15 February 2011

The Ambiguity of Rick Deckerd

The following post discusses various aspects of the movie Blade Runner. If you haven't seen it, would like to see it, and don't want the ending ruined for you, then don't read this blog post. If you have seen this movie and notice that my interpretations are inaccurate, please let me know in the comments or through email.

Today, my discussion section discussed Blade Runner. I figure this would be an interesting topic to blog about. Please note that I've just seen the original theatrical release of the movie last Thursday for class, and I saw the 1992 director's cut last year for a different class. Having only seen this movie twice and not having the exact scenes and shot composition in front of me, keep in mind that not everything I say will be too accurate.

Blade Runner (1982, Ridley Scott) is based off the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. As I've never read the novel, the following analysis will be based off the movies only. The movie takes place in 2019 Los Angelus, California. The Tyrell Corporation has created genetically artificial humans called Replicants as slave labor for off world colonies. Because of an uprising in space, Replicants have become illegal on Earth and are thus hunted down by a special force called Blade Runners. The movie follows ex-Blade Runner Rick Deckerd as he's recruited to hunt down five escaped Replicants who are trying to reach the head of the Tyrell Corporation.

This movie asks questions about humanity which can be debated until the cows come home. But I'm here to initiate a discussion on the main character Deckerd. One of the subtle questions of the movie explores the possibility that he is a Replicant. This question is more prevalent in the 1992 director's cut with Deckerd's dream sequences (featuring a unicorn). Less subtle proof can also be seen throughout the rest of the film.

Replicants are shown with halos in their eyes. The fake owl in the Tyrell Corporation has it, and the other Replicant characters have them as well (Rachael, Pris, Roy, etc). There is one shot, however, where Deckerd has this same thing. This information comes from a classmate who pointed it out, and I can't remember the exact scene when this happens. Deckerd and Rachael are together in the same room. She steps into the light, then Deckerd steps into the light. My classmate pointed out that he thought the halo in the eyes was an indicator of a Replicant, but then Deckerd had it, so he mistook it as a film style. Nonetheless, it's something that most people bring up whenever they're attempting to prove Deckerd's Replicant-cy. Another indicator are the photos on Deckerd's piano, which echo the photos Leon collects and the photo Rachael has of her and her mother. This second one is more of a thematic hinting than physical evidence supporting the theory.

These are fine examples of proof, but I have questions about Deckerd's past that I don't recall being answered throughout the course of the film. How long has Deckerd been a Blade Runner? And how long has he been retired and living the life he currently lives? Replicants are programmed to live a total of four years. This is to ensure that they do not gain an emotional independence and start vying for freedom. (Events in the movie seem to indicate that their life span is indeed long enough to start a rebellion of some sort.) In the scene featuring Deckerd in the police chief Bryant's office, Bryant seems to know Deckerd like they've worked together for a while. To me, this says that Deckerd spent time as an actual Blade Runner during his life. Although, you can point out that he can very well have spent two years as a Blade Runner, less than a year as a retired blade runner, and thus has at least one year left to live.

I suppose one can argue that Deckerd being a Replicant would explain his strong feelings against his old job as a Blade Runner. The job of the Blade Runner was to kill a Replicant on sight. In the voiceover of the original theatrical release, Deckerd refers to himself as an "ex-killer" in reference to his feelings on the matter. I argue that anyone would feel similar to what he feels. Your job is to kill Replicants, who can integrate quite well into human society (see Rachael). After a while, you would see yourself as a killer.

According to my TA, the majority of the people who worked on the film claim that Deckerd is not a Replicant. This gives some certainty to the question, but how positive can you be about someone who's only involved in a small aspect of the story? To me, the only answer I would believe would be from Ridley Scott himself. If you are interested to know what he says, take a look at this interview here. If you would rather not read the interview and discuss this matter in the comments, then don't click the link.

If you've seen Blade Runner, what are your opinions on this matter? Is there anything else the movie suggests that you wish to discuss as well?

(note) If you're going to go watch this movie for the first time, I recommend the 1992 director's cut. The original 1982 theatrical release has this horrible deadpan voiceover that makes me cringe every time I hear it.


  1. I loved Blade Runner. What a good show--I think I'll plan on watching it again tonight.

  2. I haven't seen it yet. Coming over as part of your crusader group. Looking forward to getting to know you.

  3. Hi there. I've come by to introduce myself. I'm in the same crusade group as you, and I'm looking forward to getting to know you.

  4. I've only seen it on cable a couple of times. Haven't thought that deeply about it.

  5. Welcome fellow Crusaders!

    I guess it's the sci-fi movie for academia to analyze. I had to watch it for an English class last year; the class was mostly about monsters and the horror genre in classical literature. This time around I had to watch it for a film class. We talked about the science fiction genre in movies last lecture. I may have to watch it again for another class. Maybe.

  6. Hiya, buddy crusader! I'm making the rounds today and checking out your blog. Nice to meet you, and Happy Friday! :)

    Artzicarol Ramblings

  7. Dropped by from Rachael's crusade list to say hello! Looks to be a lot of fun already! Cheers!

  8. Still love this movie to bits. :D Such a classic!

  9. Yesterday I thought of a similar example of this. At the end of "Inception" the DiCaprio character spins his little top thingy. At the end it's still spinning, which means that he's probably still dreaming, but other people might argue differently.

  10. I'll have to check out the director's caught. Also, I'm stopping by as a fellow crusader and new follower. On to the first challenge!


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