As we are now well into October, it's time we gear up for what film fans have unofficially coined "Oscar season"; indeed, during the coming months an influx of "Oscar worthy" films will hit theaters, bringing connoisseurs, critics, and Academy members together in a collective search for the year's most impressive cinematic experiences. Thanks to some A-list star power and a thrilling sci-fi plot, one film — Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 — is already on the tongues of moviegoers everywhere. Given that Villeneuve’s film is a followup to Ridley Scott's 1982 original, people are wondering: What happened in Blade Runner?
Since it's 2017 and most millennials would rather read a plot synopsis than watch the actual movie, here is the gist of Blade Runner's story: In a sci-fi/neo-noir alternate universe in the year 2019, Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford), is a "blade runner," someone whose sole responsibility is finding and eliminating strikingly human-esque robots, referred to in the film as "Replicants." Replicants are virtually undetectable as robots, and are built to carry out the more laborious societal functions that humans don't want to. In order to maintain control of the Replicants, each is designed with a lifespan of only four years, after which point they are "retired," or killed. In an attempt to extend their lifespan, four Replicants wreak havoc in Los Angeles before disappearing entirely; Rick Deckard's job is to find and retire those Replicants, thus giving us Blade Runner.
Of course, this is only a brief summary of a nuanced, detailed story, so it is certainly no substitute for watching Scott's 1982 version, which is available for rent on Amazon, YouTube, and Google Play.
One major plot point from the original version that haunts Blade Runner diehards even today is the question of whether or not Harrison Ford's character, Decker, is a Replicant. Though there is support for both arguments in the film, the definitive answer is open-ended. Since Ford's character appears in 2049, that seems to suggest he has outlived the typical four-year lifespan of a Replicant by over a quarter century and is, therefore, not a robot. Let's not forget this is science-fiction, though, so literally anything is possible and nothing should shock viewers. Ask any fan of Westworld and they'll tell you that.
In the past, Blade Runner's director, Ridley Scott has said Decker is, in fact, a Replicant; in a 2014 interview with Digital Spy, Scott flat out says, "[Decker] is definitely a robot."
Meanwhile, Harrison Ford has held that his character is actually human. At an AFI event in 2013, Ford said,
I was moved to ask Ridley whether or not he thought that the character I was playing was a Replicant. Well, I never got a straight answer. Which is okay, I guess. But I thought it was important that the audience be able to have a human representative on screen, somebody that they could have an emotional understanding of. Ridley didn't think that was all that important.
Clearly even those involved in the making of Blade Runner are at odds over Decker's true form. Perhaps we'll get some long overdue answers in Blade Runner 2049, which stars Ryan Gosling and picks up 30 years after the original takes place.
This time, Gosling plays a young blade runner, "K," who discovers a long-hidden secret with the potential to thrust society into chaos. K's discovery leads him to track down Decker — who has been missing since the last film's events — in an attempt to prevent the destruction of society. While I'm certain we're in for one hell of a thrilling movie, something tells me we're about to spend close to three hours wondering if Ryan Gosling is a robot.
One way or the other, Denis Villeneuve's foray into the universe of Blade Runner is bound to make a splash this awards season.
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