Major spoilers for Blade Runner 2049.
Blade Runner 2049 isn’t just a great sequel that expands the world of the 1982 classic, it also manages to directly address some of the problems with fellow Harrison Ford legacy-quel Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Denis Villeneuve’s film is a much-hyped sequel to a beloved sci-fi classic that fans have been waiting for since the early 1980s, presenting us with a familiar-yet-new world and allowing Harrison Ford to resurrect one of his most iconic characters. Of course, this isn’t the first time (nor will it be the last) that Ford’s returned to his past.
In 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens rebooted the saga with gusto and saw Han Solo back home on the Millennium Falcon after 32 years. In the three decades since Return of the Jedi, he and Leia had had a son whose eventual turn to the dark side splintered the couple, sending him back to smuggling. He reenters the galactic struggle when coming across plucky new heroes and helps them in their fight against the First Order. This time around, though, Ford got to deliver on his long-held desire to kill the scoundrel.
Rick Deckard’s return isn’t as fatal – against all the odds he survives 2049, once again saved at the last minute by a rogue replicant – but certainly is just as seismic. We learn how he and Rachael had a child following their escape from L.A. in the original film, leading to her death and him hiding out for the next 35 years in Las Vegas. He’s dragged back into the fray by Blade Runner K, fighting through a Biblical conspiracy to finally reunite with his daughter.
Related: Blade Runner 2049’s Ending Explained
There are some obvious parallels between the elder Solo and Deckard’s arcs. Both are recollective, aging men seemingly running from their previous responsibilities but really struggling to face up to them, and ultimately wind up being a pivot for the new characters’ narrative. And, of course, it’s through their children that do that (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull also went this route, although let’s not go there). This is, to a degree, expected: legacy-quels need some passing of the torch and children of the original hero is the most emblematic way to do this. However, they’re executed very differently.
The Children of Harrison Ford
Kylo Ren (born Ben Solo) is the villain of not just The Force Awakens, but the entire sequel trilogy. The specifics of his turn to the dark side aren’t yet known, but he essentially rejects the Solo/Organa legacy in favor of the Skywalker one, attempting to follow in grandfather Darth Vader’s leather-booted footsteps. Unfortunately for him (and anybody working under him), he’s got too much of Episode II Anakin in him, vulnerable to his emotions and spates of teenage anger (in being this, he’s also a not-so-thinly-veiled meta-commentary on Star Wars fandom and obsession).
Driver and Ford only share one scene, but Kylo’s relationship with his father is essential. He alludes to Rey – who adopts Han as a de facto parental figure herself – that he to-a-degree resents his father, but at the same time still struggles with the assigned task of actually killing Han. The death scene is emotionally wrought with conflict for both sides: the son having to do the unthinkable and the father fighting his instincts to bring his boy home.
In Blade Runner 2049, the existence, location, and identity of Deckard and Rachel’s child is the plot-driving mystery. They represent a cataclysmic shift in the divide between humans and replicants, breaking down one of the final barriers between species, and so they’re the target of Wallace, the Resistance, and the LAPD. Deckard’s in hiding and willingly ignorant of their location in order to protect them, eventually forced to face up to the relationship when K – at this point suspecting he’s the kid – tracks him down.
We eventually learn that the daughter (not a son as initially suggested) is Ana Stelline, the artificial memory creator met briefly earlier on in the film, literally held away from the outside world by an autoimmune deficiency and right under the nose of those hunting her. We end with Deckard – who is now presumed dead and thus able to live freely – finally uniting with her, a powerful father-daughter moment in itself but one that resolves the film’s notion of love in life on a thematic scale.
Both of these are very well done in their respective ways. Kylo Ren and Ana Stelline are integrated fully into the story and frankly couldn’t have been executed in the other; Deckard’s son as the big bad or a muted switcheroo in The Force Awakens would have felt out of sorts for the franchise and annoyed fans. You could argue Star Wars took the route of least resistance (to the point it had already been done in the Expanded Universe), but it’s effectively done and – it must be stated before we go further – the film overall is of a high quality.
However, the parental aspect goes deeper than just the children themselves, and it’s here the two films really distance.
Page 2 of 2: The Star Wars Mistake Blade Runner Corrects
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