Has the director finally resolved one of the latest debates in modern cinema?
Denis Villeneuve, director of the eagerly expected, 30 years-in-the-making, sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 common film Edge Runner, may have settled one of the most hotly debated subject areas in contemporary theatre – is Deckard a replicant?
Deckard, the movie’s main personality, enjoyed by Harrison Ford, who reprises his role in Villeneuve’s sequel, is a Edge Runner – an elite police officer whose job is to hunt down and ‘retire’ (kill) escaped replicants – a competition of manufactured humans bred as a slave labour power for space colonies. The initial film, specifically in Scott’s later choice cuts, left a huge question draw over whether Deckard himself was unknowingly a replicant.
Talking with The National at the film’s international press introduction in Berlin, relating to this question, Villeneuve says: “I didn’t find the response in the movies, I found the answer in the book, where there is very much contact between replicants, between humans and non-humans that they start to doubt their own id.”
Followers of ‘the reserve’ – Phillip K Dick’s brief history Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), on which Blade Runner is situated, will remember that the literary Deckard is very much indeed individual – the booklet deals with how Deckard becomes more and more dehumanised through his brutal job, while the replicants become progressively human being as they seek their own identities, to the main point where the two commence to converge. If Villeneuve is using the booklet as his source, rather than the ambiguous films, then it could seem the Deckard we will have in the new film is obviously individuals, although Villeneuve shows that the question is in fact more important than the solution: “I really like that sensation of fabricating questions relating to this paranoia about ourselves. I like asking questions, I’m not bothered about the answers. I like this idea of, ‘Is Deckard a replicant or not?’ To ask the question is interesting, to own that pressure.”
Director of the movie Denis Villeneuve and cast people Ryan Gosling, centre, and Harrison Ford participate discuss the forthcoming Knife Runner 2049 film at Comic-Con in San Diego on the weekend. Reuters / Mario Anzuoni
Villeneuve is not the sole person connected to the film who has expressed an opinion in the problem. Ridley Scott emphatically informed the 2000 Route Four documentary, Around the Edge of Cutting tool Runner, “He’s a replicant.” Original screenwriter Hampton Fancher, who also co-wrote the new movie, disagrees. He advised a 2008 supporter convention in LA: “Ridley’s off. He’s totally incorrect. His idea is too sophisticated.”
Villeneuve knows the disagreements: “If Ridley was sitting down here now he would say, ‘What are you discussing? He’s a replicant.’ But when you talk with Harrison Ford he’ll say, ‘Of course he’s individuals.’ Me, I just love the question, and truthfully, that’s what’s interesting about technology fiction.
“You can address these existential questions with the restrictions of technology and perception. I think it’s attractive.”
We’ll have to hold back for the film to see if any further questions are raised this time around, but for the time coming to least, from the director’s own mouth area, it looks like Deckard is a human being.