One of the great debates surrounding Blade Runner is whether Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard was human or a replicant. This question has received mixed responses over the years from both director, Ridley Scott and the author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip K. Dick (RIP). There is only one novel that the movies are based upon (see above). However, In all, there are seven primary versions that exist of the film and have been screened over the years: the 1982 workprint prototype cut; the 1982 San Diego sneak preview cut; the 1982 Theatrical cut; the 1982 International Theatrical cut; the 1986 US broadcast cut; the 1992 Director’s Cut; and the 2007 Final Cut.
The “Deckard is a replicant” theory raises more questions than answers, and these questions aren’t along the thought provoking kind but more along the lines of “Wait, but what about...” and “But then why did he...” and statements like “But that doesn’t make sense now...?” So, which is it? Replicant or human and what is the difference between the film(s) and the novel.
Now, the book was 100% clear that he wasn’t an android, and for that matter the book was also clear that the androids lack empathy and are completely inhuman. There as none of that “if they look like us and feel like us are they human too?” B.S. that many an A.I. films do. Dick put an insurmountable gap between the androids and the humans. This gap was dropped in the screenplay, and the Deckard as replicant idea was at the least implied. I think a lot of the criticism comes from the fact the movie wasn’t closer to Dick’s story, and the differences between what people think was or wasn’t clear or implied in the different movie versions.
The real issue here is the story as presented doesn’t work if Deckard is a replicant. If the story were meant to be about a guy who hunts androids finding out he’s an android at the climax or last scene, it should have been written with that in mind. It completely changes the meaning of the film and renders many scenes redundant. What is the purpose of making Deckard so detached and bored with life while Batty and his friends are high spirited and emotional? If it’s because they have an awareness of their status and mortality then what about the Sean Young character, why does she act so human compared to Deckard? Is this supposed to be a story of an android who grows to be as cynical and cold as a real human lawman? What’s this story really about? Some replicants are treated as slaves and some think they’re human? In my opinion the subtext just isn’t there beyond whatever stuff Ridley Scott inserted into his director’s cut, and the Unicorn dream is just a straight forward clue in that interpretation.
Others would argue , WHY is the idea that Deckard is a replicant even an interesting idea? The whole point of Roy saving him on the roof was that Roy had shown himself to be more humane than humans, willing to save a human whom he had every right to hate. If Deckard is a replicant, it’s just about a replicant helping another replicant which is to be expected. However, Deckard as a replicant is the most PKD turn the story could take. A little ambiguity always lights up the imagination.
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