosion that destroys the servers that house the database data of the replicants and there is a general power outage. That, in short, is what it’s all about.

But ‘Blade Runner: Black Out 2022’ offers much more. It shows how replicants are played off against each other in wars waged on other planets. It shows a relationship between a human and a replicant. It shows the human side of the replicants. And above all, it gives the replicants extra urgency. They are an oppressed group, who are put to work as slaves. And they simply stand up for their rights to a dignified existence.

Of course, this was already partly discussed in the original ‘Blade Runner’, but in ‘Black Out’ it is more widely drawn. The street intimidation, the despair of the replicants, the misunderstanding. Even more so than Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty, the replicants really get their own story. “More human than human” was the motto of the Tyrell Corporation, and if this short makes any sense, it’s that the replicants are indeed better.

Although they weren’t directed by Watanabe, ‘Blade Runner: Black Out 2022’ is most reminiscent of the Animatrix films ‘The Second Renaissance part 1 & 2’. In it it is the robots that rise up against their oppression, here it is the replicants. But in both cases, humanity is bringing it upon itself. And somehow anime works perfectly to get this message across as visually compelling as possible.

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