Blade Runner Is Actually A Love Story
Blade Runner‘s debate on existence typically tends to center on the dichotomic figures of Deckard and Batty. But not its sequel. Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t feature a single mention of Batty (if anything, K is his parallel) and the classic replicant identity mystery is completely downplayed to the point belief in oneself overtakes facts; it’s alluded to heavily that Deckard is an artificial human but the movie falls shy of providing confirmation.
Instead, the sequel draws more attention to the shifting relationship between Deckard and Rachael. Their child is the driving force of the narrative – something that could break down the walls of the human-replicant divide – and the surviving Deckard’s entire existence is dominated by compassion for his partner and their daughter; he’s in hiding to protect her and remains besotted.
Indeed, the only time the movie fully embraces the question of if Deckard is a replicant circles on Rachael. The most probable alt solution to him being a simple human presented is that he was planted on the Batty case to explicitly meet her and lead to her child; his entire existence hinges on those first feelings of attraction. It’s certainly what Wallace deems important when he tries to ensnare Deckard, and the shooting of the brown-eyed copy isn’t a refuting of that moment’s importance regardless of motivation.
Blade Runner 2049 is from the very start rewinding the conventional reading of Blade Runner to make it into a purer love story, using K’s unconventional relationship with Joi as thematic groundwork and then paying it off with the second half of Deckard’s arc. The ending hammers this home, having the duology end on a moment of requited longing and closure for Deckard as he meets his daughter; were you to tell the two movies as a single story, it’s that of Deckard and Rachael.
This shouldn’t be all that surprising. Director Denis Villeneuve has been incredibly coy when discussing what his film is really about, to the point his most revealing statement about 2049 came when he wasn’t really talking about the sequel. When Screen Rant asked him about which version of the original film was canon, he said that technically it was the Final Cut, but made a serious point about how the Theatrical version was the one that he’d grew up on and made an emotional connection to. Talking about the specific differences between the two versions, he dropped a bombshell:
“The first movie [Theatrical Cut] is the story of a human falling in love with a designed human being, artificial being. The story of the second movie [Final Cut] is a replicant that doesn’t know he’s a replicant, and that slowly discovers his own identity. So those are two different stories.”
The version of Blade Runner that the director of 2049 prefers is the one that he outlines as a love story over one of identity mystery. Narratively he’s following the latter, but emotionally he’s continuing the themes of the movie that he grew up on. He likely always focused more on the Rachael aspect as fan and has now made that the defining part as director.
One of the go-to criticisms of Blade Runner in the decades since its original release and its ascension to seminal classic has been that, for all the meticulous visuals and staggering world-building it’s allegedly an ultimately hollow, emotionless film. This was always a bit off base, but now with Blade Runner 2049 Villeneuve has provided a timeless rebuke: it was about love all along.
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