Is Deckard really a replicant?
Despite my perception that Blade Runner 2049 cleared that issue up once and for all – with an obvious answer of “No” – apparently it’s still an open question, according to some of the filmmakers involved.
That’s a shame, because declaring Deckard human is what gives this whole universe spiritual meaning.
First, just the facts. The case should’ve been closed with the trailer, quite frankly. Why? Because we see an old Deckard, and replicants don’t age. Sure, fans may have been wondering if 2049 would reveal that this replicant could age, but that twist wouldn’t make any sense. It would actually defy logic. Replicants were made to be slaves, after all, and what’s the purpose of an aging slave?
The only reason this was ever debated to begin with is because, long ago, original director Ridley Scott posited quite firmly that, so far as he was concerned, Deckard was a replicant. Meanwhile, screenwriter Hampton Fancher (for both Blade Runner films) has always and resolutely stated that Deckard is, without a doubt, human. Harrison Ford has prescribed to Fancher’s view as well.
But movie geeks will never be able to set aside a fascinating nerd mystery that lingers in pop culture lore, and the Deckard/Replicant question has become an all-timer for fans of the cult classic.
I’ve always felt that “Deckard as replicant” made him a less interesting character, and the story’s themes less compelling. Once you get past what a nifty little plot twist that would be, having two replicants go on the run together (after falling for each other) is, well, pretty boring. Of course that’s what two replicants would do because that’s what replicants do! They flee for their lives.
What’s more interesting is for a human and a replicant to choose to cross that species divide, particularly between “Creator” and “Creation”. The implications, themes, and ideas are much more complex and riveting.
When I saw Blade Runner 2049, it seemed to embrace and double-down on the potential of those implications. To me, the confirmation of Deckard’s humanity was pretty simple:
Deckard impregnated Rachel.
I mean, what more do you need? Human semen mysteriously (miraculously?) found fertile soil in a replicant womb. Unless, of course, we’re to suppose that Replicants have organic semen, too, not just artificial, the kind that can create life.
Nothing in the film substantiates this, which makes it harder to buy into, plus it’d be far less miraculous. Indeed, it would be literal science. Impressive, sure, and even revolutionary, but not truly miraculous. And this movie stressed in no uncertain terms that what happened here was a miracle.
Now lets take this even further, to how it all played out in the story and some of the religious symbolism going on.
The primary reason their child was so valuable was because it was a hybrid child, both human and replicant. A first of its kind (as opposed to just another replicant that happened to be conceived, not made). Their child was a new creation, not a common one created by new means.
Which finally leads us to the symbolism: their child is a Christ figure.
Sure, it’s a daughter in this case, Ana, not a son, despite being deceptively suggested for most of the movie that it was K (well played, Denis). And here’s why the Christ figure is more intriguing, even beyond the narrative Messianic possibilities.
Christ had two natures, equal parts God and man. His father was God and his mother was human. Same thing here. Deckard (“Creator”) and Rachel (“Creation”) gave birth to a child of two equal natures. This was the miracle alluded to in the opening scene, a miracle that inextricably united Creator and Creation.
The ultimate purpose of this union? To reconcile the two, so that Creator and Creation would be one. Salvation itself is at stake.
Consider these words by St. John Kronstadt, on the Incarnation of Christ:
- “The incarnation is not only an act of love but an act of salvation. Jesus Christ, by uniting man and God in his own person, reopened for man the path to union with God.”
Another Blade Runner film could approach Ana in the same way, reopening for replicant the path to union with humanity.
In the event of another sequel (unlikely, given the low box office), this could serve as a fascinating basis, not just for the “Replicant Uprising” alluded to in 2049 but to actually have a Christ figure confound both its followers and enemies by pursuing love, peace, and forgiveness, not retribution or an earthly throne.
This would be infinitely more interesting, and challenging, than a simple “battle”, and given the philosophical depth that the first two films were driven by I’d trust that a third movie could do well by this possibility.
And in terms of the characters, they could bring K back (either not having died, or rebooting him) to serve as a John the Baptist figure for Ana Deckard’s messiah. Plus, we’d be given another Chosen One that’s female rather than male. Our pop culture could use more of those so that Rey isn’t all by her lonesome.
With Villeneuve, Fancher, and Scott guiding it all, I’d trust that this Chosen One would be as much about actual ideas and virtues and not restricted to just an iconic template for an action narrative.
That said: if it all ends here, there’s something really poetic about the final shot being of Deckard seeing his daughter for the first time. That was a moving, poignant grace note to end on.
But there’s truly great potential for so much more.