Without a doubt, one of my all time favorite movies is Blade Runner.
I must have seen it when I was ten years old, way to young for such a “heavy” flick, but I loved it nonetheless. And as the years passed by, my understanding and appreciation of the movie only grew. I think that Vangelis has done his best work of his life with the incredible soundtrack for this movie, Ridley Scott probably his best work as a director, and Harrison Ford, well, he did his best anti-hero role of all times.
With all this mad love for this movie, one might have thought that I would be crazy for Blade Runner 2, a chance to relive all of it.
An idea to the sequel of Blade Runner is both old and bad. I have seen a lot of remakes and reboots in my time, good and bad sequels/prequels (Phantom Menace, anyone!?) and I am generally indifferent towards them. They might turn either way, but mostly they will not rise up to the occasion and will be unable to achieve greatness of the predecessor, let alone surpass it. But Blade Runner is a bad choice for a sequel for many reasons, most important of which I will summarize here.
Blade Runner is not a sequel type of movie
Even though the ending in the movie (well, the Director’s Cut and Final Cut, at least) comes abrupt to some, the movie is complete and the story, as important to us, has been brought to an end. Deckard finds a unicorn origami, hears Gaff’s voice saying “Too bad she won’t live… But then again, who does?“, nods in a grim agreement and then joins Rachael in the elevator. The doors slam shut, queue exit music. (Of course, there is also the happy ending, where they drive through the woods, towards sunset, with some happy ending narration – this was tacked to the end of the movie after horrible results of initial screenings in order to undo the general sensation of doom that prevails throughout the entire flick).
Essentially, the greatest battles have be fought, the story told, lesson learned. The major characters, all of them, have went through a transformation, a painful and deadly soul searching path, and emerged on the other side as different people. Some movies have more or less closed endings; Blade Runner was very, very tight on that behalf. There are open questions, of course, such as how long might Rachael live, what will happen to them, but nothing that warranted a full blown sequel. But there is more.
You can’t possibly do it justice
There is no way that Blade Runner 2 can get a higher rating than the original Blade Runner. Simply said, it is downright impossible. The tastes have changed too much. Few know that Blade Runner was, by all standards and measures, a financial failure as a movie at the time, misunderstood, shred to pieces by large amount of viewers and critics alike. Its problem was that it was way ahead its time. Today, after the movie has achieved a cult status, it is easy to forget all that was wrong with it in the first place. Blade Runner grew organically, from symbiosis of actors and the director, their conflicts and fights, combined with difficult working circumstances, giving rise to a work of art that had many fathers and mothers, but exceeded everyone’s vision, even Scott’s. Those were perfect “bad circumstances” one cannot possibly hope to replicate (no pun intended) that gave rise to the movie we now see as one of the defining movies in our history. The late Bob Ross might call the movie a “happy accident”, because that was exactly what it was.
So, in my opinion, while unable to reach and enchant broad audience, Blade Runner 2 will never do the justice to the original.
“Is Deckard a Replicant?” doesn’t need an answer!
Seriously, this is the most annoying question connected to the movie, one of the reasons people think Blade Runner 2 should be made. It is nonsense. The beauty of the original movie is that a viewer gets enough hints to arouse suspicion that Deckard might be a replicant, but leaves one thinking about the possibility.
The truth is, there is no clear statement on the question if Deckard is or is not a replicant in the Blade Runner movie.
Lesser known fact is that Blade Runner has gone through several different editions, here are the most important ones:
(1982) Original workprint. Performed horribly with the audience, mainly due to the fact, well, it was a wrong audience – mostly ford fans who wanted to see their favorite Indiana Jones and Han Solo.
(1982) US theatrical version. This one got the Ford voice over and the infamous “happy ending”, where Deckard and Rachael and driving through the forest.
(1992) Director’s Cut. Which was, oddly enough, not done by Ridley, but was subsequently approved by him. Also, this was one of the first movies who have appeared on DVD. This one had the famous “unicorn dream scene”, which gave rise to the notion that Deckard might be a replicant. No other version before had the “unicorn dream scene”
(2007) Final Cut. This was essentially the same version as Director’s Cut with some technical improvements, and some short extra scenes.
Depending on which version you are looking at, there are few or no hints at all that Deckard is a replicant.
And if you rely on Ridley Scott telling you that, well, don’t. He was never 100% sure on it either way, he never expressed his opinion to either Harrison Ford himself when he was asked nor to the other actors.
“I was moved to ask Ridley whether or not he thought that the character I was playing was a Replicant,” Ford said at a 2013 AFI event. “Well, I never got a straight answer. Which is okay, I guess. But I thought it was important that the audience be able to have a human representative on screen, somebody that they could have an emotional understanding of. Ridley didn’t think that was all that important.”
Hampton Fancher, the original screenwriter (have in mind that Blade Runner was re-written couple of times to the point where a lot of inconsistencies simply stemming from people losing track what goes where and who did what!) was absolutely vehement about whether Deckard is a replicant or not. In fact, he actually cut off Ridley when this one said that Deckard is a replicant:
During a discussion panel with Ridley Scott for Blade Runner: The Final Cut he cuts Scott off during the replicant talk saying “Ridley’s off, he’s totally wrong!” and that “[Scott’s] idea is too complex” and prefers the film to remain ambiguous saying “So the question [is Deckard a replicant] has to be an eternal question. It doesn’t have an answer, and what I always say about that is what Pound says: ‘Art that remains news is art in which the question ‘what does it mean” has no correct answer. I like asking the question [about Deckard] and I like it to be asked but I think it’s nonsense to answer it…that’s not interesting to me.”
The discussion went back and forth between actors and cast members, people formed their respective opinions or none at all and went on with their lives. Big deal.
I came to a conclusion that Scott, years after the movie was finished, came on his own conclusion that Deckard is a replicant. Just like me, he picked what to believe. I prefer to leave the question open – if we were to conclude that Deckard is, in fact, a replicant, then his entire development as a character in the movie makes absolutely no sense, and there is no human counterweight to the replicant’s plight, no meeting of the minds, no gaps closed, no higher ground reached.
To illustrate on how complicated (not to say messy) Blade Runner was as a movie, let me refer to a single reference about the replicants; glowing eyes.
Of course, the replicant’s eyes would NOT actually glow red; sometimes, with the right circumstances, the light might just fall the right way and they would glow reddish… Kinda… If their eyes were actually glowing, picking them out would be fairly easy, don’t you think?
In the scene where Deckard comes to the Tyrell Corporation, there is an owl flying in through the office. Deckard asks if the owl is artificial, and Rachael replies “Of course it is.” But in original, actress Sean Young was recorded saying “Of course not.” this was meant to mean that, in a world where real animals were dying out or have actually become extinct, having a real owl would mean just how much power, wealth and prestige Tyrell Corporation has. But the script has been rewritten several times and it has become virtually impossible to say what the final intent was.
Anyhow, the owl turns its head and, for a short moment, light reflects in such a way that one of her eyes appears to be “glowing”. A sign of a replicated being, as we will soon learn.
Deckard starts testing Rachael using the Voight-Kampff machine, and at some point her eyes seem to be glowing as well.
Nothing too obtrusive, easily misinterpreted as a lighting , but rather something the director is using to communicate to the audience. Soon we find out that she is a replicant (even though she herself is not aware of this fact).
Fast forward, to the scene in Deckard’s apartment, after the bloody shootout on the streets, Deckard talks to Rachael and tells her he won’t be going after her. But as he goes past her and out of the cameras focus, he stops to ominously add the line: “But somebody will”.
At that moment, as he is standing behind her, both hers and his eyes seem to glow in faint reddish color.
Is that a hint that Deckard might be a replicant!? Possibly. But fast forward to the Final Cut version, and slightly glowing eyes are gone.
Why would Ridley remove that hint that Deckard is a replicant in the final version of the cult’s editing, and then actually state in an interview that he believes that Deckard is a replicant!? Should you have a plausible explanation, please, let me know down in the comments.
So, glowing eyes = replicant. Or weird lightning. I have definitely shot a dozen photos in my life where people’s eyes would turn out red. Nope, don’t think we need the Voight-Kampff test, though.
Is there anything conclusive here that would make us come to either conclusion? Not in my humble opinion. Matter a fact, one of the best qualities of the movie was its ambiguity, the open questioned nature. Could he be a replicant? It is YOUR CALL to decide what you believe.
One of the greatest reasons people believe that Deckard is a replicant is the unicorn dream scene.
Essentially, during his moments of musings, Deckard is fiddling on the piano and has a daydream of a unicorn. Pretty strong, unique image (pardon my pun) that seems to symbolize him and his existence in some way. Fast forward to the end of the movie; Deckard finds a unicorn origami before his door, a message from Gaff that he was dare, could have killed Rachael but decided not to. As he picks up the origami, Gaff’s sentence, the one he spoke on the roof when he praised Deckard for good retirements he provided. “Its too bad she won’t live…. But then again, who does?”. Upon this, Deckard gazes into distance, nods with a grim acknowledgement and turns away. He steps into the elevator and the door cut everything off – the movie ends.
Now, the fact could be that Gaff was told that Deckard is also a replicant and was granted access to Deckard’s files (including his replicated feelings), the same way Deckard eventually knew about Rachael’s memory of a green spider, her making of a web and eventually thousand little spiders eating her alive (this part is no joke, there are actually spiders that provide for their offspring in exactly this bizarre way).
However, if you leave out the unicorn scene, the origami itself means nothing.
Furthermore, even if you have both the scene and unicorn origami, it is still no proof, just a hint at the possibility. Eventually, I would say that this question is more of a philosophical nature and that viewer is absolutely free to make his/her own mind about it.
This section got reaaaally long, sorry about that; I probably should have written an entire article titled “Is Deckard a replicant or not?” instead!
Blade Runner 2 won’t be a financial success
Blade Runner was a work of art – messy at times, skewed, unclear on how far will it go, but in the end still a work of art rather than a successful movie by Hollywood standards. When it was made, the investors expected it to be a moneymaker. Remember, at 1982 Harrison Ford was famous for his Han Solo and Indiana Jones roles, and Ridley Scott just finished “Alien”. Everybody had a Sci-Fi action flick with flying cars in mind; well, at least the investors and the audience thought it would come out that way. When they got a slow, exhausting drama that was grim, anti-heroic (the main protagonist shoots kills two women, one of them by shooting her in the back as she flees!), enigmatic and ambiguous, well, they weren’t happy. The majority of the cinema audience was equally unhappy. It didn’t make as nearly enough movie as it should have.
Remaking a Blade Runner today would demand for an investment I am definitely certain none of the old crew would be able to provide. I am equally surprised that Harrison Ford decided to go with the sequel; it is no secret that Blade Runner was one of his least favorite movies and he shunned talking about it whenever asked in interviews. He actually had a horrible relationship with Sean Young and, for whatever reason, they couldn’t stand each other, even though they always performed their roles with professionalism. In fact, the entire movie was a painful experience for most of the actors and crew who worked under very difficult and depressing circumstances. But out of this odd synergies, a masterpiece emerged, one that I am certain that nobody on his or her own (not even Ridley) would have been able to produce.
So, this effectively means that Blade Runner 2 can hardly be better than the original if one is trying to satisfy the hard core audience – the people who watched the movie religiously throughout the years and spread it like a gospel.
It almost certainly means that if the movie tries, as it has in 1982, to pretend to be an action blockbuster and satisfy a wide audience of moviegoers, it will fail even harder than it has more than 30 ears ago.
I love Blade Runner and wouldn’t mind to see a dozen sequels if they are done well, but I fear that the idea of a sequel is nothing but the lack of imagination on behalf of Hollywood. Currently I am watching the sequel of Independence Day nearing to cinema release in 2016, twenty years after the success of the initial movie, one of the first “blockbusters” of our time. That one has a chance to reap a moderate success in theaters worldwide, but I have a hunch that the audience (and sales numbers) will still say that the original was way better.
Blade Runner 2 probably won’t succeed in either area.