Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

...but then again, who does?

Ah, Blade Runner! Was there anything wrong with this film? Even if formerly there were nitpicking oppertunities, the new special edition has ironed them out just dandy.

Blade Runner: Final Cut isn't strictly a new cut of the film. It's essentially the Director's Cut all over again, with a few scene changes so imperceptible I missed them. It's more a chance for Ridley Scott's to have a last tweak of all the things which have been annoying him for years - little continuity errors, effects which he couldn't quite cinch. Along with a visual polish and aural reboot, it's turned a great film into cinematic perfection.

I'm going to skip telling you how ace it was, because it'll just turn into one great incoherent list of everything which makes it good. No, instead I'm going to tackle the age-old question of IS HE or ISN'T HE?

If you havem't seen the film, then spoiler alert.

Deckard: replicant or human? For me, the importance lies in the uncertainty, because that's what Blade Runner is all about.

Think about it too hard, and a woefully obvious moral arises - in "retiring" the replicants to protect humanity, is Deckard more inhuman than they are? Ugh, it's subtext-by-numbers. Come down on the side of him being either man or bot, and you're drawing nasty neon arrows towards said subtext. Look at the TRAGEDY of a man reduced to the same inhumanity as his victims! Or, look at the IRONY of a robot killing robots! It's the ole cops and criminals are the same - "when you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?", been dun in in Heat, French Connection, Dirty Harry and goodness knows in Infernal Affairs/The Departed. Sci-fi as social metaphor. Oh, wonderful. I hate them both equally. Cardboard cut outs, and both equally wrong.

Worrying ambiguity is the key to this film (just take another look at that disturbing love scene...) The replicants are as pitiable as they are dangerous - and, crucially, as dangerous as they are pitiable. One never overshadows the other.

As such, the importance of the end isn't a Sixth Sense style gasp and slap your head reveal. It doesn't change the significance or enjoyment of what has come before. It just wakes you up to an additional level of questions and uncertainties. With the replicants dead and Rachel safe, Deckard is dangerously close to a happy ending totally incongruous with everything he has done and been through.

What do I think personally? The more I see this film, the more clues I see to suggest he is. But I desperately don't want to come down on one side or the other. Partly because Deckard seems so human, and partly because I want the idea to trouble him the way it does me. I like endings which come with a gulp. The suggestion he is a replicant is far more powerful than a statement of fact. Gaff's unicorn prank is really going to spoil his 'perfect escape, because now he has this never ending suspicion ticking away, like an itch he can't scratch.

It's perfectly balanced, though, however you want to take it - even if Ridley Scott thinks you're a "moron" if you didn't spot it. Most actual, tangible clues suggest he is a replicant - the anti-replicant argument is more a tonal, thematic one, and there's no good evidence he isn't.

He is because...
  • Ridley Scott says so!
  • He has artificial memories, which has given him the same emotional cushion as Rachel, which is why they both react to killing with humanity unlike the others.
  • He has photos all over his piano, photos which can't just be his - both Rachel and Leon show a connection to photographs (CA: coincidence!)
  • In one shot, very briefly, his eyes glow the same way Rachel, Pris and the owl's do (CA: almost certainly unintentional)
  • "Have you ever taken that test yourself?" accuses Rachel (CA: a perfectly reasonable question, especially when taken with the whole humanity theme.)
  • Gaff makes a unicorn; he dreams about unicorns, implying that Gaff knows about the dreams, and that they are implants like Rachel's memories (CA: unicorns could mean anything, just like the human figure and chicken he makes early on, neither of which carry conspiracy. Frank "Shawshank" Darabont thinks the unicorn dream is something Rick found in Rachel's file, which explains why Gaff too has it on the brain, and the unicorn is a message about her.)
  • "it's a pity she won't live, but then again who does?" implying he's got a short sell-by-date as well (CA: this too can be interpreted innocently, especially if the unicorn represents Rachel.)
  • "You've done a man's job, sir!" (CA: but this is also an entirely common saying)
  • What is Gaff's role, if not the real blade runner, keeping an eye on Deckard and ready to retire him at any moment things foul up?

He isn't because...

  • Harrison Ford says he isn't! And so does Phillip K. Dick.
  • He's physically so much weaker than the other replicants (CA: but so's Rachel...)
  • He gets the shakes after killing - no one would invent a robot to do his job which is emotionally incapable of doing so (CA: but so's Rachel.)
  • It makes no sense for a robot to be so jaded about what he's doing. The other replicants have no regret.
  • Harrison Ford plays him with far too much humanity. The other replicants all have a certain wrong-ness about them. Even Rachel seems devoid of something. He feels old, while they are all fresh and perfect-sparkly; he's scruffy, they're not; he feels terror in a way they don't seem to.
  • There has to be a human character in the film - if Deckard isn't, then you have no real point of comparison
  • because I don't want him to be, because I read the film as about X, and it's more thematically rich if he isn't. You lose all sorts of meanings, i.e. the comparison between Batty as a replicant and Deckard as a human (no counter argument possible)
And besides, Gaff is my favourite character. Why? It's the way he appears to be pulling the strings. We know nothing about him, yet he seems to know a lot about us. Like R+GaD's Player. As such, I like the idea he'd either known all along, or played on Deckard's traumatised state to screw with his mind.

The ultimate answer seems to be: I don't know or care. I like the suggestion he isn't human far more than the actual idea - it seems like a short change as an actual concept.

PS - you know sometimes sci-fi geekery just takes over, and Kevin Smith gets cast in Die Hard 4 or something. Actory in-jokes.

Edward James Olmos, a.k.a. Gaff, is the coolest and most significant character in this "robots looking like humans" classic. Is it any suprise, then, that my inner fanboy positively somersaulted at his role in the reinvented TV show Battlestar Galactica - heroic commander of said ship, in it's war against the repli- sorry, Cylons, the robots which look like humans. Classic! Adorably, the Final Cut interviews feaure him slipping up and saying Cylon instead of Replicant...


Rob said...

I agree with pretty much everything you said, so I don't really have anything to add. I just needed to pop by and brag about how I caught it at an IMAX screening in early December.

So big. So awesome.

Ninquelosse said...


*goes green*

Wow, that must have been incredible.

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