Blade Runner is today considered a cinematic masterpiece, no matter how unloved it was upon its original release. After spending a while as a “cult film” it is now regarded one of the all-time best science fiction films with world-famous production design and an instantly recognisable score. It has also given us one of the most enduring movie-centric debates of all time centring on the lead character, Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard.
Is Deckard a Replicant or not?
This question has even sparked a debate from time to time here at Last Movie Outpost, both in the Disqus and behind the scenes. Heck, our very own Drunken Yoda even made a video about it. You can check that out here:
We could burn through paragraphs here giving commentary and analysis, but where would be the fun in that? So let’s just hand over to our two master-debaters to put their points across.
In The Blue Corner
Gigantic Cahuna who says that Deckard is Human.
First of all we need to look at the source. In Philip K. Dicks novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, Deckard is most definitely not a replicant.
Then we need to consider the historical context. The questions around Deckard’s humanity have not been enduring since 1982. They started with the Directors Cut, due to a couple of inserts. When the theory went big in fandom, especially in the early days of the internet with chatrooms, Ridley Scott latched onto it and talked it up again and again as yet another Directors Cut was to be released.
There are five versions of the movie, and it has been the subject of countless overblown cultural analysis pieces that have allowed this artificially created pot point to permeate.
The writers of the screenplay, Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, were on record as saying they never wrote Deckard to be a replicant. Over time Fancher has only said he is happy with ambiguity.
Harrison Ford has said he never played the character as a replicant, the character was never written as a replicant and they never even discussed the possibility while making the original movie.
Then there are themes, plot points and dialogue. Isn’t the central theme around what makes you human? Batty demonstrates humanity, the very empathy the Voight-Kampff test is supposed to prove Replicants don’t have, when he saves Deckard’s life before expiring. This is juxtaposed against Deckard realizing the value of life and regaining his own humanity over the course of the hunt for the Replicants.
Gaff reminds Deckard that Rachel won’t live. Deckard wouldn’t need to have this comment made to him if Deckard was also going to expire.
Deckard isn’t as strong or as fast as Batty and the rest of his team, pointing to his being a human.
Finally, in Blade Runner 2049, Deckard is shown to have survived for 30 more years, which is a huge leap from the limited lives of a replicant. He’s not only survived, he’s also grown demonstrably older.
In The Red Corner
Many, many people on the internet who say that Deckard is a Replicant.
They point to the unicorn dreams, and Gaff leaving the unicorn origami. They highlight the fact that Deckard’s apartment is full of photographs, but none of them recent or in color. They mention wider media around the franchise that talks to Replicants having a taste for photographs, because it provides a tie to a non-existent past.
The scene in which Rachael asks Deckard whether he has passed the Voight-Kampff test himself, Deckard doesn’t answer.
Gaff has shown very little positive regard for Deckard at all in the course of the film. He does tell him, strangely, that “You’ve done a man’s job, sir!” after Roy expires.
He lets Rachael live and does not intervene when she and Deckard leave his apartment.
Some people also talk about a red tint seen in both Deckard and Rachel’s eyes.
So have at it Outposters! Who is right? Who is wrong? The Great Debate is here, so let’s settle this Blade Runner debate forever… well, at least until the next time it happens.