Blade Runner 2049’s Stunning New Trailer Promises to Answer a Decades-Old Question: Is Deckard Human?

Sci-Fi fans have never had it this good.  Not only are we getting a new Guardians of the Galaxy, a new Alien, a new Star Wars and a new Planet of the Apes in the same year, but a crop of fresh-feeling films like Life and The God Particle as well.  Without question, though, the most anticipated movie for old-school sci-fi fans is the long-anticipated sequel to 1982’s Blade Runner: Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049.

Although initially panned on its initial release, Blade Runner has developed a strong following due to its intricate themes, vivid cityscapes and increasingly excellent director’s cuts released to the home market.  It follows Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), the titular, hard-edged Blade Runner: a cop who specializes in identifying and disposing of Replicants, androids so sophisticated that they could almost pass for Human.  Almost.

Over the course of two hours, we follow him through the neo noir streets of a near future L.A. as he hunts down a team of rogue Replicants that have come to Earth in an attempt to escape their planned four-year obsolescence: killing anybody who gets in their way.  Over the course of his investigation he joins forces with Rachael, a cutting edge Replicant capable of fooling even an experienced Blade Runner into thinking that it’s Human.

One of the lingering questions from the thirty-five-year-old film is something that the sequel’s trailer promises to put to rest.  Is Rick Deckard a Replicant?

It seems an easy enough question to answer, but has eluded fans and film scholars for more than three decades.  Deckard tests suspected Replicants by asking them a series of questions designed to elicit an emotional response in ordinary Humans, then measures their reactions using a Voight-Kampff Machine, next-gen polygraph that measures a person’s respiration, blushing, heart rate and eye movement.

A major plot point in the film is the simple existence of Rachael: an experimental Replicant designed specifically to beat the Voight-Kampff machine.  By implanting false memories into the adult Replicant — by convincing her that she is Human and has lived a full life until the present moment — the Tyrell Corporation hopes to create a machine capable of empathic cognition: the ability to feel emotions the same as a person.

To safeguard against this happening in the wild, Replicants are designed with a four-year life span.  It is believed that were they to live for longer, they would naturally develop emotions on their own, the same as a child would.

The film intentionally withheld whether Deckard actually was a Replicant or not, preferring to leave ambiguous hints as to his personhood.  Even the film’s cast has failed to come to a concensus on the matter: with its star and producer voting “Human,” its director voting “Replicant” and its screenwriter voting “none of the above.”

The sequel’s latest trailer, however, hints at giving fans a definitive answer to this last, lingering question.  When a young Blade Runner (Ryan Gosling) approaches an older Deckard, he tells him that he has come to ask him a series of questions.  Gosling’s cryptic lead-in and Ford’s defeated scowl suggest only one possibility: that Gosling’s character wants to administer the Voight-Kampff test (or its 2049 equivalent) to Deckard to determine definitively whether he is a Human or a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

More than anything the film could have done otherwise, this promises to change everything: not just the context for 2049‘s narrative, but the way that the film-going world will look back and remember a certified classic for decades to come.  Whether Deckard is an improbably old Replicant, a fresh set of false memories in a new set of circuitry or the real deal, Blade Runner 2049 is hinting at nothing short of rewriting decades worth of film scholarship and genre head-canon.

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