On June 25th, 1982, the world was introduced to the dystopian world of Blade Runner. Starring Harrison Ford and set in the “distant future” of 2019 Los Angeles, the film tells the story of Rick Deckard, a “blade runner” whose job is to hunt down and “retire” replicants (i.e. robots that look identical to humans in appearance) that have illegally returned to Earth from the distant space colonies.
For many years, the only thing I knew about Blade Runner was: don’t watch it, it’s a mess, great concept, bad execution, etc. And then the “Final Cut” of the film was released in 2007, and suddenly (as far as I could perceive), everyone’s opinion of the film began to change. It went from being an awkward cult film to one of the greatest films ever. Or maybe it was always that way and I didn’t notice until now. I think it’s been about two years since I saw Blade Runner the first time (my first copy was the “Director’s Cut”, I only got the “Final Cut” last year) and I remember sitting slack-jawed the entire time.
Really, what I feel the film boils down to is: what makes a human a “human” ? That is, what separates organic human beings like you or I from the “artificial” replicants like Roy Batty, Pris or Zhara, who resemble human beings in every way except they possess unnatural physical abilities (like extreme strength or the ability to touch hot liquids without being burned). It’s clear that the replicants have their own loves, wants and desires, just like humans do. In fact, the replicants appear to want life MORE than regular humans because replicants are only given a four-year lifespan before they die.
Deckard initially regards hunting down this particular group of replicants as a routine job, until he meets Rachael that is. Initially presented as the niece of Mr. Tyrell, the inventor of the replicants, Deckard is stunned to discover that SHE is a replicant also (and what’s more, she doesn’t know it). Over the course of the film, Deckard finds himself increasingly drawn to the enigmatic Rachael, until he finally realizes that, replicant or not, he’s in love with her and he’ll protect her at all costs.
I won’t go any further into the plot of the film, because I really feel that if you go in knowing what’s going to happen, you won’t enjoy the film as much (but seriously, everyone should see Blade Runner at least once in their lives, just don’t watch the theatrical cut with the voice-over narration). There is, however, one point I will address, and that is the question as to whether or not Deckard is a replicant himself. It seems like a question out of left field, because, why should that even be a question? Here’s the thing about the world of Blade Runner: all replicants are implanted with false memories so that when they wake up, they believe that they are regular people, with a past, loved ones, old friends, etc. By the time they figure out otherwise (and not all do), the four year life-span is up and they’re dead. Knowing this, it is distinctly possible that everyone we see on the screen is a programmed replicant, living their daily lives and not knowing that they’re artificial beings grown in a series of factories. And if you say “that’s ridiculous”, keep in mind that Rachael lived quite a long time believing that she was human until Deckard told her the truth.
Despite anything Ridley Scott has said in the years after Blade Runner was released, I believe that the question is never truly resolved one way or another. Deckard might be a replicant, he might be human too. As the one police man tells him, “It’s a pity she won’t live, but then again who does?” I take that to mean that, replicant or human, we’re all going to die some day anyhow, so why not live life to the fullest while we’re still here?
I know that the sequel to Blade Runner is being worked on right now, it might even be filming for all I know, and I’m not happy about it at all. Blade Runner was NOT designed to have a sequel, and I believe that creating one ruins the integrity of the original story.
Have you seen Blade Runner? What do you think of it, if you have seen it? Are you excited (nor not) about the sequel?
*poster image is the property of Warner Bros. Studios
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