[WARNING: SPOILERS for Blade Runner 2049 ahead.]
The writers of Blade Runner 2049 have offered their thoughts on the franchise’s long-held debate over Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard. The acclaimed sequel from Denis Villeneuve is a visual triumph and a worthy follow-up to Ridley Scott’s classic original, and it also manages to expand upon what made the first Blade Runner so memorable. Perhaps most strikingly, it keeps intact the mystery of whether Deckard is a replicant.
Blade Runner 2049 writer Michael Green has already admitted that he aimed in part to make the sequel as enigmatic as the hotly-debated original film, in this respect. Although there are theories out there about 2049’s ending that would actually answer those burning questions, Deckard’s identity ultimately remained as mysterious as ever. Still, Green and his cowriter Hampton Fancher (who also wrote the original Blade Runner) have offered up different takes on the Deckard debate.
Speaking in an interview with Collider, Green and Fancher both revealed how they personally felt about the idea that Deckard is indeed a replicant. The question is amplified in 2049, and the film even asks more about the relationship between Deckard and Rachael (Sean Young). Fancher was definitive in saying he is not a replicant, which has been a point of contention over the years between him and Scott:
“Yeah, I always [believed] he’s not a replicant. I thought if he’s a replicant, the game’s over. I think he doesn’t know, also. So to make him a replicant—Ridley from the beginning [said] he’s a replicant, and I from the beginning said he’s not, or we shouldn’t know if he is, I don’t know if he is. The press has always asked me, I don’t know. And when Ridley put in the ostensible evidence that he is, the red eyes or whatever, in Blade Runner 1 I didn’t like that.”
Green, however, continued to play up the “puzzle” of the Blade Runner films, as the thought of who is and is not a replicant remains a huge part of the series’ allure. Green does not intend to answer the films’ biggest questions and prefers that they keep it that way:
“The fact that it’s a question is what’s important. The puzzle of Blade Runner, one of the many reasons it’s the classic it is, is that the chasing for authenticity is both baked into the narrative of the story and the meta-narrative of the film that there is no authentic answer to that question. Which just meant that telling the further story, that had to be baked into the story as well, that everyone who watches it has that question of which version should I watch, what does that mean, and the answer is you don’t get to know. Generally American audiences are very uncomfortable with that level of irresolution. Blade Runner challenges that and it’s not just an American favorite, it’s a global favorite.”
Speaking in an interview with Screen Rant just ahead of the sequel’s release, Green spoke at length about why he wanted 2049 to maintain “ambiguity.” He felt it was the proper way to honor the legacy of the original and stay true to its world, and that definitively answering whether Deckard was a replicant would have been the “midichlorianization of the experience.” He essentially argued that the whole series would have lost its magic had the question been answered.
Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) seems to speak to Deckard as if he’s a replicant in their tense encounter near the end of 2049, but the destruction of most of Tyrell’s records in the 2022 blackout almost certainly made it impossible for him to know for sure. Thus, viewers are similarly left in the dark about Deckard’s true identity by the time the credits roll. While some of the sequel’s questions were answered within its own self-contained narrative, the franchise’s bigger secrets remain open to interpretation. That is why Blade Runner 2049 is perhaps built to last in the same way that its predecessor is still discussed to this day, even by the very people who made it.
The decision to leave much of the film as puzzling as the original has not stopped others from coming up with theories. Mark Millar has even theorized that Blade Runner 2049 was a dream implanted in Deckard’s mind, in order to get him to reunite with his daughter at the end. The film’s thematic complexity and ambiguity may also end up hurting it at the box office, as its disappointing opening weekend is an ominous sign. However, even if Blade Runner 2049 ultimately proves to be a commercial dud, its deep exploration of the original’s movies themes and continued sense of mystery could make it more enduring and valuable than any box office total.
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