The great debate around classic sci-fi movie Blade Runner has always been based around one dangling plot thread – is Harrison Ford’s synthetic-chasing bounty hunter (or Blade Runner, which sounds cooler) Rick Deckard actually a Replicant just like the skinjobs he’s stalking?
The original Philip K Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? certainly dangles the idea, and while the original release of Blade Runner doesn’t hint much towards this possibility, director Ridley Scott’s preferred cut does, with Deckard’s earlier dream of a unicorn in a forest eerily recreated in origami form by Edward James Olmos’ policeman Gaff towards the end of the film (suggesting the latter has access to his memories).
Even among those who made the film, an agreement can’t be reached – director Scott says he always intended Deckard to be a Replicant unaware of his true nature, while Harrison Ford says he always played him as human – but with new sequel Blade Runner 2049 in cinemas, many fans may be hoping to find this decades-old argument finally solved.
But is it? To find out, go past the video below, and beware – hereon we’re in spoiler territory for the entire film.
If you’re still reading this, then you’ll probably have already seen Blade Runner 2049 and know the truth – frustratingly, it still refuses to come down on one side or the other about Deckard’s potentially Replicant nature.
The fact that Harrison Ford has noticeably aged doesn’t necessarily prove he isn’t a Replicant, as most Replicants in this film are presented as having an open-ended life span, and change in appearance accordingly.
Meanwhile, the fact that Deckard gets continually beaten up by notably stronger Replicants (just like in the original film) is also a bit of a non-clue, as he could have been designed to be less physically strong than them.
On the flipside, the fact that the new film’s lead character is unambiguously a Replicant Blade Runner (Ryan Gosling’s Officer K) doesn’t necessarily suggest anything more than the fact that the filmmakers wanted to tell a different kind of story this time around (as well as possibly nodding at the age-old fan theory).
Even Blade Runner 2049’s revelation that Deckard had a child with a Replicant (Sean Young’s Rachael from the first film) doesn’t confirm his synthetic nature, with the “miracle” coming from the fact that a Replicant can bear a child at all and his nature largely irrelevant. So yes, it’s still pretty ambiguous. Boo.
With all that said, however, it’s only fair to point out that Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t completely avoid the Deckard-as-Replicant debate. In fact, it adds fuel to the fire in a few key scenes that could offer a potential explanation for the events of the first Blade Runner.
At one point later in the film, baddie Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) suggests that Deckard and Rachael’s relationship in the original film may have been set up, with original Replicant creator Tyrell (killed in the 1982 movie) creating Rachael specifically to be the first Replicant capable of bearing a child.
Deckard was invited to the Tyrell corporation to interview Rachael, Wallace suggests, with the express purpose of him falling in love with her and having this child, his entire mission basically a smokescreen for this greater purpose. A little wordplay from Leto’s villain even suggests that Deckard may have been part of the “design” for this little scheme in the first place – perhaps even, you might say, “designed” for the purpose.
Deckard never really responds to this provocation, and the film leaves his relationship with Rachael on an ambiguous note, but there is at least a hint that all was not as it seemed in the original Blade Runner. And sure, the conspiracy theory could still be true if he was human – they might have just thought him a good specimen for Rachael – but that seems an oddly convoluted way to put their plans in motion.
As we leave the world of Blade Runner for a second time, the mystery of Rick Deckard’s Replicant nature remains just that: a mystery, neither confirmed nor denied by the events of the new movie, but with a whole pile of new clues hinting at both possibilities. Time to take to the internet messageboards once again, folks – we only have to wait until Blade Runner 2079 for our next go-around.