Blade Runner (1982)
December 9, 2016 1:25 PM - Subscribe

A blade runner must pursue and try to retire four replicants who stole a ship in space and have returned to Earth to find their creator.

The film depicts a dystopian Los Angeles in which genetically engineered replicants, which are visually indistinguishable from adult humans, are manufactured by the powerful Tyrell Corporation. The use of replicants on Earth is banned and they are exclusively utilized for dangerous or menial work on off-world colonies. Replicants who defy the ban and return to Earth are hunted down and killed ("retired") by special police operatives known as "Blade Runners". The plot focuses on a group of recently escaped replicants hiding in L.A. and the burnt-out expert Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who reluctantly agrees to take on one more assignment to hunt them down.[1]
posted by frimble (48 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The Voight-Kampff empathy test is surely one of the top most referenced bits of pop culture on Metafilter.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:35 PM on December 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

This is such a great film, I need to go watch it again. There's lots going on in it: questions about what it means to be human; the importance of memory; the obligations and relationships of parents/gods to their children/creations; plus it establishes an aesthetic that becomes a big part of the then-developing Cyberpunk wave of SF. Reading the book adds another layer, at least in terms of understanding the importance of the animal imagery that is used throughout the film.

Somewhere along the line I picked up the DVD release that has the original theatrical cut; the director's cut; and the director's recut. I can sometimes get confused which version has which scenes in it...
posted by nubs at 3:23 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

The visuals were indeed stunning, but I feel that the soundtrack deserves a lot more love.
posted by porpoise at 3:26 PM on December 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

Just wanted to pop in and add that I can't believe this movie has not been posted on Fanfare. Pretty much required watching for any sci-fi movie nerd.
posted by numaner at 3:43 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to pop in and add that I can't believe this movie has not been posted on Fanfare. Pretty much required watching for any sci-fi movie nerd.

I can believe it. It's quite misogynistic compared to today's SF media. I mean, come on, considering the circumstances when Rachael tells Deckard "I want you inside me," do you think that's affirmative, joyous consent? It's completely unimportant in that moment who is or isn't human, and not in a good way.

My wife has never seen the film and refuses to watch it for a number of reasons, and I have no doubt that the scene I describe above would be one of them if she knew about it.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:08 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best film ever.
Well, at least it's my favourite. My laptop has been rotating stills and pictures from the movie (later, 1080p screencaps) almost since the first time it was turned on six years ago. But for all the problems it had, it is a small miracle how much of masterpiece on every aspect it turned out to be. Visually, it made the most out of the limitations it had on production (and something I hope the sequel get right - just because it's possible to CGI everything, a lot of the ambient from BR was from the claustrophobic neon-tinged blackness), and the soundtrack is a great piece of work, helping the movie to use dialogue very sparingly - very few movies manage to set the tone with music alone this well.

Also, from a freak coincidence, I've watched it on November 6 on 2014. Then again, the exact same date last year. Keeping up with the tradition, it is now the official "Blade Runner / LiT day".

I can't believe this movie has not been posted on Fanfare.
I think this is a bit of a problem with FF, particularly movies. After a while, posts kind of die down and even if someone makes a new comment, it remains buried. I think most people presumed there was already a BR post, but knowing they could post something and nobody would notice, just went ahead and forgot about it.


Deckard is a replicant.
posted by lmfsilva at 4:10 PM on December 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I love the movie, but I listen to the soundtrack more than I watch the movie... it's peak Vangelis.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 7:34 PM on December 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

So, which cut are we all talking about, anyway?
posted by tobascodagama at 8:16 PM on December 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

Deckard is a replicant.

There is no doubt.

That's partially why I found the Theatrical Cut ending to be a lot more sad than the DC/Criterion ending. In the TC, the (borrowed shots in the Canadian Rockies from The Shining) suggested that they succeeding in escaping border security (on Rachel's $$$ and fixers, and other Bladerunners, & Tyrell's people) and ended up in a small modern First Nations-majority community and are found dead together one morning, of no apparent reason.

Or even worse, Deckard goes first and Rachel has hexathoughts about whether she's really a replicant or not and goes mad, commits suicide, and turns out not to be a replicant.

The DC cut ends with the elevator doors closing. Who knows what might happen to them next? Possibly not bad things, even.
posted by porpoise at 9:56 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I haven't watched the original release in ages - I just remember the voice overs and the BS happy ending, which I always found really out of tone with the rest of the film in addition to the fact that as stated above, the movie makes it pretty clear that Deckard is a replicant himself. Also, the relationship with Rachel is a rather ugly thing in and of itself - seeing the two of them drive off into the sunset together is actually kind of disturbing. I prefer the vagueness of the Director's Cut ending, where you just don't know what happens to them once those doors close.

I'm most familiar with the Director's Cut; I think I've watched the Ultimate Cut once or twice and don't recall the differences, honestly, outside of the fact that I think it goes even further towards pushing the notion that Deckard is a replicant.

It's quite misogynistic compared to today's SF media.

It is. The three female characters are all presented as objects, primarily for sex - Zhora and Pris are sex workers, and Rachel is pretty much treated as one, or at least as a being whose consent is not relevant. Tyrell views her as an experimental curiosity and Deckard...well, Deckard is a shit. Plus, they are all engineered beings - created for their roles. I'd love to be able to defend it against this charge, but it doesn't treat women well at all.

I still love the movie, though. I think it's entirely possible for a work to have both some deep flaws and some strong merits.

Speaking of Deckard being a shit...well, it's fascinating in a way; he's the character we spend the most time with, and is supposedly the protagonist, but he's really not all that likeable or compelling or smart. Roy Batty is the far more compelling and dynamic character; I dare say he's the true protagonist of the film. Which gets to the final line of the film: "It's a shame she won't live...but then again, who does?" I don't view that line in the context of the premature death of the replicants, but as a statement about what gets done with the time they have. Roy truly lived - "all these moments lost, like tears in rain" - but has Deckard? Has Rachel? That's why I like the ambiguity of the ending - maybe Deckard learned something from Roy; maybe he's off to finally live.
posted by nubs at 10:24 PM on December 9, 2016 [10 favorites]

Having the elevator door close and then cutting to the Love Theme instead of the End Titles is just a cataclysmic waste of Vangelis firing on all cylinders. It's bad enough that the happy ending voiceover riffs on what Gaff says a third time right after it echoes in Deckard's head the second time, which was probably one time too much already. No. Just no.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 10:28 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is Blade Runner misogynistic? I think there's more involved in the question than just saying Pris and Zhora were sexbots and Rachael shown to exhibit similar traits. If one takes the analogy of replicants for slaves, then the presumed burden of their behavior falls more on their creators ideals and their predetermined roles in the society they were made for then on the women themselves. by which I mean that they were made to be primarily understood in facilitating a sexual function can be understood as a comment aimed at the social structure rather than simply a way to exhibit values the filmmakers held, a comment on society rather than a acceptance in that way.

Zhora, for example, is humanized, or more accurately "humanized" after her execution by showing and discussing the artifacts she kept to remind her of her life. We see her killed as an anonymous "villain", and only afterwards are given an indication that she is more than a rogue replicant. This sets up the main theme of the film, where the replicants are increasingly shown to be more "human" than those who created them. While Brion James is not sexualized and might be presumed then to be designed as a worker, Roy is at least as idealized physically as Pris, Zhora, and Rachael. (That there is more than a hint of fascism in that ideal is something worth noting too of course.)

Pris, shown hiding as a doll, breaks out ferociously from that position to attack Deckard before getting killed herself. That she was able to conceal herself that way can speak as much to the mindset of Chew, who made all the repli-dolls, as it does her own self-image. That is what she was seen as being, not necessarily what she believed herself to be, hence her rebellion. Roy's reaction to her death underlines that, as it is not the reaction to the loss of a sextoy and it is more heartfelt, and her death scene more disturbing, than the reaction to the death of Chew.

Rachael's "seduction" of Deckard plays off her undetermined status, is she doing as she was designed or is it meant? The ambiguity is multifaceted given the uncertain awareness of "real" identity surrounding her and Deckard. This too speaks to the end of the film and the mistaken concern over answering whether or not Deckard is a replicant. The most meaningful answer is simply neither he nor we know. To want it made more definitive sort of misses the point of much of the action or limits its possibilities. For example, if Deckard is definitely a replicant, then Roy saving him means less or something quite different than if he were a human.

A rebel replicant saving one of his own kind doesn't go as far as the more uncertain reading allows, where Roy may be saving a human (Or slaver) bent on killing him has a different tone of reconciliatory possibility than in saving another replicant, but limiting Deckard to definitely being human limits the potential for connection the other way, where Roy is a decidedly different construct than Deckard, making Roy's gesture a weaker one as it doesn't carry the same potential for Deckard understanding himself as being of the same stuff as Roy, and through extension, Rachael, That would make Deckard's going off with Rachael closer to an escape from reality than an understanding of their places in it, cutting against that heavily quote speech Roy gives among other things.

All that said, I'm not an enormous fan of the film. I like it well enough, but don't find it exceptionally rewarding in its use of metaphor or analogy. It's a little too simplified a form for me to really love, but, like several of the other big sci-fi films of the time, the production design is amazing and on its own adds some unspoken layers to the possible understandings on the world shown in the movie. In both this and Alien, Ridley Scott allowed his collaborators to provide a context for the narrative that is as powerful in its way as the main storyline we follow. That makes the film worth repeat watchings for me. (Though I haven't actually rewatched in many years now, and I too forget which versions are which other than holding the original theatrical release as the primary reference since I saw that when it opened and it colors any other versions I've seen since by dint of first memory.)
posted by gusottertrout at 12:18 AM on December 10, 2016 [15 favorites]

This is my favorite movie of all time (one of my dogs is even named Zhora). And a big part of why it works so well are the weird little inconsistencies like Roy in the phone booth. I still wish we'd seen the Holden in the hospital scene though....

And it has some of the best, most subtle sound design ever. Especially in the Rachel V-K test scene.
posted by biscotti at 6:25 AM on December 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I started reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep a little while ago, and have been busy so haven't made too big a dent in it, but wow there is a lot of literal sheep in it. I'm about a quarter of the way through and so far it's been surprisingly sheep-heavy. I had no idea. I thought it was just a metaphor.

It's been several years since the last time I watched Blade Runner and I don't remember...are there any sheep in it?
posted by phunniemee at 2:48 PM on December 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Well, Sebastian seems easily led.
posted by comealongpole at 3:08 PM on December 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh youse guys, such profound observations, I'm just disappointed we don't have sky's filled with video blimps and mass produced boa constrictors (sigh, given up on flying cars).

I remember being distinctly disappointed in the flying through clouds ending, mostly that it was suddenly sunny away from the "interesting" world of high tech LA.

From a contemporary tech view the scene where Roy fakes his way to ride up the elevator without massive surveillance is the most jarring disconnect from our "real" world.
posted by sammyo at 3:42 PM on December 10, 2016

The most meaningful answer is simply neither he nor we know.

But even if I agree that interpretation would be more meaningful or satisfying, the movie is quite definitive that Deckard is a replicant, because of how the movie uses redeye and because (in the DC variants) Gaff knows the content of Deckard's dreams.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:52 AM on December 11, 2016

"Gaff knows the content of Deckard's dreams."

That never convinced me that Deckard is a replicable. Tyrell's niece has the same memories as Rachel but the niece isn't a replicant and yet the memories are known.

Now Deckard is a replicant according to Scott but Ford and Hauer both disagreed with that since it makes the final "fight" of the movie meaningless. Still, different things can be brought out of the film from different perspectives.

Also, Deckard is an alcoholic. He keeps drinking a lot and the point is driven home when Deckard is at Taffy's club and Taffy basically gets Deckard to stop asking questions by getting him a free drink. That's one of the other reasons why I don't get the whole "Deckard is a replicant" angle: All of the other Replicants have built in advantages that make them best suited for their jobs off-world but Deckard doesn't really have that. He seems like standard rate detective but he's not shown as being exceptional and mainly just does routine police legwork and even fails at that at Taffy's club.

Why I love the movie though is because of the universe the movie takes place in. I love how Syd Mead designed the world. There's a sci-fi conference promotion reel of the movie that has Syd talking about the parking meters of all things. They're designed to be able to take cards as payment and there's a lot of thought that went into their design even though they're only a background set piece. It's like a Gibson story where the plot is a lens through which the fictional universe is viewed and explored. That's why my favorite version of the film is the workprint version. It's the longest and features the most backgrounds. You view it and some parts seem extremely modern that you find yourself wondering if you're accidentally watching the Final Cut instead.

Oh, and the voiceover in the theatrical cut is even worse than I remembered since it's basically ends a quarter of the movie in. I actually do want a cyberpunk noir film with a voiceover like that though with a better read. Might have to keep waiting or write it myself, I guess.
posted by I-baLL at 10:33 AM on December 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I love how Syd Mead designed the world.

A lot if it is thanks to retrofitting - instead of coming up with lots of outrageous designs, Mead designed the "common" world like it was built on top of ours, and it helps it look lived in, unlike the often minimalist/brutalist/WHITE AND GLASS EVERYWHERE sets where they try to make everyone looking either in abject squalor or in a impossibly tidy cleanroom.

50 years in the future, there will be a lot of people living in the same houses we have now. Some areas will have buildings built 10, 20, 30, 40 years from now, not just stuff that looked like it appeared like magic the year before the story begins. And some of those houses will have to be retrofitted because any technological advance won't magically be applied to them.
For instance, a lot of apartment houses here built in the 70s might have, at best, a roof aerial socket. When cable appeared, people started to have to drag a cable from the utilities box to the living room. When the internet appeared, people either put their computers where the phone line was, or had to drag a cable from the phone to the modem. Then some houses were designed to have cables running trough the baseboard (IIRC) to outlets and everything looked a bit smarter. But when computers and TVs became cheaper, and people could afford one to put in the bedrooms, making the same arrangements as before might have been the only chance of doing so.

A lot of sci-fi just wishes those things away. Even in the era of wi-fi, older houses still might have the holes where the cables passed . All that adds to character. Unless some living place has an excuse to look new or renovated (say, in High Rise), the set must look like someone lives there (like Deckard's or Sebastian's place) and is not a page from Ikea's 2053 catalog.
posted by lmfsilva at 12:21 PM on December 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

Why I love the movie though is because of the universe the movie takes place in.

I think there was a FFP about these a few years back, but I think it's worth linking to the magazine covers here.
(Original Flickr Gallery with full set)
posted by radwolf76 at 12:54 PM on December 11, 2016

I have a special place in my heart for this film. I was a kid when Dad took me to see it. I didn't get how noir was cool yet, and putting it in a dystopian future just sealed the deal.

So they release the Director's Cut and pops and I sit down and watch it. Mom came in to the backroom that Christmas and asked why we were both crying. It wasn't that it was a great movie, it was a real Dad and Son moment that I will never ever forget.

Love you, Dad.
posted by Sphinx at 1:04 PM on December 11, 2016 [7 favorites]

That never convinced me that Deckard is a replicable. Tyrell's niece has the same memories as Rachel but the niece isn't a replicant and yet the memories are known.

So Deckard is some guy who had his memories recorded at some point but that never comes up in the movie at all? And the movie makes a point of showing us that Gaff knows... the contents of these recorded memories? Like that's relevant for some reason?

All of the other Replicants have built in advantages that make them best suited for their jobs off-world but Deckard doesn't really have that.

He survived Zhora, Pris, and Roy beating on him, and was able to defeat Pris and Zhora, who had been a "kick murder" assassin, in close combat. I still want to know what a kick murder squad is. Are there also punch murder squads?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:47 PM on December 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh, and the voiceover in the theatrical cut is even worse than I remembered since it's basically ends a quarter of the movie in.

The studio forced it on the film. Scott and Ford hated it. Ultimately, even the studio execs hated it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:03 PM on December 11, 2016

That never convinced me that Deckard is a replicable.

“He is definitely a replicant”
Ridley Scott, December 2014
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:11 PM on December 11, 2016

So Deckard is some guy who had his memories recorded at some point but that never comes up in the movie at all? And the movie makes a point of showing us that Gaff knows... the contents of these recorded memories? Like that's relevant for some reason?
In my opinion, the movie makes the most sense if you assume Deckard has Gaff's memories.
posted by mbrubeck at 5:23 PM on December 11, 2016 [8 favorites]

Of all the cuts they've released from this film, one without approximately 25 seconds from the rapey scene would have best served the story. If they'd simply removed the part where he's telling her what to say, I would have loved this film forever.

In my head canon, that scene is appropriatelly truncated so I can appreciate the rest of it.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:00 PM on December 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

In my opinion, the movie makes the most sense if you assume Deckard has Gaff's memories.

Huh. My own headcanon is that (a) Deckard is basically freshly booted up when we see him buying noodles, and that (b) he's mostly a copy of Holden. But I don't have any real reason to think that except that Holden looks a little like Deckard and they have a vaguely similar attitude.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:32 PM on December 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

In my opinion, the movie makes the most sense if you assume Deckard has Gaff's memories.

I never thought about that before, but... Fuck. Yeah, I think that's right. Totally explains Gaff knowing his dreams.

Deckard having Holden's memories would also make sense, but it doesn't explain as much as having Gaff's.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:36 PM on December 11, 2016

“He is definitely a replicant”
Ridley Scott, December 2014

Ridley Scott saying Deckard is a replicant doesn't make it so.
posted by Pendragon at 3:44 AM on December 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Olmos' Japanese is so bad in this movie.
posted by Quonab at 9:33 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Gaff is supposed to be speaking a (fictional) pidgin called Cityspeak, “a mishmash of Japanese, Spanish, German, what have you.”
posted by mbrubeck at 9:41 AM on December 12, 2016 [6 favorites]

In my headcannon, Gaff knows about the dream because the dream was implanted along with other barcode/fingerprint memories that are part of all (official?) memory implantations - to make it easier to distinguish an implantee from an original.

I've convinced myself that either one of Rachel's memories that Deckard recites to her is an implanted fingerprint rather than a memory that Tyrell (creepily?) knows about. "Niece" has been used as an euphemism for certain relationships - despite/because the original Rachel may very well have been his niece, for either use of the word.

I'm totally down with Deckard being mostly Gaff memories; Gaff suffers a serious injury and is physically limited beyond being a v1.0 human; he can still continue to most of the brain-powered parts of being a Bladerunner and feed the analyzed data to Deckard, who has Gaff engrams, who then does the footwork. Kind of like a highly sophisticated drone that runs on algorithms rather than controlled by wire, and on the strengths of having the same engrams could be manipulated without [Deckard] knowing about it [manipulated] rather efficiently. If you lose a Deckard, you implant another Nexus 6 chasis and set it loose.

As to whose memories Deckard was implanted with, I'd assumed that it was a mishmash of different memories that would create a personality that would be effective at tracking down and eliminating rogue replicants. Many of which are simply fabricated (either by actors or created synthetically), or were fabricated but proved less effective than actual memories, returning to harvesting and splicing actual memories.

Hence, he also had the old photos that were proxy memories (like Leon the replicant); implanted replicants can recall those superficially (ie., of his mom playing one piano song) but nothing else about the person (like, what their cooking was like), which might be the common trigger that implanted replicants realize that they're replicants and go rogue.

As memory implant technology progresses, I'd assume that it'd either go down brute force road of "more memories" but I suspect that they'd manufacture memories to repress the desire to remember more details, like, a series of abusive events or whatever (like amnesia, but wouldn't it be kind of strange if every other person you met also had retrograde amnesia, whereas abuse is less often freely shared as part of routine introduction) - because it's more economical.

Then you run into consequences of that choice/those kinds of choices.

The above was mostly synthesized before 2016. Now, I'm dejected to think that there are even easier solutions to memory implant strategies to produce 'domesticated' and docile Nexus 6 slaves and still properly retain the usefulness of their 'higher' functions.
posted by porpoise at 7:17 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'll have to watch it again but I don't remember feeling it was particularly misogynistic- more that it was an observation of the misogyny of the society that replicants are trying to emulate by rote memorization or something. Most of them, particularly Deckard and Rachel, are like emotional 6 year olds in adult bodies.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:31 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pris doesn't get a very big part compared to Roy but I remember Saint both of them as sympathetic, tragic characters. I haven't seen it in a long time though.

Why are we even talking about the "happy ending" version?
posted by atoxyl at 12:19 AM on December 20, 2016

The "happy ending" isn't great, but I find the director's cut one worse, with the cuts between Deckard's dream and him looking at the origami unicorn being way too much.

The alternate take on the happy ending road trip included with the Final Cut, showing a conversation in the car between Rachael and Deckard had a lot of potential, but the scene doesn't flow as well as it could to be definitive, but the end line where she says "You know what else I think? That you and I were made for each other" at least provides a nice little twist to the Deckard is a replicant notion.

But the final cut ending at the elevator door closing is probably the most suitable I'd say.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:23 AM on December 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't actually remember what the Final Cut does differently with the ending than the Director's Cut. But I do have an odd thing which makes the Final Cut the definitive version for me, and that's the reintegration of the more graphic version of Tyrell's death. The first version I saw as a kid was the international version (I guess it's called?) and that version of the eye scene stuck with me so much I felt like something was missing in the original "Director's Cut."
posted by atoxyl at 12:05 PM on December 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't understand why Deckard's "dream" is such a big deal. The way Ridley Scott shot it, it doesn't even look like a true dream or vision, it looks like he was simply daydreaming at his piano. Who's to say he didn't see one of Gaff's origami lying around the police station (or anywhere in LA 2019) and imagined a unicorn? Just because Scott attempts to imply a hidden twist, which completely undermines the very themes of his own movie, doesn't mean we have to buy what he's selling on face value. Never mind the "unicorn dreams are a standard implanted memory that Deckard read in Rachel's file" theory, it simply could've been "Deckard saw Gaff fucking around with folding paper while on the job."
posted by Apocryphon at 11:33 PM on September 30, 2017

The problem with all the Deckard-isn't-a-replicant ideas is that you have to ignore the fact that you're watching a movie and that in movies, unlike real life, the things we see are happening because they were specifically chosen to be shown to us, for reasons.

It's certainly possible to imagine a world in which a nonreplicant Deckard has a daydream inspired by a thing he Gaff making and that's all. But then, why would the movie show it to us? Likewise, the redeye is easy to explain away as an element of "real life" and basically impossible to explain away in the movie, where showing redeye for replicants and Deckard is an intentional choice and not happenstance. The movie is quite definitive that Deckard is a replicant.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:45 AM on October 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the directorial intent around Deckard for Blade Runner is that he is a replicant (the question is handled differently, and more directly in the book), although Fancher (the screenwriter) wanted it to be ambiguous. But the the movie structures things to point to that conclusion - the reflecting tapetum of the known replicants is also seen in Deckard's eyes for a split second; the vast number of photographs in Deckard's apartment parallels with Leon's "precious photos"; Gaff's origami throughout the movie implies knowledge of what is in Deckards mind (the chicken when Deckard attempts to refuse the job; the matchstick man with an erection after meeting Rachel; the unicorn, which implies knowledge of the unicorn vision/dream). It's possible for the unicorn dream to be random chance based on past observation of Gaff's predilections, but then why have it in the movie at all? Blade Runner is pretty deliberate and structured in so many of its choices, why would it be any different with the unicorn?

The unicorn figure at the end implies a great many things - not only that Gaff knows Deckard's dream, but also that he also knows that Rachel is in Deckard's apartment and is making the choice to let them go; he is giving Deckard a chance at life. Batty also gives Deckard a chance at life.

To me, the later point is the more interesting question of the unicorn (I kinda consider the "is Deckard a replicant" question somewhat moot and that the more important questions in the film are those it poses about humanity and what it means to be human). Why does Gaff - who has been somewhat of an ongoing thorn in Deckard's side throughout the film; there's a definite undercurrent of dislike there - allow him to leave with Rachel?

Just because Scott attempts to imply a hidden twist, which completely undermines the very themes of his own movie,

I guess it depends on what you see as the themes of the film - if the questions are around what it means to be human, what it means to truly live - then it really doesn't matter much what Deckard is; the movie does a fine job of showing us the passion for life the replicants have; so much so that they risk everything to find their maker and demand more. They rage against the dying of their light. Roy, in his last moments, uses Deckard as a means of passing along some of himself and his experiences, so that Deckard carries them forward.

I guess what I'm saying is that Blade Runner has a lot going on it; I heard it described once as a movie that is almost entirely subtext, which is why I think it has risen to become a classic - there are no good, clear answers to the questions the movie raises and the audience can even disagree as to what questions the movie is raising and their relative importance and meaning - it's a film that has different personal impacts for each viewer and on each viewing. Authorial and directoral intent matter, yes, but once the work is out there, the audience interpretation also matters in terms of the meaning of it all. Is Deckard a replicant? For me, the answer is yes, but it doesn't matter (though I take a certain wry amusement in a film looking at what it means to be human where all of the main characters are not - but perhaps that is the best way to do it); for others the answer is yes!; for others the answer is no, he can't be. Perhaps how and why we arrive at the answer to that question is more important than the question itself.
posted by nubs at 9:29 AM on October 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

I still haven't internalized half of what I know other people have said about this movie.
posted by rhizome at 11:10 AM on October 1, 2017

Yeah, but fuck authorial intent. If Ridley Scott wants to make a bad movie with a shitty twist that undermines his own themes, we're free to decide differently
posted by Apocryphon at 6:21 PM on October 1, 2017

I don't think intent comes into it at all. It's simply the most parsimonious reading of what's on screen.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:43 AM on October 2, 2017

To me the theme of "Humans can be more vicious and depraved than the killing machines that we ourselves built in our image" is powerful, and that turning Deckard into not a human is just completely cheapening that theme.

On the other hand, grappling with what it means to be human is less straightforward a moral, and fits with the proto-cyberpunk nature of PKD's writings. I do think that whether Deckard is a replicant or a human is a question that can be left unanswered. Like the last shot of Inception, it should raise philosophical questions and discussion. But for Ridley Scott to say "Yes, he's DEFINITELY a replicant" is just ruining the greatness of his own work.

Roy, in his last moments, uses Deckard as a means of passing along some of himself and his experiences, so that Deckard carries them forward.

And if Deckard is a replicant, that's rendered completely moot because he'll either get retired or die within a couple of years! Though maybe that reinforces the callous inhumanity of the cyberpunk setting. Maybe it still reinforces the theme of "man is the greatest murder machine" because we end up building murder machines that kill humans and then build another greater murder machine to murder those murder machines. But, that's more convoluted and messy than simply a "man, by murdering murder machines, morphs into a murder machine himself." But then convoluted and messy is also true to PKD's style. So I guess you can have it both ways.

As far as the other clues go, I think they're all weaker than if we were to suppose that the unicorn vision was a genuine implanted dream. Gaff was monitoring Deckard because he's a shifty ex-blade runner called back in for one last job, not to mention they were likely tracking Rachel the entire job as well. But those are mundane rationalizations.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:44 AM on October 2, 2017

Wow, this thread.

It isn't like fanfare.metafilter is filled with unique unicorn-ey ideas, but I just came home from seeing 2049 and... it's like the writers of 2049 read stuff here.

The original (Blade Runner) is, imo, superior because it laid down the original tracks and 2049 is riffing (and retconning) from it but also because the original didn't feel the need to fanservice DADoES as much as 2049 felt like it felt like it needed to fanservice the original Blade Runner.

However, the (particular bit of) retconning is... kind of clever. Takes a little bit out of the wind of the Deckard/Rachel consent/rape ickiness but inartfully hammers on the "slave" theme, shifting ickiness blame from Deckard towards the Tyrell Corp. I'll leave (narrative and scientific) criticisms of this for the 2049 thread.

I think metafilter may benefit from adding the year to post timestamps.
posted by porpoise at 11:58 PM on October 12, 2017

To soften my stance, my use of retconning was to refer to the implementation of a theory no-one here has come up with, nor I think that I've seen anywhere else, because - frankly - it's stupid.

They probably did hire bioscience consultants but fired them all because the science consultants told them that they were morons.
posted by porpoise at 12:25 AM on October 13, 2017

>Roy, in his last moments, uses Deckard as a means of passing along some of himself and his experiences, so that Deckard carries them forward.

And if Deckard is a replicant, that's rendered completely moot because he'll either get retired or die within a couple of years!

And it doesn't matter; if Deckard is human he'll die anyways, at some point. That - for me - is one of the points Blade Runner is making; human or replicant, our memories are important, our memories and experiences make us who we are, and at the end of it all, those all get lost. It's all tears in rain. Replicants might start with implanted memories, but they create their own as well, and when somebody dies, we lose something unique. Roy saved Deckard and shared his memories as a futile last stand against the inevitable end for everyone; nothing lasts. What matters is what did you experience, what memories did you create while you were alive.

"It's too bad she won't live. But then again, who does?" It's both a statement about the inevitable end for all of us, human and replicant, and also a statement about what are you doing right now - are you really living? Roy Batty lived; he saw things we wouldn't believe.
posted by nubs at 10:34 AM on October 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

There's some interesting rhymes with this movie in last week's Electric Dreams.
posted by rhizome at 6:26 PM on October 13, 2017

A definitive YES REPLICANT or NO REPLICANT from the movie itself about Deckard is completely irrelevant. It doesn't matter, because a being with agency like Roy is no more or less "human" than anyone else. Roy's existence destroys the philosophical requirements we have imposed upon ourselves in our effort to justify our existence and morality, and we (in general) will abandon our morality to enforce them. You and I want Roy to receive justice, but the movies don't trust us enough to discard our (now moot) infantile definitions of being "human". This is one of the most disappointing aspects of 2049 and it's "baby savior" theological claptrap. Manufacturing Replicants is proven to be a fundamentally better method of reproduction, but the film decides to remind us about Battlestar Galactica. How awesome would it have been if Deckard was able to convince K that he didn't need to have a mother to justify his existence? Instead, Deckard is casually given redemption without having to actually redeem himself, and the exact opposite is reinforced. Oh well, perhaps Westworld will trust us.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:09 AM on March 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

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