Clues you missed in the Blade Runner 2049 trailer

A sequel to Blade Runner has been teased for a long time, but the long-awaited follow-up to Ridley Scott's 1982 cult classic just got a lot more real, even while the mysterious nature of the project remains intact. With the release of the first footage from Blade Runner 2049, we may have gotten our first look, but we still have a lot of questions. At first glance, the trailer, which runs a scant minute and thirty-eight seconds, doesn't seem to divulge much. For the first time, we see Harrison Ford as an older Rick Deckard, meeting new character K, played by Ryan Gosling, but little else is mentioned regarding the possibilities of the plot…that is, unless you look closely. With so little footage to work with, what we do have becomes full of meaning. What are the clues or misdirects about the mysterious plot of the movie that this enticing trailer brings to the table? Let's dissect.

Where in the galaxy are we?

When we open on the trailer, we're met with a stark expanse of red desert and red sky. Unsettled dust hovers in the air; there is desolation, silence. The first Blade Runner famously took place for the most part in and around the environs of a futuristic 2019 Los Angeles where cars flew, flashing billboards of immense size bombarded your senses, and regardless of the time of day, it always seemed to be the dead of night.

All of which makes the starkly red-orange start of the Blade Runner 2049 trailer all the more intriguing. It was established in the first movie that there are deserts at the edge of Los Angeles, with the Tyrell Corporation establishing bases on those less-trafficked outskirts. And it was also established that humanity in 2019 had long ago hatched the technology to visit new worlds. We never got a glimpse at these sister cities in the galaxy, places where Replicant revolts had taken place; in fact, we didn't see a lot outside of L.A. in the first movie. It'd come as no surprise if this sandy expanse is just what's left of California, 30 years on. But could it be another planet?

That face of yours

Something used to stand here, until it was torn down. The question is why, when, and for whom. In the first movie, much discussion was had about Replicant revolts on offworld colonies, violent overthrows that led to increased suspicion and division between the humans their Replicant creations. Roy Batty, antagonist of the original Blade Runner, led one revolutionary group from their offworld colony to Earth, to L.A., to try and cheat their inevitable deaths and fight for their lives. Is this a statue from a Replicant revolt? What is it, where is it, and what does it mean? There's also a potent question hiding in the symbolism of a face that appears human, bound together inside by nothing but wire. Will there be more people in this movie who don't know whether they're human? Oh, most definitely. The question is, who?

Among the ruins

Out in the desert, wandering alone among the ruins of fallen statues and standing columns, we get our first glimpse of Ryan Gosling, performing as new character Officer K. He seems to be looking for something, alone, and the audience is no help because we've never seen these locales before either. So what's that big red building? What secrets are lurking behind that ornate and sandswept door? The trailer intercuts from the stone door to the interior of Deckard's opulent hideout, its windows draped with the familiar Chinese trappings of our multicultural future L.A. Since these shots don't seem to lead into one another, it's unlikely Deckard's roomy abode is in there. So what is?

An ornate hideout

And here's the room K appeared to enter, walking through that stone door in the desert. Looks quite different on this side; the curtains of bamboo reed, Asian characters high up on the walls, the red welcome carpet that reads "Vintage Casino" in a Copperplate font. Wherever this is, it looks garish and empty. Could be a good place for a couple of people to hide. Could be.

The piano and its meaning

This is the most potent and perplexing clue in the whole bundle. The piano, perhaps not this exact piano, played a prominent part in one of Blade Runner's most important scenes: the bonding of Rachel and Deckard. One of them was a woman who had only just recently discovered she was a Replicant, and the other was a man, meant to hunt and kill people like her, who may himself be a Replicant as well without knowing it. They bonded over their differences, and the plot of the movie turned on their relationship. Maybe they weren't that different after all.

Calling the moment back here, for this new meeting, suggests a lot. Is K a friend or foe? We already know Ford and Gosling are supposed to get into a physical conflict, but what we don't know is the nature of that fight. Is it a fight to the death? A misunderstanding, one first skirmish before an eventual teamup? Who knows. Them's the mysteries. That's why this—and somewhat by extension, the next ten months—is theory-crafting time.

The confrontation

And there he is. Look at the back of his head—the old sport, he hasn't changed a day. It's unclear if this is the same building as the one Gosling walked into just prior, though there is a piano visible in the shot where Deckard trains his gun on Gosling. It's still really hard to tell what's about to happen here. Truthfully, at this point, we're not even sure who we're supposed to be rooting for, if either of them. But by placing this shot at the end of the first trailer, it all but guarantees a big-time plot focus on these two men—or might they be machines? And wherever in the hideout we are now, Deckard seems alone. But is he? Where is…?

Where is Rachel?

One of the biggest surprises in this trailer is what's been left out, which is to say, any discussion of the present fate of Rachel, the Replicant with whom Deckard ran off at the end of Blade Runner. At the time, their fates were ambiguous. Perhaps they would die young, as Replicants are meant to, their life spans artificially cut short. Or perhaps they would extend their lifespans, as Roy Batty and his rebels aimed to. One thing is incontrovertible: Deckard is alive, and Rachel is nowhere to be seen. Maybe Deckard wasn't a Replicant all along? Is Rachel dead, or in hiding? Is Deckard protecting her? What does it have to do with Officer K? Is she even in the movie?

The end

The final thing we learned from this short teaser as the release date faded in over Gosling's back was that we'll be making our way to familiar territory at least some of the time. Compare the vibes on that dingy-old neon night sidewalk to this old sidewalk scene, and tell me you don't feel home again. Bet it smells like smoke, and steam. The blade runners and the bots are back, baby! We need to get on out to that Tannhauser Gate, watch them C-beams glitter, and reminisce… Man, Blade Runner was so cool. It's a good thing Blade Runner 2049 looks to be no less. This film doesn't drop until October 6, 2017, so check back often—we'll be on this one for a while.