Questions of humanity and authenticity have always been at the heart of the Blade Runner universe. In Ridley Scott’s original film, Rick Deckard a “blade runner,” administers an “empathy test” meant to distinguish humans from realistic androids known as replicants, and fans have spent well over three decades debating whether Deckard himself is a replicant. Denis Villeneuve’s sequel, Blade Runner 2049 (2017), deftly maintains a sense of ambiguity regarding Deckard’s origins, and also finds new ways to wrestle with the question of what it means to be “real.”
Tag: Blade Runner
That Blade Runner has appeared in multiple forms since its release in 1982 is no secret. In fact, it’s become part of the legend. Picking apart the differences and discerning new meanings has kept people occupied for years and spawned a misleading debate that obsesses over the wrong things.
In particular, the perennial Rick Deckard question tends to dominate. Is Harrison Ford’s replicant-hunting police officer – a Blade Runner as they are more commonly known – one of the very creations he dedicates his life to destroying? It’s certainly an intriguing idea and, thanks to the ambiguity clouding so much of Blade Runner, one that has sparked furious argument for decades. It’s also a little beside the point.
So: is Deckard a replicant? This is the question that most everyone comes to after seeing BLADE RUNNER, especially if the version in question is Ridley Scott’s 2007 FINAL CUT. There are seven distinct version of the film – including the U.S. and International Theatrical Cuts (both 1982) and the Director’s Cut (1992) – each of which is evidence of a continued preoccupation with this dystopian vision of our future. Granted, the broad strokes of all seven versions are more or less the same. Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, an android-hunting policeman quite different than most other Ford heroes. Regardless of which version you’re watching, BLADE RUNNER is about Deckard’s brush with dehumanization after he’s assigned to track down a band of escaped androids (“replicants”) and terminate them before they discover a way to extend their own lifespans.
By Kris Tronerud
Blade Runner – 1982- dir. Ridley Scott – Official Trailer
All these moments will be lost… in time… like tears in the rain…
— Rutger Hauer to Harrison Ford in Blade Runner
When Blade Runner was finally released in 1982, after a long, arduous and grueling production history, marked by equal measures of technical difficulty and personal turmoil, it met with a decisively lukewarm reception from a confused and disappointed public. In the wake of Harrison’s Ford’s sudden rise to stardom in Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, adoring new fans expected to see ‘Indiana’ in another riproaring, uplifting sci-fi epic. What they got was a dark and dystopian dreamscape of a movie, a violent futurist nightmare with the heart of a classic private eye noir, and a lot more on its mind than explosions and derring-do. Additionally saddled with a lugubrious studio endorsed faux Raymond Chandler narration (which Ford purposely read in as expressionless a manner as possible, hoping the studio would drop it) and a mawkish ‘happy’ ending based on unused footage from, of all things, The Shining, Blade Runner was doomed in its initial run; but over the years, a number of different cuts of the film appeared on tape, laser disc, and in festival showings (a total of seven discrete versions, according to Paul Sammon’s terrific essay “The Seven Faces of Blade Runner“) provoking continued fan interest and debate, and with the release in 1992 of the Official Director’s Cut, this emotionally charged, visually resplendent film was, finally, properly acknowledged as Ridley Scott’s masterwork, and quite arguably, the best science fiction film of all time.